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Looks like a festive fall ahead for Trump

Two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have taken part in the 2020 Democratic nomination process. The Iowa Democratic caucuses were a debacle. The technology didn’t work; the results had to be re-tallied; and with the delay, the final results didn’t mean as much as they could have to any specific candidate. The process also left the Democratic Party’s reputation damaged.

New Hampshire ended with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (26%) edging out former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (24%). Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota outperformed expectations (20%), while Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts came in unexpectedly low (9.3%). Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign limped in at 8.4%.

Here’s where the Democrats are in their nomination process: Democratic socialist candidate Sanders is the front-runner, barely. Buttigieg is the shiny newcomer, and Klobuchar is attempting to secure the middle. Her closing argument to New Hampshire was captured in a tweet she sent: “We cannot out-divide the divider in chief. We need a candidate who can bring Independents and moderate Republicans with her to build a winning coalition to defeat Donald Trump. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. Join us. Let’s do this, New Hampshire.”

So, what’s next? A bit of a lull in the process, with the Nevada caucuses being held next weekend and the South Carolina primary being held on Feb. 29. Just three days later is Super Tuesday, which includes Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. Combined, these states represent 1,344 of the 1,990 pledged delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. If no candidate receives a majority of the delegates, the second round of voting will include the superdelegates, who are free to vote as they would like.

It has to drive the Democratic National Committee crazy to have an independent leading in its party’s primary process. David Siders of Politico reported last month that one DNC member texted to another, “I do believe we should re-open the rules. I hear it from others as well.” Just wait until a self-declared independent comes into the convention with the most delegates.

On the Republican side, President Trump has had a great last week and a half. He delivered the State of the Union speech; the economy continues to grow; the Senate did not vote to convict him on the articles of impeachment; and poll results show his approval rating growing among minority groups.

A recent Zogby Analytics poll of likely voters conducted nationwide reported approval ratings of 22% from African Americans, 36% from Hispanics and 38% from Asian Americans. These are incredible numbers and big increases over 2016 figures.

According to an exit poll by Edison Research for the National Election Pool (a consortium of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News), 8% of African Americans, 28% of Hispanics and 27% of Asian voters voted for Trump.

Well, you might be thinking: “People really don’t like Trump. He doesn’t have the temperament to be president.” But then, when you turn around and see the policy successes that are occurring, you realize that while Trump’s temperament might differ from that of his predecessor, he also has a different track record for getting stuff done. Accomplishment, not elegance, is his focus.

In a 2016 exit poll conducted by CNN, 19% of those who said Trump did NOT have the temperament to be president voted for him anyway. Maybe the takeaway is that many Americans were — and might still be — tired of temperament being the top prerequisite, and would prefer accomplishments. If so, Trump should have a fabulous autumn.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a syndicated columnist.

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US election 2020: Could it be Bernie Sanders v Donald Trump?

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Hannah Long-Higgins

Bernie Sanders is firmly the front-runner in the race to become the Democratic challenger to Republican President Donald Trump, fresh from a victory this week in the second state-by-state contest. His support is fervent but is his party, let alone the country, ready to embrace such an unusual candidate?

Bernie Sanders likes to call his presidential campaign a revolution, but these days it feels more like a touring rock concert.

The Vermont senator may seem like an unlikely front-man for bands like Vampire Weekend and The Strokes, but both have served as his warm-up acts, playing at recent campaign rallies.

But the thousands of fans in packed arenas reserve their loudest cheers for the scruffy-haired 78-year-old candidate with a clipped Brooklyn accent.

After nearly a year marathon of rallies, meetings, debates and ground-laying, the Sanders campaign is now entering a sprint of near-nonstop activity that will carry it through dozens of states across the country – an impressive test of endurance for man who just months ago was hospitalised for a heart attack.

“Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has given me the courage to believe that we cannot only demand bold, radical change, but that it’s actually very attainable,” said Aletha Shapiro, who travelled to New Hampshire from Long Island, New York, to help the Sanders campaign.

“If the people stick together, we can actually put power back in the hands of the people.”

The end result of all this effort was a split decision in Iowa, as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed the most delegates to the Democratic National Convention even though Sanders won a few thousand more votes.

In New Hampshire, Sanders finished narrowly ahead of Buttigieg again, with the two tied in the state’s delegate count.

That didn’t stop Sanders from claiming victory both in Iowa and New Hampshire on Tuesday night, however, and looking ahead to a showdown with Trump in November.

“The reason we won tonight in New Hampshire, we won last week in Iowa, is because of the hard work of so many volunteers,” he said. “Let me say tonight that this victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.”

The crowd, packed into a college gymnasium, responded with deafening applause, as though the volume of their cheers could will their beloved candidate to more victories in the days ahead.

Bernie Sanders rally

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Hannah Long-Higgins

“It was electric,” said Scott Sandvik, a music teacher from Boston. “I really think it was a release of tension after a nail-biter of an election.”

If the Sanders “revolution” does take hold – an outsider campaign pitted as much against the Democratic Party’s establishment as it is the incumbent president – New Hampshire could very well be seen as where it all began.

But the campaign still has a long road ahead.

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Another shot at the prize

Four years ago, Sanders also followed a tight result in Iowa with a victory in New Hampshire. That contest was actually more decisive – a 20-point win over Hillary Clinton, who was considered the prohibitive favourite entering the race.

Sanders’ 2016 New Hampshire triumph, however, was a springboard into an empty pool.

He followed his win in the overwhelmingly white New England state with a narrow loss in Nevada and a drubbing in South Carolina, where the Democratic voting population is majority black. Although there were a few bright spots after that – victories in Michigan and Wisconsin – Clinton spent the next few months pulling away from Sanders in the nomination race.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire July 2016

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Now Sanders is back, hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. Facing a more crowded field, he appears to be in a much better position, as the nomination fight becomes a state-by-state slog on a battleground that stretches the breadth of the nation.

There is no Clinton machine waiting to do battle against the Sanders insurgency this time around. Instead, the Vermont senator heads out of New Hampshire along with a ragtag mix of candidates all scrambling for a foothold.

