By Colleen O'Connor
Some call it a “clown car.” Others a “nightmare” waiting to happen.
What else might the 20-plus candidates running for the Democratic nomination to be President of the United States be called?
Maybe ambitious? Foolhardy? Job hunting? Branding enthusiasts? Or well-qualified to fix what ails America?
Probably all of the above are correct about each of the candidates running.
This cumbersome field will take the stage—literally—in the first scheduled debates on June 26 and 27 in Miami.
Televised by NBC, the debates will also stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including the NBC News mobile app, and Telemundo’s digital platforms.
To qualify, a candidate must reach 1 percent support in three qualifying polls, or “provide evidence of at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.”
Look for many to reach those goals, but many others to drop out soon thereafter.
However, the unintended genius of the crowded field, is unmistakable.
Each of the Democrats brings unique expertise and toolbox of political weapons to the contest.
For example, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker just announced his plan to require a federal license for all gun owners—complete with in-person interviews. Called the “most sweeping gun-violence prevention plan ever put forth by a presidential candidate,” Booker has joined California Sen. Kamala Harris in the stop gun-violence lane.
Harris also wants to throw out the entire Trump tax plan and start again. And she has a prosecutor’s ability to go for the jugular. As Vanity Fair put it in a colorful headline: “Kamala Harris guts Barr like a fish, leaves him flopping on the deck.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “I have a plan” campaign is calling for a major re-regulation of banks and other corporations, plus an end to the government-sponsored transfer of wealth to the already wealthy.
She shares “tax the rich” with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who once held that platform alone. He still carries the single-payer health plan torch aloft.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Rep. Eric Swalwell are running as younger versions of the Kennedy brothers. Each rests “easy on the eyes,” but are rather “me, too-ish” in their policy statements. However, they have amassed a large following among young, social media-savvy voters.
Beto excites because of his his table-top enthusiasm and Texas Senate race stamina. Buttigieg offeres superior educational and military credentials, plus a massive LGBT following and fundraising prowess. Swallwell stands out because of his liberal positions on the Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, plus TV-ready, informed opinions on the probable need to impeach the President.
Add to these candidates Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who insists the Midwest needs representation. Like Harris, she is a former prosecutor, and she flayed Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination hearings.
And, of course, there’s former Vice President Joe Biden, with decades of experience, a big lead in the polls and early union backing.
Next up are the governors. Washington’s Jay Inslee is a staunch pro-Green New Dealer and vehemently opposed to Trump’s view of science.
Colorado’s John Hickenlooper is tacking to the middle, but with statewide marijuana legalization under his belt.
Montana’s Steve Bullock supports free, publicly-financed pre-schools and the expansion of Medicaid.
See the trend? There’s someone for every issue, region and demographic.
Add in Marianne Williamson, the spiritual guru; Julian Castro, the former Obama Cabinet secretary (who delivered his announcement in Spanish); and Seth Moulton (the big loser in the anti-Pelosi fight), plus a few others to round out the pool party.
“Everybody in the pool” is actually a great strategy by accident. And one that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi probably cheers –for several reasons.
She is rightly worried—as she was in 2018—that if the Democrats did not win the House with massively big numbers, Trump would contest the results.
She fears the same in the 2020 Presidential and House elections. Thus, she is committed to expanding the Democratic base.
While Trump plays only to his “loyal base,” Pelosi is mining the possibilities in every county, state, age group, sex, class, and party affiliation. Especially among those single-issue voters.
See the logic?
“Everybody in the pool” brings strengths to the fray. Democrats can energize their base, raise funds off diverse groups of followers, hit the President on multiple fronts—like a machine gun in World War I–and keep him on defensive.
That, in political parlance, is a serious summer strategy.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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