Off to the races for 2020, with some interesting new developments

Well, we are nine days into 2019, so it’s about time that the 2020 election began. Not! For historical reference, John F. Kennedy announced his bid for the 1960 presidency in January 1960. Everything moves faster these days.

We are, for the moment, talking primarily about the Democratic contest for the presidential nomination. On the Republican side John Kasich and maybe Mitt Romney would probably love a shot at Donald Trump, but that seems highly unlikely. There have been reports about some states (South Carolina comes to mind) where the native Republicans are looking to short circuit even the chance of a challenge to Trump by eliminating primaries. That seems so fitting giving the authoritarian ways of the party’s leader.

On the other hand, there are more Democratic candidates than anyone can handle at the moment. At least former governors Martin O’Malley and Deval Patrick did us a favor by dropping out already – two less podiums to find room for at the debates.

In looking at the names already out there I think there is a handy way to look at the collective field. This is not an original commentary, but going forward it would seem useful to place the candidates in various “lanes” that help categorize what they bring to the list. There are several such “lanes,” and it seems likely that those in the respective lanes will likely engage in intra-lane warfare to eliminate others in the same category, hoping to move on to challenge people in the other lanes. Think of it as a primary within a primary.

So here we go. My apologies to any prospective candidates that I may have left out. Some candidates are listed in more than one lane. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know who some of these people are; many others will have the same dilemma. But before you dismiss their names, remember Jimmy Carter. Reader suggestions for additions will be worked into this post as updates.

The senators’ lane, in alphabetical order:

  • Senator Cory Booker
  • Senator Sherrod Brown
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Senator Kamala Harris
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Senator Jeff Merkley
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (actually an Independent socialist, but we’ll list him here)
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren

House of Representatives’ lane:

  • John Delaney (former)
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Beto O’Rourke (former)
  • Tim Ryan
  • Eric Swalwell


The governors’ lane:

  • John Hickenlooper (former)
  • Jay Inslee
  • Terry McAuliffe (former)

The mayor’s lane:

  • Michael Bloomberg (former)
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Eric Garcetti
  • Jimmy Griffin (former)
  • Mitch Landrieu

Women’s lane:

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Senator Kamala Harris
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Oprah Winfrey

Legends’ lane:

  • Joe Biden

Cabinet officers’ lane:

  • Julian Castro
  • Eric Holder

Billionaires’ lane:

  • Michael Bloomberg
  • Howard Schultz
  • Oprah Winfrey

So what does all this mean?

  1. Come on in, the water’s fine
  2. You have to be in it to win it
  3. It is too early to be impressed with anyone at this time

My choice is (C). There are lots of good and some not-so-good things about nearly all of the people on this list. And it is much too early to lock in to a preferred candidate. That is actually a good thing for all of them at the moment. Let’s see how they all test out when facing fire.

And for those (me included) looking at the pluses and minuses of the current contenders, consider this: Trumpkins who are now struggling to accept the scandals and ineptitude of their leader very often fall back on a simplistic and backward way of justifying their support – in their minds Trump was their choice because he was “better” than Clinton, whatever that means. It is pretty likely that all the Democrats listed above are better than Trump.

Evidently much of the Democratic consulting class is in no hurry to sign up with anyone. Choosing one candidate who then fails and then trying to latch onto someone else later in the game can be a problem. The same goes, evidently, for many in the moneyed class, who might write $2,700 hi-good-luck checks for one or more candidates but hold off on bundling options for bigger amounts.

The national party’s 2020 planning group will have some interesting decisions to make when debate arrangements are made. Who makes the cut? What is the cut? The first debate is just five months away.

But the really big change that is about to hit is…

California, California, California.

Democrats in the State of California have for decades usually run their presidential primaries in June. That is unfortunate, because states like California are much more representative of America than Iowa or New Hampshire. It was often too late to have a real impact on the selection of the presidential candidate.