Joe Biden, the apparent front-runner through much of 2019, is grievously wounded by poor showings in in the first two contests. Elizabeth Warren, the other candidate appealing to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, has finished behind Sanders twice now and shows no signs gaining any ground.

Meanwhile, the continued presence of Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar among the moderates of the party ensures middle-of-the road and establishment Democrats will remain divided.

Buttigieg has money, but a thin resume and doubts about his appeal to the more diverse rank-and-file of the Democratic Party. Klobuchar is counting on media coverage of her late surge in New Hampshire to make up for depleted campaign coffers and a virtually non-existent national organisation.

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Who is Bernie Sanders?

  • Sanders had his first political victory in Burlington, Vermont, where he toppled the reigning six-term Democrat in 1981 for the mayoral seat by a margin of just 10 votes
  • Despite efforts by establishment Democrats to thwart his early career, Sanders served four terms as mayor before being elected to the US House of Representatives in 1990 – the first independent politician in four decades to do so
  • He won his current senate seat in 2007 and is currently in his third term
  • Sanders has an older brother, Larry, who lives in the UK had is currently the health and social care spokesman for the Green Party

The Sanders brothers: A tale of two underdogs

How Bernie Sanders always beat the odds

Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders, Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in his office at City Hall on 1 March, 1985

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Meanwhile, Sanders has risen in national polls as Biden falters. He boasts a veteran campaign structure that has basically been up and running since 2015, and a donor and volunteer network that spans the nation.

His $25m (£19m) fundraising haul in January alone will ensure he has more than enough resources to compete in every state on the crowded March primary calendar.

He has been officially or unofficially supported by figures from Labour MP Diane Abbott to YouTube star Joe Rogan. On Friday, he picked up another endorsement, from New York mayor and erstwhile 2020 candidate Bill de Blasio.

If Bernie Sanders isn’t the Democratic front-runner at this point, the word has little meaning. He’s far from a lock for the nomination, but his path ahead appears to be the clearest of any of his competitors.

On Tuesday night, Sanders essentially said as much.

“The reason I believe we are going to win is because we have an unprecedented grass-roots movement from coast to coast of millions of people,” he said. “The reason that we are going to win is that we are putting together an unprecedented multi-generational, multi-racial movement.”

Bernie sanders supporter with a cast holding Bernie sign

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Hannah Long-Higgins

History is certainly on Sanders’ side. Putting the Iowa popular-vote result in his column means the Vermont senator joins Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, both eventual nominees, as the only non-incumbents to win there and New Hampshire. In fact, no candidate has finished outside the top two in New Hampshire and gone on to the nomination.

“I think the people of the United States will unite around his message supporting the true hard working people of this country,” said Tomas Amadeo of Hooksett, New Hampshire, echoing the optimism of many at the New Hampshire Sanders rally.

“He can resonate with people of all ages.”

The current disposition of the Sanders campaign has his supporters hoping for the best, however, a big chunk of the Democratic establishment and moderates in the party are fearing the worst.

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Incoming fire

Last Friday, in the spin room before the Democratic candidate debate in Manchester, senior Sanders campaign adviser Jeff Weaver was clear-eyed about what’s in store for his candidate, as a Democratic establishment that views Sanders as a meddlesome and disruptive outsider prepares to fight back.

“There’s always a target on his back,” he said of Sanders. “They won’t stop until they’re beaten. Well, we’re ready for it.”

Bernie supporters in New Hampshire

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Hannah Long-Higgins

In Iowa, Sanders was the subject of negative television advertisements from both the left and the right. The conservative Club for Growth aired a spot that painted the Vermont senator as an extremist – and said that his health was suspect after his heart attack last fall.

A pro-Israel Democratic group ran an advert featuring Iowa voters saying Sanders couldn’t beat Trump.

“It is no secret that our campaign is taking on the political establishment and the big-money interests who are now running negative ads against us in Iowa,” Sanders said in response. “The billionaire class is getting nervous, and they should.”

There’s reason to believe Sanders’ political-jujitsu strategy could be effective.

In 2016, as the Republican establishment finally acknowledged the threat that Donald Trump’s candidacy posed, its scions – including 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney – began to speak out. Their attacks only made Trump stronger, however, as he painted them as the “swamp’s” last-gasp efforts to stop him.

“The establishment has never taken Sanders seriously, and now that they’re having to they’re going to attack him,” said Caleb Gates, a Sanders supporter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who joined Sanders at a volunteer organisation event the day before the Iowa Caucuses.

“But I think that will only increase his appeal to a lot of people, especially those who are not politically active.”

In New Hampshire, Biden and Buttigieg hit at Sanders directly, both warning he was too extreme to be the party’s nominee and that his ideological views were too rigid.

Buttigieg accused Sanders of “dividing people with the politics that says, ‘If you don’t go all the way to the edge, it doesn’t count’, a politics that says, ‘It’s my way of the highway’.”

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What are his key campaign promises?

  • “Medicare for All” single-payer health system
  • Eliminate medical and student loan debt
  • Free public colleges, universities, trade schools
  • Green New Deal
  • Wealth tax

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The wildcard

Time and again, it’s the “electability” criticism that is used as a cudgel against Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist.

One recent poll indicated that more than half of Americans would not vote for a “socialist” president. Trump, at his rallies, regularly promises to his cheering support that “American will never be a socialist nation”.

The “conventional” view of a Sanders candidacy can be summed up in in a tweet by Sean Trende, an elections analyst with the website RealClear Politics.

“Bernie Sanders is a complete wildcard,” he wrote. “He could win by 10 points or lose by 20.”

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A blunter take by a Sanders critic was offered by the New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait in a column that particularly irked the Sanders faithful.

“No party nomination, with the possible exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964, has put forth a presidential nominee with the level of downside risk exposure as a Sanders-led ticket would bring,” he wrote. “To nominate Sanders would be insane.”

When the stakes are so high – defeating Trump has been a central focus of Democrats since the day he was elected in 2016 – why, they ask, would the party choose a candidate so far away from the comfortable middle of American politics?

