Tuesday, December 11, 2018

12 Days of Slats and a 2020 Straw Poll

From the Pleasantly Festooned Volcano Lair of S. MacCune
[A subduction zone near you…]

Just like how Bruce Dickinson wanted, nay, needed more cowbell, the readership numbers tell the tale:  you are clearly demanding more Slats.   Fortunately, what with “Sparty” and his December schedule, I am in a singular position to generate the content you seek.  It’s like the Christmas of ’83 all over again, back when I was the only licensed Cabbage Patch Kids distributor in all of Belgrade.  Hauled in a yacht-load of dinars.  Used the proceeds to invest in Zastava Automobiles, maker of the Yugo.  It was a sound business decision…for a while.

So MoveOn.org conducted a straw poll of its members regarding 2020 Democratic presidential campaign preferences.  The results can be found here.

Here is what is noteworthy:

1)    So Someone else/DK/Other placed first, 28.8%.  That is to be expected.  It’s important to remember that Jimmy Carter won the Straw Poll organized by The Des Moines Register at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Ames in ‘75 with only 23% of the vote and it was a huge boost to his candidacy.  Reporting on the event, The New York Times’ own R.W. Apple noted that “Mr. Carter, whose Presidential aspirations have been considered laughable by many Washington experts, won 23 per cent of the total.”  Oh how quickly Conventional Wisdom can be upended.  Carter went on to place first amongst the candidates in the Iowa caucuses with 27%, behind Uncommitted (37%), but he established himself as a serious contender who would go on to win both the nomination and the General Election.
2)    Beto O'Rourke (15.6%) placed first.  Like Mick Jagger, he is running hot...at the moment.  He also occupies what has historically been a “golden” position for Democratic candidates:  progressives think he is a progressive; moderates/centrists believe he is a moderate/centrist.  That is the formula that worked for Carter and Bill Clinton, and (to a somewhat lesser extent) for Kerry and (arguably) for Hillary Clinton in ’16.  Greater scrutiny, by the media and by his Democratic opponents, should he enter the race, may imperil his current perceived positioning, but many would-be D presidential aspirants would love to have such problems.
3)    Joe Biden (14.9%).  Do NOT read this as a sign that centrists are resurgent.  Regardless of Joe’s voting history in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, a fair number of those who indicate a preference for the former Vice President are viewing him through the Obama lens, which gives him a more progressive tinge.  One thing is certain, in a contested primary, his entire record will be discussed and dissected…at length.
4)    Bernie Sanders (13.1%).  In 2016, the vast majority of MoveOn members backed Sanders over Clinton.  Should the Senator from Vermont be concerned about a drop-off in support?  Not really.  In 2016, Sanders was the obvious choice for most progressives.  Now, MoveOn members and other left-of-center voters face many choices and folks (the ones paying attention at this point at any rate) are doing some browsing. No harm in that…but one would expect to see his numbers climb amongst MoveOn members shortly after a Sanders “I’m in” announcement.  If he stagnates with this constituency, he will have a hard time rolling into the Convention with a majority of delegates.
5)    Kamala Harris (10%).  Again, she is not a down-the-line liberal on certain issues (most notably, one should review her complete record on law-and-order and civil liberties issues) but, right now, she is a favorite among progressives.  On a debate stage with candidates such as Sanders or Warren or Brown, she probably wants to hold a “practical progressive” sort of positioning, but that will be a hard fought space on the continuum. Remains a candidate with a great deal of potential upside - and who can rally the entire party around her.    
6)    Elizabeth Warren (6.4%). Personal opinion:  she should have run in 2016.  I think she has lost some of her luster over the past couple of years.  Frankly, she should have polled better amongst MoveOn members, considering her national profile.
7)    Sherrod Brown (2.9%).  Speaking of national profile, he doesn’t have much of one, yet, so the fact that he finished ahead of Bloomberg and Booker is all gravy for him.
8)    Amy Klobuchar (2.8%).  Good recent visibility.  Swing-ish state in a key region.  Feels like a candidate who could slowly build a solid base of support among progressives, with a low-key approach that would contrast well with Trump’s over-the-top demeanor.
9)    Michael Bloomberg (2.7%).  Pass.
10) Cory Booker (2.6%).  I have a feeling that he is the second or third choice of many current Beto voters, which would explain his fairly unimpressive showing.  Still, he is my current pick for the potential D candidate most likely to change messaging strategies the most between now and Iowa.

Time to turn in.  How's that for a tagline.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pinch Hitting for Pedro Borbon

From the Surprisingly Clement Abandoned Abattoir of S. MacCune
Quinto, Aragon, Spain


I have been asked to pull together a Guest Commentary.  The usual wordsmith and general factotum of this blog is “too busy” to post.  Something about client obligations and pre-Holiday deliverables that need to be finalized.  He is probably trying to set up a Nina Turner 2020 Exploratory Committee. 

So let’s get on with it.

