Tuesday, October 29, 2019

SENSE OF DUTY

Today is the official publication date of my book “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take.”

With impeachment, Syria, ISIS, and the rest of the Trump Show, as always, front, center, and back, the Democratic presidential nomination fight has not gotten much prominent coverage lately. But the clock ticks inexorably towards Iowa, Milwaukee, the general election debates, and November, 2020.

Today, the Associated Press says this about the Democratic presidential nomination race: “The lack of enthusiasm for Biden’s candidacy underscores a broader trend emerging in the states that matter most in the Democratic Party’s high-stakes presidential nomination fight: Primary voters appear to be getting less certain of their choice as Election Day approaches…..Major donors and party leaders across the country have publicly and privately raised concerns about the direction of the primary election recently as well. But interviews with dozens of primary voters across Iowa and New Hampshire in recent days reveal a pervasive feeling of unease.”

Today, Politico says this about the race: “There are signs the top tier of the Democratic presidential primary may be expanding, leaving Democrats to confront the prospect of a lasting, multi-candidate contest that could drag on long into next year.”

Here is an excerpt from the book, the closing portion of the prologue. It is why smart Democratic strategists, like the ones I interviewed for the book, remain concerned that, despite (or because of) impeachment, winning the White House will not be easy.

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But the paradox remains. Candidates in the Democratic field will have to spend every waking minute, through at least March and possibly through July, focusing all of their mental and physical resources on winning the nomination. If they take an eye off that ball, a general election strategy becomes moot. But if they do not spend some effort starting in the winter thinking about how to beat Donald Trump, a nomination win becomes immaterial.

The biggest mistake a candidate can make, the strategists say, is to fail to take the necessary and available steps to prepare for the endgame. On the Republican side, Trump and his reelection campaign will be barreling along every day, raising money, testing versions of Facebook ads, and identifying, profiling, analyzing, and mobilizing a general election electorate. The Democratic opponents must explain their political motivations, avoid squabbles, and rack up primary wins, but be ready to pivot cleanly from the tumult of delegates and Democratic voters to the challenges of the Electoral College and general election voters.

“Begin with the end in mind,” says Jill Alper, a Michigan-based strategist who worked for the Clinton-Gore team and John Kerry, quoting the famous axiom by Stephen Covey. “The best way to win the primary is to talk about Donald Trump. Right? And the best way to win the general election is to talk about Donald Trump. So how do you talk about Donald Trump to achieve those objectives at the same time?” In a way, a winning candidate must run a campaign that is a palindrome of sorts, one that reveals brain and soul and skill, that lives in the moment, in the daily struggles, but holds November 2020 close. The candidate should maintain personal consistency, a steady message, and true principles, from start to finish, finish to start.

Read the rest of the excerpt here. Order my new book:

HOW TO BEAT TRUMP:
America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take

Order:Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, an Army officer whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a child, is by every indication a patriot and not a Deep State operative. His pants are not striped, he puts country over politics, and he was deeply alarmed at President Trump’s attempts to get the new Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. Also, he was on the July telephone call and was so alarmed about it that he reportedly took his concerns to the White House counsel’s office.

His expected closed-door Tuesday testimony, apparently soon to be followed by similar words from his White House colleague Tim Morrison (whose lawyer says he will testify despite the administration’s desire that he not), will dominate the news all day.

Morrison and Vindman will almost certainly be part of the public hearings that the House hopes to begin soon, joined by top U.S. envoys to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch. 

My take: Based on Vindman’s widely shared opening statement and the initial descriptions of his biography, it is very likely that Republican efforts to do opposition research on him and muddy him up will be minimal and ineffective. 

Couple that with Speaker Pelosi’s very cleverly drawn House impeachment resolution, to be voted on Thursday (and applauded by the Wall Street Journal ed board), and it is clear that the odds of two things have gone up: (1) the chances that the House will impeach the president, focused primarily on his push to get Ukraine to probe the Bidens, and (2) the chances that the press will stop giving Republican process complaints as much attention.

And/but, here are two things whose odds are not more than marginally changed by the from-central-casting appearance of Vindman (complete with identical twin brother!): (1) the chances  that Democrats can win over either House Republican votes or decisive public opinion on impeachment, and (2) the chances that Team Schiff/Nadler/Pelosi can finish the impeachment process before the political calendar runs out.

Do the advent of Thursday’s vote and Vindman’s testimony change the odds of what is, in the end, the only impeachment-related question that matters – will 20 Senate Republicans vote to convict and remove Donald J. Trump?

The answer to that remains “no,” because as dramatic as Tuesday will be, Mitch McConnell and his flock have made peace with the “bad thing to do but not worthy of impeachment and removal” posture.  

That could still evolve, but Vindman’s account and Pelosi’s smart process fix do not change that particular game.

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Top sports story: NCAA to meet Tuesday to consider allowing athletes to profit from endorsements

Top business story: Boeing CEO to face heat in Congress over 737 Max crashes: ‘The whole world’s watching’

Top entertainment story: Appeals Court Revives ‘Shake It Off’ Lawsuit Against Taylor Swift

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