As the Presidential Campaign Turns – “Sunday Political Brunch” October 27, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Remember the old TV soap opera, “As the World Turns?” It aired for 54 years from 1956 to 2010. That’s most of my lifetime! Politics is often like a soap opera that goes on forever, with all the twists and turns. Campaign 2020 (like many others) is shaping up that way. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“By the Numbers” – We’ve been through four rounds of debates with another coming on November 20, and the numbers are moving. The national Real Clear Politics composite poll has it former Vice President Joe Biden 28.7 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts 22.1 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont 18.7 percent, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana at 6.4 percent. Here’s the trend: Biden and Sanders are dropping slightly, with Warren and Buttigieg picking up steam from strong debate performances. Kamala Harris has faded after a strong early showing in June. Right now, this is a four-person race.

“Who’s on First, in the First States?” – As I’ve said before, national polls mean little in a race so influenced by the first two contests. There are big shifts to watch. In the first caucus state of Iowa, Biden’s once solid lead continues to fade. The RCP composite has it Biden 21.0 percent, Warren knocking at the door at 20.7 percent, Buttigieg surging to 14.3 percent and Sanders at 14.3 percent as well. Biden once had a double-digit lead here, but now he and Warren are in a statistical dead heat.

“Take Nothing for Granted in the Granite State” – The “first in the nation” New Hampshire Primary is always critical. After a solid lead there, Biden has now faded to second place. The RCP composite has it 27.3 percent for Warren, to 24 percent for Biden. Sanders is at 16.7 percent, with Buttigieg picking up steam to 8.7 percent. Folks, based on the Iowa and New Hampshire data, this will be at least a four-person race through the next two states of South Carolina and Nevada. After that, I bet the dust settles around just two candidates.

“Warren-Sanders Team Up?” – Here’s a big issue to watch. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are close friends, with almost identical platforms. Sanders is the oldest candidate and recently had serious heart issues. If he fades more and loses badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, watch for him to bow out and endorse Warren. Their combined support could obliterate Biden, especially if the former vice president continues with lackluster debate and campaign performances. Buttigieg then becomes a wild card. If he drops out and endorses Biden, is there a VP offer or a cabinet spot for him, say Secretary of Defense? That might even the Warren-Biden score for a very competitive primary race.

“Castro Convertible?” – Another person to keep an eye on is former HUD Secretary and former Mayor Julian Castro (D) San Antonio. Castro has indicated in the past few days that if he does not get the financial and polling support to make the November debate stage, he may drop out of this race. But if he does, Castro has some political capital to spend. As the only Latino in a race where that demographic will be key, does he negotiate for a cabinet promise, say Secretary of Education? He has leverage, so stay tuned.

“Name the Cabinet Now?” – Speaking of cabinet spots, I have pondered for several weeks that naming cabinet nominees early might help the eventual Democratic nominee. Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Sestek are the only Democrats with military experience. Might promising one Secretary of Defense in advance score some points? How about Kamala Harris for Attorney General? I just have this gut feeling that a Democratic nominee alone won’t beat President Trump. A nominee with a team already lined up, may have a better shot.

“Will they Remember on November?” – As mentioned, the Democrats have already held four rounds of debates. The next one is in Georgia on November 20. That’s the week before Thanksgiving, with people traveling and getting ready for holiday shopping. Sure, political junkies like me are engaged, but is the rest of the population even tuned in? I have my doubts. Well, the Democrats will also debate in December, but no date nor location has been finalized. I am wondering if a debate near Christmas will just fall on too many deaf ears?

“The Trump Card” – For weeks I have been analyzing the impeachment inquiry from a tactical, political vantage point. Presidents Nixon and Clinton had already won second terms when their impeachment inquiries began. Such is not the case for President Trump. I’m just wondering out loud if all the intense impeachment debate we’ll be seeing in November and December will just drown out the actual primary campaign. If everyone is focused on Trump’s impeachment, will much attention be paid to the candidates? I bet Trump – who is likely to be impeached in the House, but not removed from office by the Senate – is counting on just that! My late political analysis colleague, and long-time Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, used to call that, “the politics of distraction.”

Who are you supporting in the Democratic campaign, and have you switched candidates? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D. is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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