In 1988, George H.W. Bush trounced Michael Dukakis because Dukakis looked like a goofball in a tank. In 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore because people wanted to have a beer with Bush and Gore bored them. (Nevermind that Gore would have put us on a path to avoid our current climate crisis.) In 2012, Obama beat Romney because Obama had charisma and Romney was a stiff in a suit. Them’s the facts, and as John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.”
General elections are as much about likeability as policies. It’s hard for political junkies to grasp, but many voters don’t follow candidates’ stances on issues even though they want to benefit from them. They vote for people with whom they connect. For that reason, I knew Bill Clinton would win as soon as I heard him speak. Conversely, in 2014, I wrote, “If Hillary Clinton decides to run, whomever the Republicans run against her, that candidate will win. Her negatives are too high. Republicans will show up in record numbers to defeat her.”
In 2016, I also suggested voters not mess around voting for a third-party candidate. We didn’t have the luxury of voting for the perfect candidate–we needed to vote to prevent a catastrophe. Many people didn’t take the election seriously, and we wound up with someone absent integrity, intelligence, humility, compassion, or shame. Hopefully, Americans learned a lesson.
The current occupant of the Oval Office knew practically nothing about anything except how to fleece people at any cost for personal profit, binge-watch television, and stare at framed photos of himself on his wall–and he won. Personality wins elections. Fear-mongering and lying also win elections, which is why PACs spend so much money on negative ads. They know millions of voters aren’t discerning–they’re easily scared and duped.
It’s through this lens that I offer my thoughts on the 2020 pack and my pick for the next President of the United States. The picks are how I think candidates will perform, not necessarily who I believe deserves to win. (If Michelle Obama ran, I think she’d win.) Here’s a list of where the candidates stand as of April 2019, which is significantly based on name recognition:
Here’s my take on the 2020 race:
She’s currently polling at 0%. She should return to her work in New York and take Bill DeBlasio with her. It will be a quick exit.
Biden is riding high on name recognition. I remember when he ran for President in 1988 and 2008–and dropped out when his poll numbers were single digits. As soon as Americans get tired of being lulled to sleep with his “Average Joe” Amtrak stories, he’ll drop out of the race. He voted for mass incarceration and the Iraq War, and he skewered Anita Hill–a trifecta of unforgivable. His baggage will rightfully be his downfall. He said he would like to have a fist fight with the current president. Ridiculous. I watched a recent speech. He was slurring his words and has a lost a step. It was painful. The convention will be his swan song.
Harris comes across as arrogant, and she over laughs. It’s off-putting. She is tough as nails and courageous on a Senate committee grilling malfeasance, but that effectiveness doesn’t translate on the campaign trail. Her current poll numbers are the result of her exposure at high-profile committee hearings. She’ll earn respect, but I expect her to fade.
Booker’s life story is inspiring. I’ve followed his career since he was running for mayor against Sharpe James in 2002. He legitimately cares about helping people–and he aligns his actions with his values. Unfortunately, it sounds like he’s auditioning for a high school play when he speaks. Too much drama and too many highfalutin words that will disengage voters. He should work on being himself (he’s genuine and engaging in a one-on-one interview), rather than a caricature of a charismatic politician. His Spartacus moment showed he’s gaffe-prone, but I’m volunteering for the campaign and rooting for him.
It’s ironic that her campaign began with criticism of how she treats her staff given the firing squad in the White House. Klobuchar has what many other candidates don’t–an ability to communicate comfortably (sadly, not so much in private if the stories about the way she treats her staff are true). Her presentation style is fluent and convincing. She doesn’t try to put on airs. I don’t hear anything in her stump speech that will separate her from the pack though. She could be a VP pick.
It’s tragically ironic when people preaching compassion hunt animals. On the campaign trail, Mayor Pete talks proudly about shooting animals, which speaks to his character and values. I expect Buttigieg’s popularity to grow because he otherwise comes across as a genuine, smart, and relatable person. His crowds are already big and energetic, and he’s learning to master the zinger: “It’s time to change the channel.” He’ll go deep in the process. Possible VP pick.
Will Americans elect a nerd as their president? I don’t think so, but I’d vote for Warren. I signed up to support her campaign the day she launched because she’s an indefatigable fighter, and I detect no ulterior motives. Although some of her ideas are far-fetched and ill-advised (using tax dollars to pay off all students’ existing college debt), she’d likely be an impactful president. Warren is a fearless, smart, informed, relentless, powerful, and inspiring leader. She’s a voice for sensible changes aimed at protecting the best interests of the majority of people, not the wealthy few and corporate interests. Her creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect Americans from being fleeced by Wall Street and banks impacted lives for the better. If she could be a little less goofy and scale back the details in her stories, she has a legitimate shot. I respect Warren, and I believe more and more voters will too as they hear her message. She’s a solid VP pick if she doesn’t win the primary. I’m an active volunteer for this campaign, currently planning a fundraising event with Team Warren.
The Sanders faithful won’t give up easily, but I have concerns. Although he’s right on plenty of issues, his stump speech plays like a broken record. I don’t need to watch him because I already know what he’s going to say. If he doesn’t learn how to adjust his presentation and speak extemporaneously with more variety, he’ll struggle to grow his base. His idea to send millions of people to college at taxpayers’ expense won’t sit well with the general electorate. I expect him to finish a close second–again. Not a VP.
There are 20 Democrats in the race + Beto. In 2016, 48% of Texas voted for him despite an unimpressive resume. A life of service, he has not lead, but it won’t matter given the opposition in the general election. He doesn’t deserve the job, but neither did the current president. Most people know his name, but not the campaign.
Beto is a special politician though. He speaks in-depth on a wide range of issues without a teleprompter. He’s composed and welcoming when people challenge him. His memory and familiarity with issues and his ability to communicate his positions engagingly explain his loyal support. Beto connects with people–and inspires them. He doesn’t have any significant baggage, and he’ll appeal to moderates and Republicans. He has enough House experience to justify a run, but not so much that he can be called a Washington insider.
Beto is a rare breed. He said he was born to run–and he’s right. When Iowa and South Carolina get to know him, he’s going to catapult to the top of the polls. I volunteer for this campaign planning events and conducting research. They’re organized and ready. Beto will win the Democrat primary, and he will become the 46th President of the United States.