Bernie signs

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Hannah Long-Higgins

Moderate members of Congress, in particular, have expressed apprehension about sharing a ticket with the independent-minded Vermont senator who only joined the Democratic Party to run for president.

Dean Phillips, a newly elected congressman from Minnesota who has endorsed Klobuchar, told CNN that Sanders could have a “disastrous” effect on congressional races in November, jeopardising the majority Democrats won in the 435-seat chamber in 2018..

“There are probably are probably 25 to 30 seats that absolutely would be impacted directly by having a self-avowed socialist at the top of the ticket,” he said. “He’s not a Democrat, you know, and that’s something that I wish was better understood.”

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Redefining ‘electability’

The Sanders campaign clearly realises that winning the “electability” debate is essential to securing the party’s 2020 nomination. It’s why they hand out “Sanders beats Trump” stickers at their campaign events and chanted the refrain at his New Hampshire victory celebration.

They’re quick to cite head-to-head polling that shows little significant difference between a Sanders-Trump matchup and one between Trump and Biden, the candidate frequently offered as the safe and electable option. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had Biden on top 50-44, while Sanders led Trump 49-45 – a statistically insignificant difference.

They also argue that the entire debate about electability is framed incorrectly. American politics, they say, isn’t a battle for the middle, it’s a battle of ideas and a battle for authenticity.

“What we did last time was nominate someone who was down the middle and another Washington person who wasn’t going to change anything,” said Pat Miguel Tomaino of Boston. “There are people hurting in this country who bought a lot of fake change from Donald Trump, and now we’re all suffering for it.”

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Media caption‘We voted for Obama, then Trump’

Tomaino, who volunteered for Sanders in New Hampshire, added that the economic collapse of 2008 destroyed the trust many Americans have in the current economic and political order, and unless the Democratic Party acknowledges this and adjust to the new reality, it’s going to lose to Trump again.

“We have no illusion about elites coming to save us or tinkering around a little bit for a better technocratic way of ordering an elitist system where just 1% benefit,” he said.

“We know that Bernie Sanders doesn’t want any of that. We know he has our back, and we have his.”

To pull this off, however, the Sanders campaign has to successfully identify and turn out voters who have sat out past elections. They’re counting on the younger voters who polls show overwhelmingly back Sanders for the nomination, as well other disaffected Americans who have been marginalised by the system.

In Iowa, at least, the results were not encouraging. Although young voters made up a larger share of caucus participants, the total numbers were down from 2008, when Barack Obama’s first campaign was electrifying many Democrats.

New Hampshire’s numbers were better, but early indications are the higher turnout was in part due to moderate and independent voters showing up to support Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

Young voters at Bernie Sanders rally

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Hannah Long-Higgins

“I’ve always believed strongly that our case for winning this nomination and also beating Trump is that we can expand the base,” said Faiz Shakir, the Sanders campaign manager.

“We have the most ambitious and difficult path to winning this nomination because it requires by, by its nature, that people will be brought into this process.”

He added that he thought the campaign had laid the groundwork for increased turnout in the states ahead, but there is reason the whole party should be concerned.

“We’ve got much more work to do,” he said.

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Take a closer look at the other candidates

Banner showing some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates

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New states, new troubles

As the focus turns to Nevada, which holds its caucus a week from Saturday, Sanders is facing criticism from a different direction. The state’s powerful culinary union is circulating literature suggesting Sanders’s plan for replacing private health insurance with a government-run programme will abolish their union-negotiated plans.

The union then released a statement saying that Sanders supporters, upon learning of the union’s criticism, had “viciously” attacked the organisation.

Already Sanders’ Democratic opponents, sensing a vulnerability in Nevada, are positioning themselves as defenders of union healthcare plans.

“Let’s be clear: attacks on the union are unacceptable,” Klobuchar wrote in a tweet. “I come from a family of proud union members and I know when unions are strong, America is strong”

Four years ago Nevada was the staging ground for Clinton’s counterattack, as she won over union support in Las Vegas hotels and restaurants – even without an outright endorsement.

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Media captionA family split over Bernie Sanders

If Sanders stumbles in Nevada again, the momentum he gained over the past two weeks could be lost, opening the door for one of the candidates he beat in New Hampshire – or for another, unexpected candidate who looms on the horizon in the weeks ahead.

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Enter the billionaire

After Iowa and New Hampshire, the outcome of the race may uncertain, but it has at least followed a somewhat predictable course. The field is narrowing as candidates struggle at the ballot box or run out of money. The hardiest campaigns have moved on to the later battlegrounds.

That may all head out the window soon.

There hasn’t been a presidential candidate quite like Michael Bloomberg.

The New York multi-billionaire is sitting out the first four Democratic nomination contests, and instead using his vast resources to campaign in later states, which award the lion’s share of delegates to the Democratic national convention, where the party’s standard-bearer will ultimately be decided.

The Bloomberg challenge presents one additional, unprecedented hurdle Sanders must clear if he wants to be the party’s nominee – a circumstance not lost on the senator’s team.

Mike 2020 flyers

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“He’s standing there waiting on Super Tuesday to try to block us if some if these other people can’t,” said Weaver of the Sanders campaign. “So, this race has got a long way to go and the ruling class in this country will do whatever it takes to stop Bernie Sanders.”

Sanders’s supporters have been even more blunt.

“It’s not subtle at all what Michael Bloomberg is doing,” says Tomas Armadeo of Hookset, New Hampshire. “It’s very egregious how he’s buying and funding his own way into this election. And I think people are going to see that.”

Not everyone considers Bloomberg’s presence as a threat, however.

“Bloomberg’s a perfect foil for Bernie because Bernie has been railing against the billionaire class for decades,” said Gates of Cedar Rapids. “And the chances of running against an actual billionaire, I think that plays right into his strengths.”

That may be easy to say at this point, but if Bloomberg does become a serious obstacle for Sanders – and if he either denies the Vermont senator a majority of the delegates at the convention or becomes the nominee himself – there could be hell to pay from the Sanders faithful.

Michael Bloomberg

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Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent millions campaigning

Outside a Sanders canvassing rally in Newton, a tiny town in central Iowa, campaign volunteer Krissy Haglund hands out leaflets and says Bloomberg is a “test for the American people”.

