A real March madness

With the field now set for the big college basketball dance, it’s time for the annual riffs on that theme – and what better style of madness than to determine seedings for the Democratic presidential field?

I’m going to go from #16 to #1, but feel free to handicap the bracket yourself.

#16: Marianne Williamson, 66. She’s a non-traditional candidate who’s best known as an author and motivational speaker; however, she has one recent (unsuccessful) run for Congress under her belt.

#15: Andrew Yang, 44. The other non-traditional major candidate in the field, he’s an entrepreneur who founded a non-profit called Venture for America. His key issue: a universal basic income for Americans.

#14: Tulsi Gabbard, 37. A member of Congress from Hawaii since 2013, Gabbard also served two tours of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq, a deployment that cut short her initial political office in Hawaii’s House of Representatives, where she was elected at age 21.

#13: Pete Buttigieg, 37. He was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011, and prior to winning a second term in 2015 served for seven months as a Naval reservist in Afghanistan. Shortly after returning from that deployment, Buttigieg announced he was gay. He is the only candidate in the field who still has an exploratory committee.

#12: Julian Castro, 44. Castro was Ben Carson’s predecessor as HUD Secretary, serving from 2014-17 after five years as mayor of San Antonio as well as a city councilman.

#11: Jay Inslee, 68. The governor of Washington state since 2013, he previously served seven non-consecutive terms in Congress – one as a representative of a more rural area and the last six in a Seattle-area district after he moved there. His main issue: climate change.

#10: John Delaney, 55. The founder of a business lending institution, Delaney served three terms in Congress before declining re-election in 2018 to focus on his Presidential run. He was the first candidate in the race, announcing a year and a half before the Iowa caucuses.

#9: John Hickenlooper, 67. He served most of two terms as mayor of Denver before leaving that post as the elected governor of Colorado in 2011. He recently concluded his second and final term in that post.

#8: Kirsten Gillibrand, 52. The most recent candidate to make it official, as she took the exploratory committee training wheels off over the weekend, Kirsten was Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate, moving up from the House barely two years after her arrival there in 2007. She won election in 2010 to finish Clinton’s term and re-election twice since, 2012 and this previous November.

#7: Cory Booker, 49. He’s been New Jersey’s junior Senator since being elected in a 2013 special election, moving up after serving for over seven years as the mayor of Newark. He won that job in his second try, four years after concluding his one term on their city council with a defeat in his initial mayoral bid.

#6: Amy Klobuchar, 58. She has served as a Senator from Minnesota since being elected in 2006; previously she was the county attorney for Hennepin County, which is essentially Minneapolis and its suburbs, for eight years before moving up to the Senate. She announced her bid outside in a Minnesota snowstorm.

#5: Beto O’Rourke, 46. He’s perhaps most famous for a race he lost, falling short of replacing Ted Cruz in the Senate last year. By running for Senate, he abandoned a three-term House incumbency that followed six years on El Paso’s city council as well as a colorful past that included computer hacking and touring the country as bassist in a punk rock band.

#4: Elizabeth Warren, 69. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as the initial administrator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but being passed over for formal nomination to be the CFPB’s director in favor of Richard Cordray. A longtime law professor, her other claim to fame is being known as “Fauxcahontas” for claiming American Indian ancestry, perhaps even getting professional benefit from that claim. Ironically, she makes no secret about once being a Republican but switching parties in the 1990’s.

#3: Kamala Harris, 54. Stop me if you heard this one before: young black lawyer runs for President based on a few years in state office and barely two years in the Senate. Indeed, this is the case with Harris, who spent seven years as the District Attorney in San Francisco before going statewide in 2010. Six years later, she won her Senate seat and now she’s running for President.

#2: Bernie Sanders, 77. The only current aspirant to have run for President before, if you count several unsuccessful campaigns before he finally won a race (for mayor of Burlington, where he served for eight years) you would find his political career is older than five of his fellow candidates – he first tried for office in a special January, 1972 Senate election to a seat he would eventually win 34 years later, in 2006. That followed a 16-year stint as Vermont’s lone House member. While Sanders has always officially been an “independent,” he’s caucused with the Democrats since joining Congress.

#1: Joe Biden, 76. Yes, I know, he’s not formally in the race. But I’m going to give him the top seed because all these folks to his left, not to mention his association with a still-popular President, make him the most popular candidate – even more so than the ones in the race. The RCP average has Biden up seven points on the rest of the field.

