Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α



A Steady Drip (Carter Page)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.


The Clown Car Breakdown

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Four paragraphs from Steve Benen:

Nine candidates would be a big field under any circumstances, but in this case, just the governors alone―Bush, Christie, Gilmore, Huckabee, Kasich, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, and Walker―had enough to field a baseball team. Add Democratic governors to the mix―O’Malley and Chafee―and the number swells to 11.

And at a certain level, this is understandable. For many in both parties, it’s long been assumed that governors have the edge in the party’s nominating contests, in part thanks to history―Reagan, Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Romney, et al―and also because of the nature of the job. Being the chief executive of a state, the theory goes, offers ideal training for being the chief executive in the White House. Governors learn how to manage and respond to crises. They learn how to oversee a massive, bureaucratic team, while working opposite a legislature. They learn how to lead.

How many sitting GOP senators have ever been elected to the White House? Only one. It was Warren Harding, who was elected nearly a century ago. This is hardly accidental―Americans tend to hate Congress, so they don’t necessarily look to Capitol Hill for national leaders.

And yet, here we are. Two of the most experienced candidates of the cycle―Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both governors―have already quit (as has Lincoln Chafee). George Pataki and Jim Gilmore were excluded from the debates altogether this week, while Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee were relegated to the kids’ table, where they joined Bobby Jindal. Jeb Bush and John Kasich made the prime-time stage, but both are struggling badly. The latter faced booing.

This is actually important in its own right; in an anti-institutional year when career politicians who achieve governorships are actually being viewed as career politicians, the landscape really does seem strange from an unradicalized perspective. Indeed, how strange might we now find the recollection that back in April, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was pitching for senators against governors in the presidential context. Even in unhinged quarters, gubernatorial experience was actually respected earlier in this cycle.

With a flaccid RNC and impotent Congressional leadership, the anti-institutional movement driving Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the polls would seem to get the nod: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party.

Nor might we begin to speculate at what that means. Still, as Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post explore the now perpetual chatter of growing discomfort and even “panic” among establishment Republicans, it is hard to fathom the idea that even in the GOP, this is starting to become an American existential question:

The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.

“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”


Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “Governors find a hostile 2016 landscape”. msnbc. 13 November 2015.

Rucker, Phillip and Robert Costa. “Time for GOP panic? Establishment worried Carson or Trump might win.” The Washington Post. 13 November 2015.

The Scott Walker Show (Virtue of Citizenship)

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls. Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues his curious cowardice.

BASH: Earlier this week you said that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders because the policy protected children and (INAUDIBLE) scout values. And then your campaign clarified to say that it was really protecting the scouts from the political and media discussion about that.

I’m having trouble understanding that. What―at the end of the day what is your position?

WALKER: I’m not talking about personal protection. I’m talking about―for me the reason why I didn’t have a problem with it is I just think it pulled scouting into a whole larger political and cultural debate as opposed to saying scouting is about camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards instead of pulling all these other issues out there. And I just hope that they (ph) can (ph) stay focused. That’s all.

BASH: So, but should there be a ban on allowing gay men to be scout leaders?

WALKER: That’s up to the people who run the boy scouts.

One thing that people find unique, I guess, whether you like it or not, is I actually answer questions. People ask me a question, I’ll answer a question―

BASH: You’re not really answering this one.

WALKER: Sure. I said in this case that’s what I thought. I thought the policy was just fine.


WALKER: I (ph) was (ph) saying (ph) when I was in scouts it was fine. You’re asking what should the policy be going forward? It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.

BASH: Do you think that being gay is a choice?

WALKER: Oh, I mean I think―that’s not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I’m going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I’m going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.


BASH: On behalf of people is to do that properly you have to understand or at least have an opinion on who they are and where they’re coming from.

WALKER: But again, I think―no I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there. I mean to me that’s―I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.

So I’m just saying (INAUDIBLE) I don’t know what the answer to that is. And again I’m going to spend my time focused on things that I do know and what I can work on.

There is actually a lot going on in this exchange from CNN’s State of the Union, but the first thing to remember is that the questions come in a week when Boy Scout Leaders voted unanimously to approve a middling policy that lifts the formal ban on gay and bisexual employees and volunteers, reinvesting the question of discrimination at the troop level. Mr. Walker, apparently displeased with this turn of events, explained: “I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”


The Bobby Jindal Show (Fun Time Sneak Leak Preview)

Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

“If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

Sometimes the question of where to start is not so easily resolved. The essential point to remember is that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, perhaps hoping to impress conservative voters as he prepares a 2016 Republican presidential nomination bid, has seemingly run out of room to maneuver against marriage equality. Yesterday’s ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was the third, and yet Mr. Jindal still desperately seeks to delay:

But while Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration previously had said it was waiting on that 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling before recognizing same-sex marriages, top state officials dug in their heels Wednesday and said they wouldn’t change course until a district court orders them to do so.