“I think it’s a test to see if they’re willing to believe that money should be out of politics.”

Four years ago Haglund, a physician from Minneapolis, Minnesota, said the American people missed the “gift” that Sanders was offering them. And when presented with the choice between Clinton and Trump, she opted to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

This time around, she’s not sure she’d be able to support anyone but Sanders.

“I feel as though Bernie is in a class by himself and none of the other candidates are even close,” she said. “And I think if he doesn’t get it, it will be because of politics and not that he hasn’t earned it in the numbers or from the American people.”

And if it’s Bloomberg, she’s definitely looking elsewhere.

Follow Anthony on Twitter

Additional reporting by Haley Thomas


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2 years later: Parkland students, families in Washington pushing for stronger gun regulation

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Friday marks two years since the tragic shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and several others injured. Parkland families spent the day in Washington D.C. hoping for a change.

“I need to be in an iconic place to send the right message,” Manny Oliver said.

Manny Oliver lost his son on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Aalayah Eastmond was inside the school at the time. Now she’s a college student in D.C. advocating for stronger gun regulation.

“Demanding congressional change for gun violence prevention with people that can relate to my pain is very important to me,” Eastmond said.

Students and families from Parkland are in Washington looking for answers. They’re sharing a newspaper that shows all the shootings that have happened since that day two years ago.

The Trump administration launched this week. It’s a website of government-wide resources for schools to prepare for threats.

Washington Correspondent Kellie Meyer asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) if he felt the website was enough to address gun violence.

“No, no single thing is enough. I think the issue here is violence,” he said.

Rubio said Congress is taking multiple steps to make a difference but he doesn’t back every proposed solution.

“Background checks will tell you what someone has done in the past it cannot predict what they do in the future,” Rubio said.

The Bipartisan Background Checks bill passed the House last year.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) thinks the bill would pass if it came to the Senate floor.

“I think everybody supports that overwhelmingly, but I don’t see that happening,” Jones said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hasn’t signaled any plans to allow a vote on the bill.


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Joe Biden running out of gas on road to defeat

Joe Biden is toast, white toast, but toast, nevertheless.

So, butter him up while there is still time. He is not going to be around much longer, let alone become president.

That was the lead of a column we wrote that ran last July. It is truer today than it was back then. It is not a matter of if, but when.

Since then things have only gotten worse. Once the favorite of moderates and establishment Democrats, Biden is on political life support, after having been beaten badly in the Iowa caucus and humiliated in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where he finished fifth.

Despite the upcoming Nevada caucus Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary Feb. 29, where the former vice president is expected to do better, there is no way but down for Biden.

And talk about Biden reviving his campaign in those two states are simply words from “lying dog-faced pony soldiers,” to quote Biden, who apparently quoted a line from a John Wayne western movie that nobody can find.

Seeking a connection, Biden would have been better off in a tight spot quoting Robert Frost, who at least lived in New Hampshire. It is what Jack Kennedy used to do when caught in a fix. He’d quote:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And then JFK would beat it out the back door.

Joe Biden, a lifelong politician and vice president under Barack Obama, is the aging NFL backup quarterback destined to never fill the starting role. He may become a president of something one day, but not of the United States.

He stumbled in Iowa and fumbled in New Hampshire, ending up punching down on Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who wants to turn the country into South Bend, Ind.

What a state! Instead of laughing at his “lying dog-faced pony soldier” joke with the young woman asking a question, people laughed at him.

It’s no wonder Biden could not get out of New Hampshire fast enough. He misread the NH license plate motto to read “Let’s Flee or Die.” So he fled the state for South Carolina even before most of the people even voted.

Even John Kerry, Biden’s friend and campaign adviser could not save him in New Hampshire, a state Kerry won in the 2004 Democrat presidential primary and in the November election, only to lose to George W. Bush.

Now with Biden losing, Kerry’s dreams of becoming secretary of state again and reversing Trump’s reversal of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Change Accords, are dashed. This also means no more hanging with his buddy Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister

There is only one person who could have saved Biden. That is Barack Obama, the saintly president Biden served under for eight years. But Obama did not endorse Biden, or anyone else. Nor will he endorse Biden, especially now that Biden is spiraling downward. Even saints have limits.

What really must have crushed Biden was the television ad — one of untold thousands — that billionaire Michael Bloomberg launched during the New Hampshire primary campaign he did not even run in.

One ad, that is still running, makes it appear that Obama has endorsed Bloomberg for president, which Obama has not. Bloomberg, a billionaire, has already spent $300 million of his own money on television, seeking to buy the Democrat nomination.

While he did not compete in Iowa or New Hampshire, Bloomberg has risen in the polls as a result of his heavy television spending, in which he mainly attacks Trump. He has promised to spend $2 billion to defeat Trump.

In the Obama ad, which goes back to a 2012 event where President Obama introduced then New York Mayor Bloomberg, Obama says of Bloomberg, “At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions.”

While it is not an Obama endorsement of Bloomberg, it sure looks and sounds like one to the average television viewer. How that must have stung Biden!

Since Obama has not endorsed Bloomberg — or Biden — what Biden ought to do, if he is still around, is grab Bloomberg by the collar and accuse him of being “a lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

That ought to do it.

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Victims? Or Victors? Hypocrites and Cowards, Abroad and at Home

AfD leader Alexander Gauland attends a TV interview with ARD in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, September 15, 2019. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

The new breed of populist-nationalists revel in tales of national ‘greatness’ and wallow in narratives of vulnerability.

Germany is this week marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied firebombing of Dresden. Some Germans have mixed feelings about this. Most Americans, rightly, do not.

On the right wing of German politics, AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and likeminded groups tell an incoherent story: Germany is a world-bestriding great power when it suits them and a defenseless victim when it suits them. The Nazi era was, in this account, only a “speck” — specifically, a “speck of bird poop,” as AfD leader Alexander Gauland put it, insignificant in comparison to “more than 1,000 years of successful German history.” But the bombing of Dresden, on the other hand, is an eternal infamy and a “war crime.”