So that’s the way the seeding goes. I see exactly zero chance of a 16 over 1 upset, but that 15 vs. 2 matchup may be more interesting than people think. 3 vs. 14 is pretty much a walkover, as the Gabbard campaign is having several issues, but I wouldn’t sleep on 4 vs. 13 – I think that may be your first upset special.

Oftentimes 12 vs. 5 is a trap game for the higher seed, but I think the more popular Texan takes it. 11 vs. 6 is probably not much of a contest, but 10 vs. 7 may be a close call, too. I think 9 wins over 8 in the mild upset.

Of course, all that does is put the 9 seed out in the second round as the 1 seed advances to the Final Four. The 2 seed will crush the weakened 7 seed in a contest that isn’t as good as the intriguing 2-15 matchup was.

In a thrilling 6 vs. 3 contest, I think the lower seed takes it in a big upset. And it sets up another crazy matchup of 13 vs. 5 that nearly becomes a second huge shock to the system.

Because the 5 seed had so much taken out of him in the prior game, he’s no match for the #1 seed. But the 6 seed moves on, ousting the #2 seed as his game runs out.

So in my final I would have Klobuchar vs. Biden. If Biden ran into foul trouble (i.e. an ill-timed inappropriate remark, which he’s quite prone to do) this could be Klobuchar’s to win. But she has a little baggage of her own, and people are pretty much immune to the things Joe says, so I think he would hang on in a very close contest.

Obviously a lot can change in the coming months, but I think that’s the state of play for the moment.

I suppose this is proof of his statement…

Those who have followed me for many years know that I’ve put up an election widget to link to campaign sites, and now their social media pages. Since the 2020 campaign is underway I did the same for the Presidential race – it’s just not very prominent quite yet. (I’ll move it up as the year progresses and we get closer to the debates and Iowa caucus this time next year.)

So today I was reading a USA Today story on the candidates who are in and out, noting that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was entering the race today in an outdoor rally in the Minnesota snow. But it also noted that one of those candidates on my original widget, West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, had already withdrawn, which I was unaware of.

Granted, out of those who were on my widget I would have rated him as the longest shot, down there with Pete Buttigieg (the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana) and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney as a second tier of candidates behind the more nationally prominent Senators and others pursuing the chance to oppose President Trump. But it could have been argued that Barack Obama and Donald Trump were longshots in their respective races – Obama because he had been in the Senate for just 25 months when he announced in February, 2007, despite the conventional wisdom that the 2008 race was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s to win, and Trump because no one took a businessman running for President seriously when the field was deep, talented, and brimming with a number of politically experienced candidates. Maybe they weren’t the longshots like a state senator who lost his only federal election (a 2018 run for Congress) would be, but he was still in the race and stating his case.

So when Richard Ojeda withdrew from the race, it wasn’t much noticed – hence his parting shot.

Today I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who have supported and believed in this campaign. The indications were very positive from an overwhelming response to our videos, to thousands of volunteers, and a level of grassroots fundraising support that grew every day. However, the last thing I want to do is accept money from people who are struggling for a campaign that does not have the ability to compete.  So today I am announcing that I am suspending this campaign.

When I was a child my grade school teachers told us all that anyone in America could grow up and become President.  I now realize that this is not the case.  Unless someone has extreme wealth or holds influence and power it just isn’t true.  Especially if you dare to step out of line and challenge the powers that be. The big donors won’t take your calls, the media won’t say your name, and the establishment will do everything they can to crush you.

I want you to know though that my fight does not end!   I may not have the money to make the media pay attention but I will continue raising my voice and highlighting the issues the working class, the sick and the elderly face in this nation. I expect to have an announcement very soon about what my next steps will be. But know this, this campaign was never about me but about the issues we care about, checking big pharma, ending corruption and elevating the working class citizen. Nothing and no one can stop me from fighting for what’s right.

Sappers clear the way. Airborne all the way.

Richard Ojeda withdrawal announcement, January 25, 2019. (Emphasis mine.)

Setting aside the desire of his supporters for Ojeda to run for either Governor or U.S. Senate from West Virginia, both of which have elections in 2020 and are held by Republicans, let’s take what Ojeda had to say about running for President and break it down.

