This is my first essay on politics and the 2020 race for the White House. It's a subject I care deeply about and you can expect to see more essays like this as the 2020 election cycle gets underway.
After last week's two-night series of first-time debates for the Democratic Party's 2020 candidates, it's time to start thinning the herd. My predictions and comments regarding which candidates need to peel away are below.
In my lifetime, I can't recall a group of presidential candidates that numbered 20. In the 2016 cycle, there were 16 candidates vying for the top spot in the GOP/Republican debates. That number diminished after post-debate polling showed whose numbers received a boost from their performance and whose didn't. The Super Tuesday primaries also thinned the herd.
We all know who ultimately succeeded in securing not only the GOP nomination but the presidency as well. After two and a half years of the Trump administration's record on nearly every issue, only those who drink the Kool-Aid daily via the often false narrative emanating from not only the President but his state media, Fox News think we've made progress as a nation. They don't care that he's a liar (even the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS think so), a misogynist, amoral, or a first class bully.
Only those inebriated Trump-a-holics can deny his administration's lack of accomplishment and dismal popularity numbers. Of course, popularity isn't the only marker for the dissatisfaction the nation feels, but others are, including photos of Latin American refugees being forced to jump into rivers as their only means of escaping persecution, families separated at the border and placed in privatized filthy detention facilities that deny inspection from outside officials, and children dying while in US custody.
The factors that determine top-tier candidates
The bottom line is electability. Electability to the nations' highest office, until 2016 when Russians and Americans installed Donald Trump in office even though he lost the majority of the popular vote by a greater margin than any other presidential candidate, has always been measured by several factors: not the least of which is the ability to raise funding outside of PACs (unless you're a Republican then special interest groups are the norm) as well as the ability to solve the nation's most pressing problems.
The election of Donald Trump as President turned this and many other metrics upside down. He doesn't appear to be interested in doing anything but reversing the gains of the Obama Administration by executive order.
If I had to pick five from the field of 20 Democratic contenders that I think are most electable, I'd choose:
Julian Castro...admittedly, Castro makes six, but with a caveat that I'll discuss below
What about Mayor Pete and Beto?
As much as I would like to list Mayor Pete Buttagieg in this field of strongest contenders, I don't think Pete has the electability across the country that would be necessary to defeat Trump. Even though he's the first openly LGBTQ presidential candidate, a Rhodes Scholar, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and a mayor with more political and executive experience than the current President and Vice President respectively, at 37 years of age, I still don't think America will go there. I wish I was wrong about this. That's too bad in my opinion as he appears serious, informed, intelligent, and dedicated to protecting the US Constitution, something Trump doesn't think is a part of his job.
All the other candidates need to do a reality check and cut their losses. However, most will continue to campaign through Super Tuesday and then assess their campaign's chances of successfully securing the nomination. It's what happens in every election cycle.
Beto waited too long. In my opinion, Beto O'Rourke, the former Congressman from Texas who ran a lively and aggressive grassroots Senate campaign against sitting Senator Ted Cruz in 2016, perhaps citing caution and research as reasons, waited far too long to announce his candidacy and lost both name recognition among national voters and his populist momentum. If a presidential candidate loses either of these, they are faced with a difficult reality, from which few recover.
Name recognition matters. Among those candidates who also have a serious name recognition issue, you can include on that list former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro—though he presents better than the rest of the other candidates such as Senator Senato Michael Bennett, Congressman Swalwell, Andrew Yang, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson (I'm actually not sure how she made it this far), Gov. Hickenlooper, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and the rest of those pictured above.
My predictions for the coming weeks
Marianne Williamson will be the first to drop out of the race - she comes across as a bit kooky as a New Age author and speaker and I don't see her campaign's popularity or funding continuing for much longer after the debate performance. Although she performed better than most expected, she doesn't have the experience nor the electability required to last much longer.
Joe Biden won't lead the field in a year's time. I think Joe will probably gaffe his way out of serious contention, at least in the eyes of younger voters. The majority of Democrats are older and sadly, far too complacent to do the hard work of vetting candidates beyond their popularity; Biden's hopes might be pinned to those who don't want to think too much about candidate choice or the issues, a by-product of the 2-hour Trump news cycle that's worn them down as well as their own intellectual laziness.
Beto won't recover from his late entry into the field. As I spoke of earlier, Beto didn't capitalize on his momentum or his popularity and allowed others to step into the spotlight.
Mayor Pete and Julian Castro are potential VP candidates. Neither has the ability to be elected POTUS, but both represent minority populations (Hispanic and LGBTQ communities) that might prove attractive as the ticket's second seat.
Elizabeth Warren will out-perform Kamala Harris on Super Tuesday. Kamala Harris and Elizbeth Warren are both in it to win it - I don't doubt that at all. Both are definitely top-tier contenders for the nation's highest office, with Warren enjoying more name recognition and relatable public and private experience than Harris's, owing to her background as a prosecutor, City Attorney for San Francisco, California Attorney General, and her more recent appearances in hearings on Capitol Hill. Either would make an interesting VP choice, but I think Warren will fare better at the voting booth.
Now it's your turn...
I know some who read this essay will disagree with everything I've written, and that's fine. You are free to disagree with me in the comments. I'm hoping we can promote a discourse based in reality, not just with Kool-Aid infused retorts.