That only widens the gap between the administration and the reality on the ground across the state. Clerks or other officials in nearly all parishes have now said they will issue licenses to same-sex couples, even as Jindal administration officials continue to tell state agencies to hold off on accepting them as valid.

The administration’s delay in accepting the Supreme Court’s ruling may be behind another point of conflict that cropped up on Wednesday as members of newly married same-sex couples seeking to change the name on their driver’s licenses to reflect their union found their efforts thwarted by the Office of Motor Vehicles.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit appeared to address the administration’s stalling.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is “the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit and should not be taken lightly by actors within the jurisdiction of this court,” the ruling said.

“We express no view on how controversies involving the intersection of these rights should be resolved but instead leave that to the robust operation of our system of laws and the good faith of those who are impacted by them.”

The panel then ordered district judges who have overseen cases involving same-sex marriage, including U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, to issue final judgments in their cases legalizing and recognizing same-sex marriage by July 17.

Normally that ruling, and any judgments that come from the lower courts, would be largely procedural measures now that the Supreme Court has decided the issue. And, indeed, that’s how they have been treated in most of the country, where clerks began issuing licenses immediately after Friday’s ruling.

But Jindal administration officials have said they won’t comply until forced to do so. While they initially pointed to the 5th Circuit’s decision as the event that would fully grant gay marriage rights in Louisiana, they changed course after the ruling was handed down and said they would continue to follow the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriages until forced to do so by a lower court.

(Adelson and Shuler)

So, yeah. That’s what is going on in Louisiana. And, you know, there comes a point where this isn’t about anything else than sheer petulant malice.

Or, as Bobby Jindal is wont to call it, leadership.


Image note: Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Hensch, Mark. “Jindal: ‘Let’s just get rid of the court'”. The Hill. 26 June 2015.

Adelson, Jeff and Marsha Shuler. “5th Circuit Court tells Louisiana to recognize same-sex marriages; Jindal administration still balks”. The Advocate. 2 July 2015.

A Downing Downer (Doobie Doo Double Down Downer D’oh! Mix)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), in January, 2015. Detail of photo by J. Scott Applewhite.

Of all the ghosts that might haunt a would-be candidate, London is something of a heavy metaphorical monkey. And why not mix metaphors, since five months later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s trip abroad still haunts him:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says British Prime Minister David Cameron confided in him that he was concerned about the direction of American leadership. But there’s a problem with the Republican’s tidy critique of President Barack Obama: Cameron doesn’t remember it that way ....

“I heard that from David Cameron back in February earlier when we were over at 10 Downing,” Walker said. “I heard it from other leaders around the world. They’re looking around realizing this lead from behind mentality just doesn’t work. It’s just not working.” ....

As Zeke Miller makes clear for Time, while this sort of halfwitted pandering might or might not play in Deer Valley, it certainly didn’t impress Downing Street:

Walker, who has taken several trips overseas in recent months to study up on foreign policy in preparation for an all-but-certain presidential bid, told a roomful of Republican donors Friday that world leaders, including Cameron, are worried about the U.S. stepping back in the world. “The Prime Minister did not say that and does not think that,” a Downing Street spokesperson told TIME.

There is always something of a fun question, each cycle, about foreign leaders and to what degree they should involve themselves in our American elections. And the question certainly has its proper context. Still, though, it also seems an obvious and appropriate question: If you wish to drag Downing Street into an American electoral process, why do so in such a clumsy manner? After the Chatham gaffe, Mr. Walker seems prepared to double down on the D’oh!

Seriously, if one wishes to name drop a foreign government, at least do so in a way that doesn’t move them to publicly call bullshit.

Because, you know, really, it doesn’t do your foreign policy credentials any good to go out of your way to offend our nation’s international neighbors and partners.

Then again, this is Scott Walker.


Image note: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), in January, 2015. Detail of photo by J. Scott Applewhite.

Miller, Zeke J. “British Leader to Scott Walker: I Never Dissed Obama”. Time. 12 June 2015.

A Whimpering Roar

NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R), speaks in April 2014. (Photo: AP)

When we last checked, the Chris Christie Show was still in development, though leaked hints coming from the New Jersey governor’s camp suggested the beleaguered Garden State boss hoped to appeal to voters over common ground by claiming his one-percenter financial status is somehow a hardship.