Until President Trump came along and bolstered the “extreme wealth” argument, all of the Presidents who have served us in my lifetime (I was born in 1964) were products of one (or more) of three separate offices: Vice President (Johnson, Nixon, Ford – under the special circumstance of being appointed under the 25th Amendment – and Bush 41), governor of a state (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), or Senator (Obama, but previous to being vice president also Johnson – who succeeded a former Senator in John F. Kennedy – and Nixon.) Gerald Ford was previously a member of Congress, but only represented a Michigan district in the House before being appointed to succeed former Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew after Agnew resigned in 1973.

Yet think of the money it takes now to win a Senate seat or run for governor, particularly from a major state. Obviously it takes a type of talent and attitude to be able to “smile and dial” in order to raise the money and the charisma to charm people into voting for you, knowing that the higher up in the food chain one goes, the fewer people can grab the brass ring. (A case in point: Klobuchar is the fourth sitting U.S. Senator to seek the Democratic nomination so far but only one – or none – will succeed.)

By that same token, the nation’s capital is ruled by political conventional wisdom that states either someone with a connection to Washington or with a statewide base that’s significant (i.e. a state with large population like California, Florida, or Texas) will succeed in running for President. That was the case with most of the Presidents in my lifetime, although one can argue that perhaps Jimmy Carter and certainly Bill Clinton did not come from high-profile states. In the 1970’s Georgia was still considered a sleepy, backwater state as Arkansas is to this day. Donald Trump turned that conventional wisdom on its ear to some extent; however, it can be theorized that his “significant base” were the millions who bought his books, watched The Apprentice, and so forth, and that they were a proxy for a medium-sized state.

[This phenomenon is similar to the fact that no one from the Eastern Shore has been elected to statewide office here in Maryland since the days of J. Millard Tawes. (I left out Harry Hughes, as I was reminded on his passing.) Those who have a base in populated areas have a definite leg up in gathering financing and supporters.]

So it’s sad but true: not that I would have been an Ojeda backer, but the media and establishment basically dictated his campaign would be short-lived. Ojeda wasn’t part of the “in” crowd and he didn’t have a name that attracted eyeballs based on previous reputation, so he would have never made the debate stage – perhaps not even the so-called “kiddie table debate” purgatory before campaign suspension.

Maybe this is why the Swamp can’t seem to be drained.

The safe harbor is receding

Whether it’s a reaction to the perceived unpopularity of President Trump or the desire to get out in front of what promises to be a crowded field, the 2020 Presidential race is getting underway even as we finish packing the Christmas stuff and shatter any remaining New Year’s resolutions.

2020 will be the fourth Presidential race to occur since I began this website, and it seems the two parties handle things differently. We didn’t get the first formal announcement on the opposition GOP side in 2016 until March of 2015, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz was first to move. Four years earlier, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was first in when he declared in April of 2011. (Some might count political consultant and gay rights activist Fred Karger as the first in; if so, he came online in March of 2011.)

On the other hand, when the Democrats were the opposition party they have started way early. Since I’ve been of the Republican persuasion for most of the nearly four decades I’ve been a registered voter, I had forgotten that the 2008 Democratic field was well into taking shape by this dawning stage of 2007, nearly a year out from the Iowa caucuses. If you believe Wikipedia, before January of that year was through we already had a number of Democrat candidates who had announced, with some having already formed exploratory committees:

  • Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (April, 2006)
  • outgoing Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (November, 2006)
  • 2004 VP nominee John Edwards (December, 2006)
  • Delaware Senator Joe Biden (January, 2007)
  • Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (January, 2007)
  • Illinois Senator Barack Obama (January, 2007)
  • New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton (January, 2007)
  • New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (January, 2007)

Note that 2008 was an “open-seat” race, not one where there was a Republican incumbent. Also note that Biden and Clinton are considering yet another run but haven’t made a final decision yet.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised 18 months ago when Rep. John Delaney made it known he was skipping a fourth Congressional term (and a potential race for Maryland governor) to make a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. We hadn’t made the new year yet when Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren jumped in and now we have a couple others: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Another candidate who declared last fall after losing a Congressional bid and could be taken as a second-tier hopeful is Maj. Richard Ojeda, an Army veteran and former West Virginia state senator best known as a passionate supporter of his state’s teachers unions – and for being called “stone cold crazy” by President Trump – who is running a populist campaign.

The upshot of all this is that I decided it was time to put together a widget for my Democrat friends – and of course, for the Republicans it will include Donald Trump as well since he has declared for re-election. Also included are some of the Libertarians who are also running. I did a soft opening for it yesterday afternoon, but it’s placed down the page a bit so you may not have noticed. Now you should, as I did it in the style of my 2018 widgets with social media links included.