I have been observing Maryland politics for a long time, usually from a great distance.  Oh sure, I may have done some unspecified work for Tommy D in Baltimore way back in the late ‘60s, but who can remember those days?  Apparently Nancy since she still doesn’t return my calls.  Anyway, this was before the great Mayor Coleman A. Young, may he rest in peace, retained my services; but we can talk about that era later.

Maryland politics, right.  So this Shane Robinson fella, who I hear is a sincere, decent politico, switched his party affiliation to the Greens following the November election.  I wonder if he would have done so had he not finished fourth in the Primary, and thus out of the running for the General Election.  Now, I have nothing personal against the schismatic ideologues in the Green Party.  Having myself dabbled in third party politics, you have to respect the dedication to issue purity and its frequent companion: complete electoral irrelevance.  And the pay, for campaign work, can be dodgy.  Of course, back when campaign finance laws were a bit looser, you would hear stories in other states about conservative money coming in to fund Left third-party petition signature gathering efforts and mailers.  The whole idea is that, in marginal districts, helping out a Left third-party by a little bit could make all the difference between a D or an R winning in November. I am not saying this happens today, or that Mr. Robinson or anyone with the Maryland Greens would countenance such actions, but Republicans will work every angle and they exploit opportunities. 

Anyway, you hear a lot of crazy talk around campaigns.  Who knows what the truth is?          

Speaking of, guess who filed for the Green Party presidential nomination?  Maryland’s own Ian Schlakman.  Fresh off a 0.5% showing in the gubernatorial election, he decided the time is right to take Schlak-mentum to the national level.  I hear his biggest opponent for the nomination at the moment is a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based fire hydrant. So best of luck, Ian.*

*Not really.  No Green presidential candidate deserves a vote in the General Election, especially not in competitive and semi-competitive states.  Not with Trump on the ballot. I’d rather vote for that “New Democrat” human ATM McAuliffe.

That’s all for now.

Post-Election/Pre-Election Reading Recommendation

One of my favorite campaign books of all time was penned by the journalist, author, and playwright Arthur T. Hadley, who, three years ago, passed at the age of 91.  He lived a full and remarkable life, having served his country in World War II in the European theatre, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star, before entering the realm of journalism, where he continued his public service.  He was also briefly an operative, laboring mightily on behalf of Adlai Stevenson as his press secretary in the ’56 presidential campaign.  So he had experience working both for and against Eisenhower, albeit in considerably different capacities.

The book is entitled, “The Invisible Primary,” and sub-titled, “The Inside Story of the Other Presidential Race: The Making of the Candidate” and it was published in 1976, the first Post-Watergate presidential election cycle.  While Teddy White had already written multiple “The Making of the President” tomes by the time Hadley began work on his analysis, it is important to note the distinctions.  White focused largely, but not entirely, on the delegate-selection stages of the campaigns (primaries, caucuses, etc…), the Conventions, and the General Election whereas Hadley emphasized the time before the primary season began…when many potential campaigns are in the formative, pre-announcement stage and are concerned with chasing after the best talent and locking in key donors.  Hadley argued that the success of campaigns was determined, in large measure, by what occurs during this time…with actions that took place outside of the public gaze (hence: “Invisible” Primary).  For the time, Hadley's exploration was ground-breaking.

Of course, that "Invisible" descriptor seems rather quaint to the modern ear.  Hadley’s work came out before CNN and the 24-hour news cycle, before the Internet, and before social media and its implications for transparency and the immediate dissemination of news to a global audience.   

By my count, there are at least 94 potential Democratic presidential candidates whose names have been at least whispered by the Great Mentioner. Some of those, of course, have already announced their intentions to not run in 2020 (Patrick, Cuomo, and Avenatti to name three).  And others have already crossed the threshold as declared candidates (most notably Delaney and less notably – based on traditional viability metrics – Ojeda and Yang). 

I believe the field will winnow itself down to approximately 18 active and at least semi-major Democratic candidates by this time next year.  One hears talk of 30+ but even with present-day information and communications technology and its ability to help connect candidates, quickly and affordably, with prospective voters and donors, it is challenging to see how that many serious campaigns could run truly nation-wide efforts (aka the classic “Carter” model).  Of course, some might opt to compete in only certain states, concentrating on districts where they can make the best use of limited resources and gather delegates to wield clout at a, dare I say it, contested Convention.

A very large field could mean that 23% of the vote in the Iowa Democratic caucuses is good enough for a win in that state – which is good news for a candidate with a very dedicated following who can dominate a “lane” (such as Sanders).  Of course early states like Iowa and New Hampshire will likely have to compete for attention with Early Voting in larger states with more delegates, depending on the final primary calendar.  

There is time to game this out later. In any event, if you enjoyed Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes or the Jack Germond and Jules Witcover books that covered the American presidential campaigns in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and are looking for a good December 2018 read in order to better understand 2020, I highly recommend Hadley's The Invisible Primary.

In solidarity.