Sunday, September 8, 2019

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Warren Versus Biden

Since 1992, the Democrats have nominated the following people for president: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

Considered by tens of millions to be “new and exciting” when they ran: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the only two who won the White House.

NOT considered “new and exciting” when they ran: Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, the three who lost.

The same breakdown applies to the quality of “leading a movement,” which applied to Bill Clinton and Obama, but not Gore, Kerry, or Hillary Clinton.

The two Republicans who won the Oval Office during this same period – George W. Bush and Donald Trump — were considered “new and exciting” and leaders of a movement.

Joe Biden is many things, but he is NOT considered “new and exciting” by any standard, even by his staunchest supporters.  And he is never going to lead a pro-Biden movement.

As Elizabeth Warren declared and demonstrated during Saturday’s dominating performance at the New Hampshire Democratic Party assemblage, she is the new and exciting leader of a movement.

“This is how we build a movement,” Warren thundered to the delegates in a star turn that was universally reviewed as the best received of the day, including by NBC News’ keen Vaughn Hillyard, Politico, and the New York Times.

Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton all beat rivals who were new and exciting leaders of movements (Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, and Bernie Sanders), and they all did it by going negative on policy against their competitors.

Joe Biden, the man who has declared his fervent opposition to Democratic circular firing squads, who has not figured out how to fit himself into today’s more progressive party, and who has never effectively deployed opposition research over the four decades he has been a presidential candidate, is very unlikely to beat Elizabeth Warren by going negative on policy.

HOWEVER: No one has ever been nominated by the Democratic Party for president or won the White House vowing to take private health insurance away from well over 100 million Americans.

No one has ever been nominated by the Democratic Party for president or won the White House without demonstrating strong support from African American voters.

And, I will say it for the umpteenth time: I have never seen a leading presidential candidate (Warren) go this many consecutive days without anything but neutral-to-positive-to-super-positive press coverage.   Some of that has been luck, but a lot of it has been the result of a strong candidate backed by a strong campaign whose message matches the moment for many.

Warren is on a roll. She will remain a political body in positive motion until she makes some huge unforced error, the press turns on her, or Biden (or his opposition research team…) stop her.

The RNC, the Trump campaign, and America Rising are all sitting on opposition research that could theoretically stop her, but you shouldn’t expect to see that until, oh, about March 22, 2020.

New and exciting versus old and familiar.

A movement versus a pledge of electability.

Glowing media coverage versus snakes-bitten media coverage.

The conventional wisdom from the start was that Biden would have a tougher time winning the nomination than he would the general election. That might still be true. 

I don’t rule out Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, or a surprise will win the nomination.

And Biden, of course, still tops the polls.  By the numbers, Warren has to overtake Biden.

By the trajectory, Biden has to halt Warren.

What happened in Manchester yesterday was symbolic, but it was also substantive, illuminating, and, depending on how this plays out, potentially historic.

In other news:

*The new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Biden (29%) in first nationally, Sanders (19) and Warren (18) alone filling out the first tier.  Biden continues to dominate on who Democrats thinks is the strongest to beat Trump.

My take: Another important poll showing the same stratification – the Big Three in front, with Harris and Buttigieg in a second tier, and everyone else bunched in the third tier.  On one level, a ten-point lead seems big; on another level, it could be gone in a moment.  Put another way, Biden’s lead is consistent, but it might not be durable, and a strong moment or two from Warren or Sanders could put them at the top.  The leading indicator will be if polls start showing that Warren and/or Sanders are seen as stronger candidates to beat Trump than they are now.

*Presidential candidate and Democratic Ohio congressman Tim Ryan says Biden is “declining” mentally.

My take: This meme is never going to go away as long as Biden is in the race.  The most dangerous place for a candidate in the age of social media to be is when both Democrats and Republicans are hitting you on the same story line.

*Trump cancels secret meeting with Taliban leaders.

My take: Despite some gloom-and-doom analysis, this move smacks of “Trump negotiating gambit.”  The best bet is that the talks will continue, with Trump believing the U.S. now has more leverage.

*Mick Jagger went hard after Donald Trump in wide-ranging remarks.

My take: Pop star hitting Republican president is dog-bites-man, but the specificity of Jagger’s comments on Trump himself and on his policies are something to behold.

Top sports story: How the rest of the NFL is reacting to Antonio Brown joining the Patriots
Boston Globe

Top business story: China’s Trade Numbers Send More Distress Signals

Top entertainment story: Joker’ Wins Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, Roman Polanski Takes Runner-Up Prize

Correction: In Saturday’s edition, I misspelled “too” as “to” when I meant “too.” To make such an error is too bad; at least I didn’t make two of them.

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