Thursday, September 12, 2019

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On the occasion of the DNC presidential candidate debate (3 full, slogging hours on ABC), please behold the hot-off-the-presses Wide World of News 2020 quiz:

1. The biggest current threat to Joe Biden’s chances to be the Democratic nominee is

a. Some huge verbal blunder.
b. A third-place showing in Iowa.
c. The lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy.
d. The winter release of some opposition research.

2. The biggest current threat to Kamala Harris’ chances to be the Democratic nominee is

a. A third-place showing in California.
b. The lack of a clear message.
c. The prospect of being shut out of the storylines in Iowa and New Hampshire.
d. A weak third-quarter fundraising haul that leads to mass defections to Joe Biden.

3. The single factor that best explains the rise of Elizabeth Warren is

a. Her many policy proposals.
b. Her positioning just to the right of Bernie Sanders.
c. She’s telling an American story that has history, resonance, and relevance to tens of millions of Americans.
d. The field is generally weaker than is commonly thought.

4. The lower-tier candidate about whom the Democratic establishment most often speculates could be the big surprise come February is

a. Amy Klobuchar.
b. Cory Booker.
c. Beto O’Rourke.
d. No one; the Democratic establishment has resigned itself to choosing between four of the Big Five (Biden, Warren, Harris, or Buttigieg).

5. The greatest cause of pessimism among sharp Democrats who are worried about beating Donald Trump is

a. The incumbent’s big head start.
b. The prospect of the nomination fight extending into the summer.
c. The Green Party.
d. “Open borders” and “taking health insurance away from 180 million Americans.”

6. As next summer approaches, the prospective running mate name that many smart Democrats think will be getting a lot of buzz is

a. Julian Castro.
b. Susan Rice.
c. Tammy Baldwin.
d. Michelle Obama.

7. The biggest reason to think Bernie Sanders is an undervalued stock now/still is

a. His floor in Iowa and New Hampshire might turn out to be higher than commonly thought – and high enough in this field.
b. His brand of revolution is distinct and has a lot of adherents.
c. He has finally realized that he must adapt or his candidacy will die.
d. He has a greater record of success as a presidential candidate than anyone else in this field, by a wide margin.

8. The candidate Team Trump most worries about now is

a. Biden.
b. Warren.
c. Sanders.
d. Harris.

9. The Gang of 500 thinks the Democratic nominee will be

a. Biden.
b. Warren.
c. Warren or Biden.
d. Someone else.

10. The biggest moment of Thursday’s debate will involve

a. A Biden gaffe.
b. A stronger-than-expected Biden retort to an attack.
c. Open disagreement between Warren and Sanders.
d. The moderators pressing the candidates even further to the left.

Answers: 1-b; 2-d; 3-c; 4-d; 5-d; 6-c; 7-abcd; 8-a; 9-c; 10-d.

In other news:

**Seminal moment: Joe Biden backer Ed Rendell pens a Washington post op ed calling Elizabeth Warren a “hypocrite” over her fundraising practices.

My take: This piece is a turtle on a fence post; it didn’t just get there by itself. Team Biden believes, rightly, that the media is currently not giving him and Warren equal coverage. Rendell has a history of being willing to go places rhetorically on behalf of his chosen presidential candidate that others fear to tread.  He also knows how to wield the stiletto with a light(ish) touch.  This article alone won’t change the dynamic that is frustrating the vice president’s advisers, but they know no other entity is going to even try to change the dynamic, and Biden’s chances of being the nominee are lessened incrementally every day the media attacks him and exalts Warren.

**Essential readings:

Politico on why Joe Biden’s relationship with the media is so systematically troubled.

My take: This is not a media-navel-gazing-writing-about-the-media inside story.  It is one of the most valuable articles written about the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination battle.  Yes, it is about Biden’s press coverage, driven in part by newer reporters and news organizations who don’t share Biden’s worldview or politics.  But it is also about the battle to define and control the party, about why Biden’s campaign is a lot like Hillary Clinton 2016, and about what will determine who is picked to try to defeat Donald Trump.

Tom Edsall’s important New York Times column on the centrist views of  some African American voters on key issues concludes with this line, as stark as it is true:

“Without an ingenious campaign, even widespread hatred of Trump will not be sufficient to dislodge him from the White House.”

My take: The data on African American voters is really key to understanding how the Democrats must construct a coalition to win in 2020.  But Edsall’s concluding point, which matches up with the thesis of my book, “How to Beat Trump,” is one that many Democrats are in denial about, still.

**Karl Rove says the odds are high that only Biden, Warren, and Sanders can win the nomination.

My take: Rove rightly hedges a little bit, but as a snapshot of where we are today, there is no denying his thesis is legit.  It is what makes the failure of the three candidates to engage with each other so fascinating – and the likelihood that engagement is inevitable, maybe even tonight.

**Sanders leads in fresh New Hampshire poll, with Biden second, and Warren third.

My take: See quiz question #7 above.

**Trump plans ban on flavored E-cigs.

My take:  Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is smiling. This is a true public health crisis, and the administration is right to act. But the symbolic politics of it is something you are almost certain to hear the president tout as part of his reelection effort.  As they say in the business, this polls 80-20.

**Trump delays some China tariffs and the new NAFTA moves along.

My take: For the American economy and the president’s chances of reelection, demonstrating progress on these two pacts buys some time, but the president is going to need to consummate one (or maybe both) of these deals to have a major impact on economic growth – and to fulfill two of his core campaign pledges.

**Trump administration wins at Supreme Court on asylum rules.

My take: Rulings such as this frustrate Democrats to no end, giving a stronger hand to those who argue that the courts should be more front and center on the presidential campaign trail.

**Trump administration faces probes on actions on Alabama and storm.

My take: Some of the coverage of this long-running saga treat it lightly, but it is in fact shaping up to be a metaphor for and example of the president’s norm-busting abuse of the power of his office, aided and abetted by his pliant advisers.  It isn’t the biggest scandal of this administration, but it is far from the smallest. It will be investigated, and it should be. “The cover-up is worse than the crime” might be where this one ends up.

Top sports story: O’s’ Villar hits MLB’s record-setting 6,106th HR

Top business story: Electric truck maker Rivian lands $350 million investment from Cox Automotive

Top entertainment story: Viacom Becomes Frontrunner for Miramax Stake, Lionsgate Exits Bidding

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