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WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?
On the occasion of solid employment numbers (New York Times: “Job Market Shows Resilience, Quieting Recession Fears”), Beto O’Rourke’s withdrawal from the race, Kamala Harris’ pulling up stakes in New Hampshire, the New York Times Iowa poll showing Joe Biden in fourth, and Tom Edsall’s extraordinary op ed suggesting a centrist has a better chance of beating Donald Trump than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders do, let me tell you what a lot of Democrats (not all, but a lot) think:
As of today, the only four people who can be the party’s nominee ar
- A 70-something woman with a Harvard Law School nameplate, an unvetted past, and positions in support of eliminating private health insurance and decriminalizing the US border.
- A 70-something man who is a socialist, recently had a heart attack, is feared by many Democratic businesspeople, and supports eliminating private health insurance and decriminalizing the US border.
- A 30-something mayor of a city of 100,000 people, with an elite resume, who happens to be gay, and has demonstrated extremely limited appeal to African American voters.
- A 70-something long-time Washington fixture, who doesn’t inspire even some of his own supporters (let alone young people), has no discernible message, and has a long history as both a horrible fundraiser and a horrible presidential candidate.
Despite the spin from some party grandees and a few super optimistic strategists who think President Trump is doomed NO MATTER WHO THE DEMOCRATS CHOOSE TO RUN AGAINST HIM, the course and contours of the Democratic nomination fight have only created more panic, dread, and pessimism among a wide swath of the party.
One of their main concerns: two of the most likely nominees support Medicare for All, which is too liberal for Nancy Pelosi.
In talking to Democrats in the aftermath of the publication of my book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take,” I typically hear one thing or get one question.
The thing I hear, from the pessimists: We don’t have a single candidate who can win the nomination AND beat Trump.
The thing I’m asked, by the “optimists”: Can any of our candidates who can win the nomination beat Trump?
Iowa Democrats heard from many of their presidential candidates Friday night in the last big Hawkeye State kick-the-tires event before the February caucuses.
The party wants a candidate who can win and change the country.
For a long time, many in the party establishment thought Joe Biden was the answer to that answer, more because of the former than he latter.
Here is how the Washington Post described the scene in Des Moines Friday night:
“‘Firefighters for Biden’ filled a specially decked-out suite, but as the former vice president addressed the dinner, hundreds of empty seats remained in six upper-level sections reserved by the campaign. Outside those sections sat boxes of unused inflatable noisemakers branded with one of Biden’s signature phrases, ‘Beat him like a drum.’
“When the lights dimmed, Buttigieg’s supporters, who filled nearly a quarter of the arena, waved lights that blinked in sync. Warren’s campaign also filled several sections, with supporters sporting liberty-green shirts and noisemakers. At the apex of her speech, they unfurled an enormous ‘Win With Warren’ banner that draped over three tiers of the arena.”
Some Democrats still wait for a white knight to enter the race at the last minute, or hope that Amy Klobuchar or Michael Bennet can rise up from the pack.
Who can vanquish Donald Trump?
Here’s some of what the Democratic strategists I interviewed for the book said needs to be done to beat the incumbent.
If you are a voter in search of a strong general election candidate to face the incumbent, ask yourself: Who can do these things?
*Start thinking about how to win the general election now; waiting until the nomination is won is far too late.
*Study how Bill Clinton — the last challenger to beat an incumbent — pulled it off.
*Understand Trump voters and supporters, rather than denigrating them.
*Get ready now to do battle with Trump, rather than waiting until the nomination is in hand.
*Accept the fact that Trump doesn’t just control the news environment; he IS the news environment.
*Protect your public image at all costs, or suffer the fate of Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole.
*Do everything possible to keep the party united, even as you fight for the nomination, or you risk a repeat of 2016, when many Bernie Sanders supporters failed to back Hillary Clinton.
*Build a sophisticated war room to combat social media disinformation efforts.
*Be prepared for Team Trump to effectively destroy your chances in the spring when you become the presumed nominee but don’t have a majority of the delegates in hand.
*Don’t play it safe in the debates — have a much more aggressive strategy than Hillary Clinton did four years ago.
*Tell a better American story than Donald Trump does about a future that makes every citizen feel included economically and culturally.
Again, can any of the Democratic hopefuls do these things?
The answer to that question will determine if Trump gets another term.
The four impeachment developments you need to know about:
1. The Washington Post goes inside the Senate Republican lunch from earlier in the week, in which some members have already started saying it is time to admit there was a quid pro quo and/but not that there’s anything wrong with that.
2. Several news organizations are reporting that the National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg, told Lt. Col. Vindman to stop talking to people about his concerns regarding the July phone call.
“Trump’s support among Republicans [is] at 74 percent — an eight-point decline since September and the lowest since he was elected. Nearly one in five Republicans support impeachment and removal. So do 47 percent of independents.”
4. Trump friend Chris Ruddy says the July call was not appropriate; he did not describe it as “perfect.”
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