Sunday, September 22, 2019

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There Are Just Two Stories Until There Are Not

Beneath the headline of the new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll – Warren 22%, Biden 20%, Sanders 11% — is a ton of other interesting and important data, including this:

“Just one in five likely Democratic caucusgoers say their minds are made up, while 63% say they could still be persuaded to support a different candidate.”

The Register has broken down the poll into many different stories. If you are interested in the Democratic nomination battle, you should curl up with them all.

My take: The major trajectories in this survey (Warren up, Biden and Sanders down, everyone else out) match the Gang of 500’s perception of the overall state of the race. 

There is no doubt that Warren’s message and other strengths are powering her towards the nomination. She is a powerful candidate, but the media’s desire to declare the race over is not wise. 

Here is, I think, the right way to frame things now: one of two things has to happen for Warren to be stopped.

The first option: one of the other candidate is going to have to have a second act, that includes showing more strength and a more vivid message than has been on offer to date, in order to compete with her

The second option: Warren has to self destruct.

She doesn’t have an overwhelming edge right now, but her advantages are manifest.

On the matter of Ukraine, from Saturday to Sunday, there was very little advancing of the story on the substantive front. 

We still don’t know the identity of the whistleblower.  We still don’t know exactly what the president and Rudy Giuliani are accused of doing or did. We still don’t know when and how we will learn the answers to those questions.

The story did advance on two fronts.

On the analysis side, two of the most experienced and sage observers of our politics – the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and the New York Times Maureen Dowd – both think Trump’s actions with Ukraine could be the scandal that finally stresses the system beyond the breaking point. 

Read both pieces.

A dissenting view comes from another smart person, Democratic strategist Jef Pollack, who, per the Associated Press,  “suggested that the latest explosive allegations against the Republican president would have little impact on the broader 2020 debate.”

“To date, no scandal has seemed to impact Donald Trump on its own,” Pollock said. “And the fact that this one involves a political rival I suspect is no different.”

My take: The actual answer on this one is definitely in the “only time will tell” category. Sorry, that’s the best I got.


On the political side, most everyone shares the same analysis. This is good for Biden because it casts him as the rival Trump is most worried about and allows the former VP to focus on the general election.

And/but this is bad for Biden because it brings his son Hunter into the storyline and that is a problem for Biden at a minimum because he is sensitive about his family getting scrutiny and at a maximum because scrutiny of Hunter could substantively hurt his father’s campaign.

The best encapsulation of this duality comes from the New York Times:

No evidence has surfaced to support Mr. Trump’s claim that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal. But some State Department officials had expressed concern that Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine could complicate his father’s diplomacy there.

“The issue strikes a particular nerve for Mr. Biden, who has long feared putting his family under the harsh spotlight of a presidential campaign. During a two-minute encounter with reporters on Saturday morning, he grew irate, angrily insisting that he had never spoken with his son about any overseas work.”

My take: As I suggested yesterday, whether Trump escapes from this latest episode depends very little on the skillfulness of House Democrats, the rhetoric of the presidential candidates, or the investigative reporting of the media.

Instead, focus on this: do Republican senators find the president’s actions a bridge too far and demand bipartisan investigation and accountability? There are elements of what the president did in this case (some known and some sure to be revealed in the coming days) that could actually tip that scale.

Iran, Hong Kong, China trade, the new NAFTA, and a whole lot more are going to push their way back into the news shortly. But 2020 and Ukraine are going to be hard to dislodge.


Top sports story: Panic in Ann Arbor, party in Athens and an epic UCLA rally top a wild Week 4

Top business story: Blackstone: Even a ‘smaller’ US-China deal could be good for business confidence

Top entertainment story: Emmys 2019: Who Will Win, Who Should Win
Hollywood Reporter

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