Sometimes it seems a good idea to stick with a bad idea; this happens when the new good idea is even worse than the old bad idea. For instance:

For months, we have wondered how Gov. Chris Christie thinks he can win the presidency when New Jersey is in such rotten shape after his six years in office.

Now we may have our answer: The man has lost touch with reality.

In a national TV interview Monday, Christie was asked to explain why 65 percent of New Jersey voters think he’d make a bad president.

His answer: We love him so much that we want him to remain our governor.

“They want me to stay,” he told Megyn Kelly of Fox News. “A lot of those people in that 65 percent want me to stay. And I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings.”

Maybe he doesn’t believe that himself. That might step on his core pitch about telling the truth, but it would at least tether him to the planet earth.

The worry is that he really believes it. Politicians like him live in a bubble, surrounded by sycophants. Hard truths have a tough time penetrating.



The Jeb Bush Show (The Iraq Shadow)

Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq, says he’s not running for president yetAmanda Terkel of Huffington Post:

Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq, says he’s not running for president yet

Uh huh. That’s right.

This is still going on.


Terkel, Amanda. “Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq”. Twitter. 19 May 2015.

Hillary and the Clowns

Republicans attempts to turn the discussion to Hillary Clinton and 2016 are getting silly.

“Republicans’ intransigence has created an obvious opportunity for Hillary to rip off our arms and beat us with the bloody ends. She’s expertly exploiting our party’s internal problems.”

Fergus Cullen

Wincing in abject human sympathy is probably fair. So is former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen’s assessment. As David Nakamura and Robert Costa explain for the Washington Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fighting words on immigration this week, designed in part to provoke Republicans into a reactionary counterattack, instead drew an unusual early response from several top-tier GOP presidential candidates: silence.

Two days after Clinton vowed to expand on President Obama’s executive actions to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was one of the only leading Republican 2016 contenders to strike back, calling it a “full embrace of amnesty” that is “unfair to hard-working Americans.”

By contrast, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not weigh in publicly on the remarks Clinton made Tuesday at a campaign stop in Las Vegas. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), one of Obama’s most vocal critics on immigration, waited to make a late evening post on Facebook, writing that Clinton “wants to expand and continue” Obama’s programs and “lawlessness.”

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told MSNBC that Clinton was wrong, saying the country needs to focus on border security first.

This is, as the WaPo duo put it, a “relatively subdued GOP reaction”. Typecast tinfoil and tuneless, tin-can triviality are hardly the stuff of candidates aspiring to show their presidential leadership, but they are hallmarks of the Republican clown car.

And while Jeb Bush might not have responded directly to Hillary Clinton, at least the offered up a Cinco de Mayo message … in Spanish. As platitudes go, that one apparently counts as creative; or, as such, Jeb Bush hopes to be the serious clown.


Nakamura, David and Robert Costa. “Why Clinton’s immigration speech left many Republican rivals speechless”. The Washignton Post. 7 May 2015.

DelReal, Jose A. “Here is Jeb Bush’s Cinco de Mayo message to Mexican-Americans”. The Washington Post. 5 May 2015.

Leadership (Scott Walker Bone Dry Remix)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Image via Facebook)

This is something of a challenge: “Michigan has voted Democratic for presidents since Bill Clinton in 1992”, reports Bloomberg’s Chris Christoff. And this week? Well, this is not what we would call the strongest of pitches:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday joined the list of politicians who’ve deflected this question from Michigan reporters: Would you have supported the U.S. loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to get through their 2009 bankruptcies?

“That’s a hypothetical question in the past. We’re going to talk about the future,” Walker said after speaking to 120 Lansing Republicans in an Oldsmobile car museum where he touted less government, less taxation, and more U.S. aggression toward Islamists in the Middle East. It was the first of two appearances Walker planned in Michigan as part of a national tour to build support and money as he explores a presidential run.

And then there is also the question of what a primary fight demands. Perhaps the best thing we might say about Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) whining half-heartedly about Hillary Clinton, polls, and principles is that it didn’t look or sound very good. We might suggest state Rep. Rick Jones (R-24) take the note, as quotes like, “I believe there’s Bush fatigue in this country”, neither count as ringing endorsements nor actually help anyone or anything.

Then again, when it comes right down to it, look at what is about to happen. This might actually turn out to be the one cycle in which the parties get to burn off all that self-destructive extraneity without it really making much difference. Let them borrow each other’s lines all they want.


Christoff, Chris. “Scott Walker Tiptoes Past Michigan Reporters’ Most Common Question”. Bloomberg Politics. 4 May 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “Martin O’Malley Goes After Hillary Clinton For Leading By ‘Polls,’ Not ‘Principles'”. The Huffington Post. 16 April 2015.