‘All the candidates, to one degree or another, are laboring with a hovering perception … [that] their candidacies are suffering from fundamental infirmities…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) It turns out President Donald Trump isn’t the only 2020 candidate chafing DC’s chattering class of deep-state bureaucrats.
On the morning of yet another Democratic primary debate, one of Politico‘s founding editors, John Harris, posed a provocative question that he said is on the minds of many in The Swamp: “Why do you suck so badly?”
Harris, who built his publication’s brand around its insider-knowledge of the Beltway elites and its ability to reach the eyes of Capitol Hill power-brokers, said the rumblings of malcontent Democrats were growing, which had prompted the recent entries of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick into the race.
Former President Barack Obama—whose wife, Michelle, also has been a source of frequent 2020 speculation—warned candidates not to veer too far into the “crazy stuff” believing that the echo chamber of social media was reflective of the national Zeitgeist.
On top of their ever-growing radicalism, all the Democratic candidates suffer from their own political baggage or enthusiasm gaps, which are sure to be weaponized and exploited in a no-hold-barred contest with Trump.
“The suckage factor is the unmistakable context of tonight’s Democratic debate in Atlanta,” Harris wrote in his column posted early Wednesday.
“All the candidates, to one degree or another, are laboring with a hovering perception among Democratic influentials that, for one reason or another, their candidacies are suffering from fundamental infirmities.”
Harris’s column proceeded to pick apart the four front-runners and then offer a more general critique of those lagging in the single digits.
● Sen. Elizabeth Warren: After Warren was broadsided last debate for lacking specifics in her Medicare for All plan, she spent the past several weeks crafting and pitching, her detailed plan—which would cost in excess of $20 trillion, while still leaving many doubts about the funding sources and hidden costs.
Harris neglected to mention what could be Warren’s greatest vulnerability in a general election against Trump: The years she spent pretending to be of Native–American ancestry and benefiting professionally from her fraudulent minority status. She is perceived by some centrist voters in battleground states to be disingenuous and phony.
● Mayor Pete Buttigieg: The latest addition to the front-runner’s circle, Buttigieg is a perceived moderate relative to others in the field. He has touted his veteran status and support for military issues, although in many other areas his positions have been extremist.
Harris said Buttigieg lacked the gravitas needed to make a convincing case. He already has taken fire from other Democrats over his lack of experience and the perception of “white, male privilege.”
Although able to pull off seeming “articulate and sensible beyond his years,” Harris said, “Many in that dreaded professional class still are not convinced that a 37-year-old small-city mayor can be taken seriously for the presidency.”
● Former Vice President Joe Biden: Biden has faced a nonstop stream of scandal since entering the race late this year.
While his groping of young women, his reputation as a fabulist, his past support for racist policies and his involvement in the Ukraine scandal that has enmeshed the current president are all major liabilities that Democrats have tried to downplay, Harris said the legions of politicos in his circles are more worried about Biden’s age and mental acuity.
But as the front-runner who just won’t seem to fade, Harris said Biden insiders suggested he’s trying to ride out the competition by simply embracing mediocrity. “Joe knows he doesn’t have to be the best on stage. He needs to be good enough,” the source told Politico. “The reality is the media makes a lot more of these debates than voters do. And it’s not like they’re real debates about policy. These are TV shows.”
● Sen. Bernie Sanders: Of the four leading candidates, the socialist-leaning Sanders seems to have the most entrenched base of support—and the least room to grow. Those who support him likely made up their minds to do so during the 2016 election, although he has seen some unlikely success in appealing to younger voters.
In addition to his age and health, Sanders’s personal charisma continues to be a liability—particularly as the younger and slightly more affable Warren continues to poach his ‘best’ material.
“He must walk a balance, distinguishing himself from Warren without shredding their nonaggression pact and potentially angering her backers,” wrote Harris. “He must stand out enough that he can’t be ignored in the media coverage.”
But the suggestion that Sanders turn on the charm with light anecdotes and humor may be about as likely as seeing him unveil his trickle-down tax-cut plan.
● The rest: Harris was less cynical about the dark-horse candidates, praising the last debate performance of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who “may have less novelty than Buttigieg but more credibility.”
As for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and hedge-fund investor/donor Tom Steyer, none interested the political elites in his sphere, but he praised them for each enlivening the discussion in a unique way.
“At a minimum, these people should enjoy their remaining time in the spotlight,” he said. “At best, there may be some openings to add to the top tier or kick someone else out of it”