But even as AfD partisans seeks to minimize the Holocaust, they remain strangely fixated on the Holocaust monument in Berlin. “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital,” AfD leader Björn Höcke insists. He should perhaps visit the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he could meditate on “small shackles made for the fragile ankles of a child,” among other artifacts of “inhumanity and terror.” But Höcke, like practically every other politician of his ilk — in the United States as in Germany — has a story to tell. He also has a story to counter, the account of the war that, as he puts it, emphasizes “only German perpetrators” and not “German victims.” Perhaps your immediate gut reaction to the events of 1933–45 is not “Oh, the poor Germans!”

But the mania for victimhood is remarkable.

Here in the United States, but also in Western Europe, in Russia, in India, in China, and a few other places, the new breed of populist-nationalists revel in tales of national “greatness” and wallow in narratives of victimhood and vulnerability. They cannot quite seem to make up their minds about which they are: victors or victims.

Our talk-radio friends, for example, insist that the United States has never been as strong as it is right now — but also that the country is so fragile as to be only one election away from losing everything, forever: incredibly strong but incredibly weak at precisely the same time. Vladimir Putin tells of a Russia that is a great world power but also the easy victim of foreign governments. China is the eternal Middle Kingdom that somehow managed to get under the thumb of the puny English. Hindu chauvinists in India try to influence elections in the United Kingdom on the theory that the Labour Party is excessively solicitous of the interests of Muslims and that British Hindus who vote Labour are, as one campaign message put it, “traitors to their ancestral land, to their family and friends in India and to their cultural heritage.”

Traitors — now, that’s a funny word.

President Donald Trump has suggested that congressional Democrats should be charged with treason over his impeachment agony. Lou Dobbs escalated from the legal to the eternal, insisting that Senator Mitt Romney, who voted to convict President Trump on the abuse-of-power charge, must find himself in the company of such traitors as Judas Iscariot and Brutus. I picture the erudite Mr. Dobbs, one of the greatest anti-elitists ever produced by Harvard, sitting at home watching A Man for All Seasons on Netflix and cheering lustily for Cromwell, if not for the executioner.

(In his Divine Comedy, Dante puts Brutus in the lowest part of Hell, in the very maw of Satan; as I argue in The Smallest Minority, all right-thinking Americans, heirs to glorious traitors as we are, should regard Brutus as the hero of his story. Julius Caesar had it coming.)

As it is with nations, so it is with men. The purported hard men of our time spend their days and evenings (especially their evenings) on Twitter whining about the unfairness of it all. It has been amusing to watch the people who chanted “Lock her up!” at doddering old Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lied about her email, whimpering and blubbering as doddering old Roger Stone faces the prospect of being locked up for lying about his email. “Oh, but he’s old!” they say. “It’s a nonviolent crime — a process crime!” Perhaps Stone will take a page from Harvey Weinstein’s script and show up at his sentencing manning a walker. Bullies are almost always and everywhere cowards, and everybody is a tough guy until the verdict is read — the verdict in court, or the verdict of history.

And, then, the bullies are, as if by magic — poof! — made into victims.

But, my, weren’t we beastly to the Germans!

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How to Watch Democratic Front-Runner Bernie Sanders’ Texas Rally

After having won the New Hampshire primary on Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders will hold a rally in Mesquite, Texas, on Friday.

Sanders’ campaign will continue to the Mesquite Arena in the Dallas area with a performance by alt-country band the Vandoliers. This is his first stop in the Lone Star State in 2020. Last year, he held a rally in Fort Worth.

Those looking at attend the event can register on Sanders’ campaign website. Doors to the Mesquite Arena open at 6 p.m. CT, and the rally is scheduled for 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. The arena’s capacity is 5,500. Entrance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The rally will also likely be streamed on the Sanders campaign’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Bernie Sanders holds the hand of his spouse Jane O’Meara Sanders as he takes the stage during a primary night event on February 11, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sanders leads all candidates among Democratic primary voters in Texas.
Drew Angerer/Getty

The rally is Sanders’ third of the day, first holding two in Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, Sanders leads all candidates among Democratic primary voters in Texas with 24 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden follows the senator with 22 percent. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is in third with 15 percent, with former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg coming in fourth with 10 percent.

On Wednesday, a new survey from The Economist and YouGov showed Sanders as the national front-runner for the Democratic nomination. The senator has 22 percent support among likely Democratic primary and caucus voters, while only 18 percent supported former front-runner Biden.

The rally comes just days before early voting in the Texas primary begins. Texas is one of 11 states voting on Super Tuesday on March 3, along with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. Super Tuesday falls after the Nevada caucuses, which will be held on February 22, and the South Carolina primary on February 29.

Sanders’ New Hampshire vote count total was the lowest ever for a presidential primary winner. With 26 percent of the vote, Sanders narrowly defeated former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg who received 24 percent of the voters. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar came in third place with 19 percent of votes, as previously reported.

In 2016, Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by over 22 percent, but while this margin may have been thinner, Sanders delivered a speech that showed determination for 2020.

“We are gonna win because we have the agenda that speaks to the needs of working people across this country,” Sanders said in a victory speech after the New Hampshire primary. “This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.”

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Senator Rand Paul Visits Denver to Talk Marijuana Policy

Senator Rand Paul represents Kentucky, but he’s hanging out in Denver today, February 14, to meet with a group of supporters. He’s not running for president again, nor is his Senate seat up for grabs until 2022.

So why is he holding a closed-door event in Colorado? It has nothing to do with impeachment hearings, naming an alleged White House whistleblower or discussing YouTube’s censorship policies, all of which have landed Paul in the news lately.  Instead, he’s here to meet with the weed industry.

Paul, a Republican who has embraced Tea Party politics, has found a base of support in several large portions of the legal marijuana industry, and has built a strong relationship with the National Cannabis Industry Association, one of legal pot’s largest trade organizations. He started flying into Denver for fundraising meetings with the NCIA as early as 2015, and has cultivated relationships with marijuana industry representatives and lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Although Paul’s politics don’t align with the majority of lawmakers embracing marijuana legalization — most of whom are Democrats — he’s shown a willingness to favor states’ rights over federal enforcement. And despite the pot industry’s growing financial influence, it’s still not going to be picky over who’s supporting the plant in D.C. The Kentucky senator is co-sponsor of Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would protect banks and financial institutions serving state-legal marijuana businesses from federal drug or trafficking charges.