Too late no more. California has decided to hold their 2020 presidential primary on March 3rd, “Super Tuesday 2020,” which this year will involve a total of eight states, including Texas. March 3, 2020 is less than 14 months from now. It will be just four weeks after the Iowa caucuses; less than a month after the legendary New Hampshire primary on February 11th; and only three days after the South Carolina primary. Early voting in California begins the same day that Iowa voters go to their caucuses!

California will have substantially more delegates to the 2020 Democratic convention than Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina – about four times the number of those three states combined. California, of course, also has the big prize in November 2020, 55 electoral votes, which is twenty percent of what a candidate needs to win the presidency. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out where the candidates will be camping out early next year.

The other major development in 2020 is that there will be fewer party caucuses but more primaries to choose delegates in 2020 compared with 2016. That is likely to hurt candidates better suited to caucus arrangements, like Bernie Sanders.

There is a long way to go until this all happens. There is a lot going on politically in the country this year that is also hugely significant for the future of the nation. But ready or not, here we go.

Civility and trust don’t come easy

Back in the days when a real Republican was President of the United States, people like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush ruled the land with strength, grace and eloquence. Democrats fought Republicans over policy, but could still occasionally work together. Compromise was not a dirty word.

That seems so long ago, but as the nation honors the memory of H.W. this week there have been lots of commentaries about how it used to be. Reagan talked about a “city upon a hill.” Bush spoke of “a thousand points of lights.” They were trying to inspire the country by speaking of charity and volunteerism. Continue reading

As the dust settles, reviewing the 2018 elections and taking a small peek at what comes next

Poor Rick Scott. All those tens of millions of dollars of his own money, and it might not have been enough to buy a Senate seat in Florida. Maybe just $10 million more would have done the trick.

Or maybe he will wind up winning the re-count. It is Florida, after all, where they are pretty good at screwing up recounts and getting rolled by Brooks Brothers riots. The Supreme Court may be standing by to deliver another Republican victory if it gets to their desks. Continue reading

The mid-term election day edition of facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

Today is Election Day – the mid-term of all mid-terms. This one feels a lot different. Sort of like Super Bowl Sunday, especially when your team was playing that day. Come on, you can remember how that felt.

I’m not offering any specific predictions here. After all that has been said, written and done, you can draw your own conclusions about what is about to happen. Try to be objective, because like it or not we are all about to come face-to-face with political reality. Continue reading

A judge, the president, some bishops and a priest

When I was a freshman at Canisius College many moons ago (it was 1966), I was a political science major. I was drawn to the subject by President Kennedy. The world of politics seemed fascinating.

In the fall of that year, as the College has done for many years, a major figure in government came to speak at the school, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Justice Brennan was a Democrat, but he had been named to the Court by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. He was appointed in October of that year, a month before the presidential election. It was a recess appointment (the Senate was not in session) and he was confirmed in 1957. My, how things have changed. Continue reading

Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

We are now just seven weeks away from one of the most momentous elections in the history of the United States. I know that might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not.

All midterm elections are, to some degree, a referendum on the occupant of the White House. Donald Trump’s words and deeds make that even more likely in 2018.

That’s not to say, however, that there are not local issues. In fact, for different reasons both Democrats and Republicans are working hard to emphasize local issues. The Democrats know that Trump’s low standing does not require them to talk about him; instead they are emphasizing local matters in their various districts. The Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to talk about local issues in order to get voters to forget about or to ignore Trump. That is difficult when Trump steps in doo-doo every single day. Continue reading

The Republicans’ congressional campaign in the 27th district; campaign finance updates

So someone turned off the music on the game of musical chairs that was intended to determine which Republican will succeed indicted Congressman Chris Collins in the 27th district. The candidates went round and round. Some of them felt that the game was just a charade and dropped out of contention on their own. Others either cling to the hope that it will all work out this fall, or maybe that they could position themselves for a special election in 2019. Continue reading