Thinning the Political Herd – Sunday Political Brunch May 5, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – There are twenty Democratic candidates for president, but you can only have one nominee. I am watching Miss USA 2019 as I write this, and realize it’s a very similar process. There are 51 contestants but only one will become Miss USA. By the way, I am thankful presidential politics has no swim suit competition! But you do have to find ways to stand out in the crowd. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Passion Play” – Whether you agree with his politics or not, there’s hardly a candidate that has as much raw passion as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont. Sanders gets worked up and downright angry at times. He can stir up a crowd. It’s fascinating that one of the oldest candidates (age 77), can have such passionate appeal to the youngest voters. Sanders is raw, which is maybe why he has such rabid support among young people.

“Outside the Box” – You can think back to not too distant times where a gay candidate would almost be immediately dismissed just based on his homosexuality. Yes, there were Congressmen Barney Frank, Gerry Studds and Steve Gunderson, but those are local districts, not the whole Electoral College map. Fast forward to 2019, and we have an openly gay candidate in Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend. But Buttigieg was a U.S. Navy officer and served in the war in Afghanistan. He’s also a Rhodes Scholar. So, he is smart and brave, and nobody seems to really care much that he’s married to another man. He has an interesting niche.

“Mixing it Up” – Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California has an interesting mix. Her dad was Jamaican, and her mother was Indian, and she’s the third woman to serve California in the U.S. Senate. She’s been a District Attorney and an Attorney General, so she comes to the table with real political and policy experience. Plus, winning statewide in California requires pulling together a broad tapestry of voters. She’s formidable.

“Experience is Hard to Beat” – If voters are looking towards someone with a long, deep resume, then that helps former Vice President Joe Biden. With 36-years in the U.S. Senate, and eight in the White House, he has a resume that may be tough to beat. But in 2008, Democrats chose someone with an inspiring story and a great stump speech (Obama) over a candidate who had a lot more experience (Clinton). So, experience can be an asset, or it can conversely say, “this person has been around too darn long.” Biden must play his cards carefully.

“Not Just a Pretty Face” – Like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii is in her 30s. She has striking good looks and has a lot of opportunities ahead of her. And like Buttigieg she has military experience in the U.S. Army, having served in the Iraq War. Military service is a political asset, and not everyone has it. A lot of voters who might otherwise dismiss a female or gay candidate, might take a different look knowing that a candidate served their county in a war zone.

“Being Inventive?” – We don’t just have career politicians in the race. How about someone with no political experience, but who has a ton of experience in the tech sector and the philanthropic community? Andrew Yang is just such a person and he’s also running for the Democratic nomination for president. His skill set is outside the traditional political box and separates him clearly from the other candidates. If that sounds vaguely family, it’s because it’s similar (not ideologically) to the tack Donald Trump took to the White House standing on a similar stage with approximately 20 other candidates. Yang can really contrast himself to the others. Might work!

“Avoiding the ‘Trump Trap’” – The candidates can’t make a contest out of who despises President Trump the most. He’ll just beat you down with tweets and more tweets. Just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts. He goads her into responding and she takes the bait, and he always seems to get the last word. It’s a race down a rabbit hole.

“Why All of This Matters” – Democrats in the year 2020, risk campaigning as 20 shades of vanilla. There is a big push in the party to be the most progressive candidate. Everyone seems to be pushing “Medicare for All” and “Free College” or student loan forgiveness. As mentioned, candidates need to focus on identifying their clear differences and making themselves stand out as unique. Tell me why you are more qualified that the others. Otherwise, we might as well just pick names out of a hat. Now, I’ve addressed seven of the 20 candidates here, we’ll do another analysis of the rest in the coming weeks!

If you voted today, who would you pick for president in 2020? Click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed. D, is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He’s a weekly contributing writer for the White House Patch at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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