Paul’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment, but the NCIA sent Westword a statement elaborating on his meeting in Denver, noting that it hopes its relationship with Paul will rub off on Senate Majority Leader (and fellow Kentucky senator) Mitch McConnell, who has steadfastly opposed legalization.

“Senator Paul has been a long-time supporter of cannabis policy reform, and is a cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. We are meeting to express our gratitude and to discuss ways in which we can move effective banking reform through the Senate this session,” the NCIA statement reads. “We’re also hoping he can convince his fellow Kentucky senator to lighten up on this issue and prioritize hearings on cannabis legislation.”

The SAFE Banking Act passed the House last September, but has been sitting idle in the Senate for several months. Right now, it’s not McConnell blocking the legislation, but Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, who has expressed concerns regarding marijuana legalization’s impact on public health and safety, and has proposed severely cutting back the THC potency of commercial pot products before moving the SAFE Banking Act forward.

In January, Perlmutter and his fellow bill sponsors in the House sent Crapo a public letter asking him to move the SAFE Banking Act forward, but earlier this week, Colorado Congressmen Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn and ten other House members who’d voted against the measure sent a letter to Crapo praising his lack of action.

Last summer, Paul said he’d talked with Crapo about SAFE, suggesting the Idaho senator move the bill forward. So far, though, it remains stalled.

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Why prediction markets are bad at predicting who’ll be president 

If you look at predictions from British gambling site Betfair, the Democratic primary has a new frontrunner: Mike Bloomberg. His odds of winning the Democratic nomination shot up suddenly in the middle of this week, and this morning he passed Bernie Sanders — who has won the popular vote in the two states that have voted so far and is leading in national polls — as the candidate likeliest to win the nomination and likeliest (behind Trump) to be our next president. As of right now, bettors on Betfair give Bloomberg a 34 percent chance of winning the nomination.

FiveThirtyEight’s sophisticated election model, on the other hand, rates Bloomberg’s odds at 1/12 (plus some chance he’s chosen at a brokered convention), behind Biden as well as Sanders. Most experts aren’t rating him much higher than that. The general consensus is that he does have a shot, but he’s far from the easy frontrunner.

Do the prediction markets know something experts don’t?


But anyone who has been watching the prediction markets for the last year might have an alternative hypothesis: They’re just not very good. Before Iowa, Betfair and competitor PredictIt gave Pete Buttigieg only an 8 percent chance of winning the most state delegate equivalents (which he did, pending a recanvass). For much of last fall, PredictIt rated Andrew Yang and Hillary Clinton as tied for third in the nomination race (neither stood a chance, and Clinton wasn’t even running). In 2016, Betfair’s final assessments as voting day arrived were very good. But there can be a lot of noise — and a lot of nonsense — along the way.

The thing is, prediction markets were supposed to be smarter than the pundits. They were supposed to harness the wisdom of crowds and use financial incentives to be as accurate at predicting global events as the stock market is at predicting earnings for public companies.

If they work at that, we’ll have a powerful new tool for making policy. If we had an effective prediction market, we could use it to aggregate wisdom on questions like the revenue effects of tax changes, the mortality effects of new health care policies, or the best response to an emerging threat like coronavirus.

Stock markets are really good at quickly aggregating information, with prices rapidly reflecting new information and lots of highly paid people spending much of their time studying companies in order to take bets on which are overpriced and underpriced. If prediction markets were similarly effective, we’d have a reliable source of information about lots of things. And if you thought it was wrong, you could just bet against it — moving the price and making money if you were right.

So it’s frustrating that the presidential prediction markets — the most visible, most-traded efforts at making prediction markets happen on a large scale — don’t seem so great at their jobs. What went wrong?

Existing prediction markets are too small in scale, hard to interact with, and hard to make money from, which renders them inaccurate and vulnerable to manipulation. If we want to figure out whether the prediction market concept works, we should try it with prediction markets that are more like the stock market. Until we do, prediction markets are potentially another channel for misinformation.

Are presidential prediction markets bad at their jobs?

The presidential prediction market has been a little zany all primary season. Most notably, it consistently overrated Andrew Yang, who had lots of tech-savvy, online followers who were exactly the sort of people to use prediction markets. That’s likely why the markets consistently rated him as having about a 10 percent chance of winning the nomination, even while polls and experts called it correctly: Yang was never going to win a delegate.

One market, PredictIt, also spent much of last fall inexplicably rating Hillary Clinton a plausible nominee with 11 percent odds of winning the nomination. The markets also consistently underrated Pete Buttigieg, giving him only an 8 percent chance of winning the most state delegate equivalents in Iowa.

And now they’ve become obsessed with Bloomberg over the space of a few days, with his odds on Betfair rocketing from 11 percent on February 6 to 34 percent on February 14 despite not much new information coming out that should have improved his prospects.

Mike Bloomberg’s extremely rapid rise to first place on Betfair, from

This is, frankly, a weird prediction. Failing to compete in the early states has never worked for a candidate before. Bloomberg has risen in the national polls, but he’s still behind Sanders; aggregates of recent national polling found Sanders at 23 percent and Bloomberg at 15 percent, putting him not only behind Sanders but also behind Joe Biden.

Contrast the Betfair odds model with this model from FiveThirtyEight, the data-driven pundits who’ve had an unusually strong track record over the last several election cycles:

This model makes it perfectly clear: Bloomberg has a chance. His chances have risen recently as his spending blitz drove a rise in the national polls. But he is much less likely to win than Sanders, as you might expect given that Sanders is leading in national polls, leading in state polls, and has won the popular vote in the states that have voted so far.