The first to step forward

We have barely made it six months into President Donald Trump’s term. And while Democrats were ready to oppose him from day one – Trump’s Presidential honeymoon lasted less than a nanosecond after he was sworn in – no one really expected the 2020 race to begin shaping up until we made it through the 2018 midterm elections.

But as further proof we now have a continuous campaign, the first somewhat serious candidate to enter the race on the Democrat side made his intention known Friday by foregoing another term in the House. Rep. John Delaney put an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday that claimed he would be the candidate to “have an original approach to governing and an economic policy that can put us on a different course.”

Yet while the incumbent President is a businessman, Delaney thinks he’s not cut out to be a leader. “I think Trump, to some extent, is a punctuation of everything that has broken down with our politics,” said the Congressman in a separate WaPo interview.

So he’s going to do things a little differently.

As a progressive businessman, I’ve made it a priority to be solutions-oriented and have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress. I’ve done this by simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy while insisting that there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind.

And let me grab one more excerpt to illustrate his approach:

We need to be smarter, fueled by more investment in science, education and research. We need new ideas on the future of jobs and work, one where we build a stronger and more vibrant middle class. We need to encourage a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and reduce barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth. We need to strengthen our safety-net programs and create a new social contract. We need to reform the systems of education, health care and immigration, and encourage more volunteerism, impact investing and public service. And we need to take affirmative steps to reduce our security, fiscal and climate risks. This is what my campaign will be about.

Let me begin at the top. Would it not be fair to say that, in order to have a truly free-market economy, there should be a minimum of government-set rules and goals and a maximum of market-set ones? I’m sure John didn’t wake up every day when he was building his businesses and say to himself, “Gee, how can I meet the specifications and expectations laid out for me by the federal government today?” I know I don’t say that when I consider what to write in my little space.

And the problem with the government taking care of those being left behind is that they become overly comfortable in that lifestyle and create generations that don’t aspire to anything more than living off the state.

As a Democrat, Delaney has to include the old canards about “investment” (read: more unnecessary spending) in science, education, and research. But what really reveals the game is the idea of a “more just and inclusive form of capitalism.” Capital is as just and as inclusive as the market participants, which I will agree goes in with reducing barriers. But those barriers should be reduced in such as way that no one gets an advantage for themselves – the problem is, as we all know, Democrats will rig the game for certain constituencies in order to buy their votes.

All in all, I’ve figured out just what Delaney’s campaign will be about: he will be the arbiter of everything. I mean, he already has a website for his campaign where he has the catchy “D” logo with a highway disappearing into the horizon, and in the video he has there he goes over just how wonderful and peachy everything will be if he’s in charge and in control of everything, because that’s what “progressive” policies entail – government calls the shots and you get what they grudgingly give you. One of the women on the video talks about what a great progressive businessman Delaney is to his employees, and that’s outstanding. But let that be his choice, not forced on every business whether they can afford it or not.

Yet there’s another point to be made here as well. Think back to this time on the calendar in 2009, when Barack Obama was perceived as popular – even if many of his policy ideas were not. On the other hand, there’s been little discussion about Trump’s policy ideas (aside from the GOP’s failed attempt to rid us of Obamacare, which Trump was more or less ambivalent about, in all honesty – after all, he was the one who introduced Republicans to the “repeal and replace” concept.) But if you transport yourself to the end of July 2009, the GOP presidential contest was thought to be Sarah Palin’s to lose – but she was months away from announcing her intentions, as were other 2008 and possible 2012 contenders. So Delaney’s entry into the race, well over 2 1/2 years before we deal with the snowy Iowa caucuses, either means Democrats are just chomping at the bit because they think they have 2020 in the bag or they are just trying to extend the perception of Donald Trump’s unpopularity. And who knows? The 2020 field for the Democrats may make the 2016 GOP field look small in comparison because EVERYONE who thinks they can be President will give it a shot. Maxine Waters, anyone?

There’s only been one President who was elected from being a sitting House member, and that’s James Garfield. (Technically, Delaney won’t be a sitting House member when elected since he’s dropping out of Congress after three terms.) Even so, I think that 140 year streak will be safe. But in any battle someone has to charge forward and take the arrows, and it looks like John Delaney is that guy. The only question is whether he will be first in, first out.

And somewhere Larry Hogan is breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve thought all along Hogan was most vulnerable to a Delaney challenge given their similar backgrounds, but it appears John has more ambition than to just be governor.