(Do note that FiveThirtyEight’s model estimates who will have a plurality of pledged delegates. Bloomberg could fail to have a plurality but win a brokered convention, making his overall odds higher than the 16 percent given here. But factoring this in certainly wouldn’t make him the frontrunner; experts think it’s unlikely the DNC will ignore the plurality choice at a brokered convention, and FiveThirtyEight gives Sanders a 35 percent chance of having an outright majority by the convention.)

It remains to be seen who will be right, of course. But the available evidence is more in line with the FiveThirtyEight model — where Bloomberg is a possibility but not the clear frontrunner — than the model the betting markets seem to prefer, where Bloomberg is the likeliest Democratic nominee, with his odds improving seemingly every minute I hit “refresh.”

Prediction markets are manipulable

It is hard to say for sure what is driving Bloomberg’s rise. One possibility — and to be clear, there’s no evidence for this — is that someone with a lot of money is betting on him.

Prediction markets are driven by supply and demand. If there’s an endless supply of people — or one very rich person — willing to bet on Bloomberg, that will drive up the price for Bloomberg bets. That, in turn, will cause the market to report excellent odds he’ll win the election. The hope is usually that the good predictions will increase good publicity and eventually be a self-fulfilling prophecy — that all of us will see that Bloomberg is the frontrunner according to Betfair and start treating him as one.

That something like that could happen isn’t just speculation — in 2012, it actually happened. At the time, the leading presidential prediction market was a site called Intrade, and it consistently overrated Mitt Romney, who lost in a landslide. Researchers looking into the prediction markets found evidence of one bettor who spent $4 million to $7 million artificially boosting Romney’s chances. He was so determined that he ended up being 1/3 of all Intrade trading on Romney — and he kept Romney’s prediction-market odds high right up through the election.

“It is worth knowing that a highly visible market that drove many a media narrative could be manipulated at a cost less than that of a primetime television commercial,” the study’s authors, David Rothschild of Microsoft Research in New York and Rajiv Sethi of Barnard College at Columbia University, wrote at the time.

People try to do this on the stock market, too. But they mostly fail because stock markets are big and heavily traded. It takes a ton of money — much more than $7 million — to meaningfully manipulate the price of a stock, and the manipulation often doesn’t last very long.

By comparison, prediction markets are small and not very lucrative. High fees make it a waste of time to bet on some contracts, especially ones for unlikely outcomes. Your money is sometimes tied up in the market until the contract is resolved, which can take years. Betfair is closed to Americans due to US gambling laws, and PredictIt (which is a university research project and thus has an exemption from normal gambling law) is closed to non-Americans, and PredictIt sharply limits how much you can bet. As a result, they’re dominated by hobbyists — which needn’t be a problem as election betting is a fairly boring unobjectionable hobby. Usually, the hobbyists are enough — prediction markets actually do pretty well! But since the markets are small, it doesn’t take all that much money or a very sophisticated operation to manipulate them.

The fact prediction markets are unprofitable isn’t itself a big deal. But the combination of unprofitable and manipulable means they can become a tool for disinformation — and that’s bad.

The fix: Prediction markets should be a little more like stock markets

There are a lot of reasons I’d have a harder time manipulating the price of Google stock than manipulating the price of “Buttigieg 2020 nominee” contracts on Betfair. Let’s go through them in turn.

First, so much money moves through the stock market that lots of people are paid to buy and sell stocks as a full-time job. If I try to dump some money into changing Google’s stock price, some of those people will notice and try to figure out what’s up. Some of them have access to billions of dollars themselves, so I will have a very hard time throwing enough money in to swamp them all.

Second, there are low fees associated with trading stocks. I can buy and sell lots of Google stock with only some minor fees (at least as a share of the size of the trade) associated with doing so. Fees on prediction markets, on the other hand, often make up a significant share of the profits you’d get from trading on them. This makes repeatedly trading less worthwhile.

Third, most stock trading is public, so if I bought billions of dollars of Google stock, people could notice that I had personally bought billions of dollars of Google stock. Right now, it’s hard to figure out who, if anyone, is driving the dramatic increase in Bloomberg bets.

Finally, some forms of market manipulation in the stock market are heavily regulated. Try to trigger a flash crash or release a misleading press release so that you can take advantage of price movements, and you’re pretty likely to be investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While no regulatory environment is perfect, some amount of oversight can make the markets function better by making the people you’re trading with more confident that they aren’t being duped.

Right now, the regulatory stance on election prediction markets is that they’re illegal gambling. A move in this direction would require Congress or regulators to loosen up the rules — but they could still regulate the markets, just with an eye toward preventing scams rather than preventing all betting.

A step in any of these directions would make the prediction markets harder to manipulate as well as a better use of time and energy. They would probably also be more accurate. This is a goal worth pursuing. Correctly done prediction markets can improve policymaking, and bad ones can be an avenue for misinformation. We ought to think about how to get it right.

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Open season on A-Klo from the Left?

Guess what happens when a presidential candidate gets into the top tier? Amy Klobuchar is starting to find out, as Politico’s David Siders reports today. When the Minnesota senator polled in the low single digits in the Democratic presidential primary, few people bothered to vet her or her record. Now that she’s taken third place in New Hampshire and displaced two previous front-runners — Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren — suddenly the vetting has gotten more serious:

Days after her surprising third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, Klobuchar is facing a storm as aspects of her record get more scrutiny in the presidential campaign. …

There was the withering interview on “The View” this week, in which the Minnesota senator was asked why she “failed to prosecute a single killing by the police” during her time as a county prosecutor.

That one caught Roland Martin’s attention, who bookended the clip from The View with his own commentary. Sonny Hostin accused Klobuchar of pushing policies as Hennepin County district attorney that “harmed black and brown people,” and demanded to know why she didn’t take a more aggressive approach to investigating police shootings. Note well how Klobuchar slowly changes the subject, and how Hostin changes it right back:

That … doesn’t instill much confidence in Klobuchar, either as a candidate or as a prosecutor. She never even makes a coherent defense of her case despite the fact that, as Hostin notes, Klobuchar has used the case to show how she fights for African-American crime victims. Now, all she can say is that “the case must be reviewed”?

Speaking of “brown people,” to use Hostin’s phrase, oppo researchers didn’t take long to dig up Klobuchar’s support for a “fence” at the southern border. That will make for a tasty debate point in Nevada, where Latinos comprise a considerable segment of Democratic caucusgoers:

Then came the circulation of video in which Klobuchar called for a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border during a Senate campaign debate in 2006. And touching down in Nevada late Thursday, Klobuchar wasn’t 20 minutes into a presidential campaign forum before a question about her record on race arose. …

For Klobuchar, the hostile questioning is a sign of her arrival as a serious contender. But it also comes at a precarious time, as she scrambles to make inroads in Nevada and South Carolina — two racially diverse states in which she has little demonstrated support.

Is it really a sign of Klobuchar’s “arrival as a serious contender”? Or is it, as Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse alleges, a sign of the patriarchal misogyny inherent in the American political system?

It’s an exhausting Mobius strip of election cycles that we like women when they’re in office but find them unlikable when they’re running for a higher office. Studies have shown that voters exhibit gender bias in presidential elections more than in senatorial or congressional contests. Studies have shown that while likability is optional for male candidates — we’ll elect crusty curmudgeons if we believe in their policies — it is a requirement for female candidates. Studies have shown that Americans say they’ll vote for a woman but are still influenced by gender stereotypes even when they think they’re not.

It’s possible, of course, that Amy Klobuchar is just not your candidate, for reasons that have nothing to do with gender. You find her too moderate, or you have a phobia of the Midwestern hot dish.

But there is also a possibility that sometime in the future, if she appears more on your television screen, if she continues to gain in the polls, you might find yourself thinking negatively about her, in the ways we specifically think negatively about female candidates. For reasons you cannot explain, Amy Klobuchar will suddenly remind you of your mother-in-law or your ex-wife. It will feel like she’s lecturing to you. It will feel like she’s talking too much.

You’ll think it has nothing to do with her being a woman. It will have everything to do with her being a woman.

Actually, it will feel as though she’s never run for president before, and hasn’t been asked any tough questions until now on the national stage. Hesse argues that this misogyny is why Hillary Clinton suddenly became unlikable in 2016 when in truth she’s always been unlikable as a candidate, at least in national polling. (Hesse’s colleague Philip Bump did some good analytical work on that in 2015.) She also assumes the same about Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, ignoring clearly poor performances from both and their previously sheltered status as deep-blue-state senators with little significant competition. Both of those conditions also apply to Klobuchar.

As Roland Martin says after the first clip, “none of these people have challenged Amy Klobuchar” before now. They didn’t have to challenge her before now, either. After snagging a finish in the delegate money in New Hampshire, Klobuchar’s getting her vetting late in the process. And as I wrote earlier this week, she’s not likely to stand up to the scrutiny for reasons that have nothing to do with her chromosomal composition:

Within the Democratic primary, Klobuchar still has multiple challengers for the Not Bernie position. Buttigieg finished ahead of her in both Iowa and New Hampshire, which seems even more improbable for a South Bend mayor than it does for a senator from Minnesota. Joe Biden still has strength in South Carolina, where Klobuchar has barely registered in polling. She’s far behind in Super Tuesday states like CaliforniaTexas, and Massachusetts, where Warren will likely do well even if she’s all but faded out of the national picture. Her finish in New Hampshire will likely produce improvements in some of those races, but the number of people ahead of her limits her dynamic potential, especially since most of those states will be rewarding progressives rather than moderates. One third-place finish in an independent-heavy state does not a consolidation make.

Speaking of dynamic potential, Klobuchar has a problem with her general election argument as well. Like most politicians in Minnesota and the upper Midwest in general, Klobuchar succeeds by projecting an image of calm affability. Based on a couple of personal interactions with her, I’d argue that it’s a fairly genuine image rather than an affectation. That would create a strong contrast on the stump between her version of Moderate Minnesota Nice and Trump’s Outer Borough Tough Guy, which might have provided Democrats an advantage if Trump was running for his first term in office. …

Klobuchar’s appeal in a campaign against Trump would be a return to status quo ante normalcy. If voters become anxiety-ridden about the present state of affairs, they won’t want a revolution in the Bernie Sanders sense, but a nostalgic turn toward a pre-Trump technocracy to rescue the country from chaos. Under those circumstances, Trump’s chaos-agent qualities would play against him, and Democrats would be well advised to nominate an establishment figure who can soothe panic.

That only works if the status quo ante is far more appealing than the status quo, however. And frankly, that kind of crisis suits Joe Biden better than Amy Klobuchar too, as Biden has the eight years of the Obama administration on his resumé while Klobuchar has no real executive experience to tout, in either the private or public sector. Absent an economic crisis, though, voters are much less likely to care about Trump’s comportment or his Twitter habits. If the good times are rolling and they expect them to keep going, then voters will not want a return to technocratic/bureaucratic governance. In these populist times, they will be reluctant to trust the institutions while an entertaining iconoclast is delivering for them, and especially while an earnest but uninspiring establishmentarian proposes a sea change in policy.

Klobuchar’s not getting a critical look at this point because of her sex. She’s getting a critical look because she finally became competitive, and Democrats now need to test her mettle. If her performance on The View is an indication of how Klobuchar responds, expect her time in the hot seat to be a short one.

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Graham seeks interviews with more DOJ, FBI officials involved in Russia probe, FISA applications

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Friday requested that Attorney General William Barr make several Justice Department and FBI officials available for interviews before the panel related to the bureau’s initial Russia investigation and process to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against former Trump campaign official Carter Page.

In a letter to Barr on Friday, Graham requested interviews with several unnamed case agents and supervisory agents, in addition to Justice Department officials like Bruce Ohr and Dana Boente.


“As you are aware, the Committee is continuing to investigate matters related to the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, including applications for, and renewals of, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Carter Page,” Graham wrote.

“Crossfire Hurricane” was the name for the FBI’s initial Russia investigation.

“In order to further the Committee’s oversight of this important matter, I request that you make the following employees available as soon as possible for transcribed interviews,” Graham continued, adding that his committee will also be “directly contacting former Department employees to schedule transcribed interviews and will advise the Department when those interviews are scheduled so that Department counsel may attend.”

It is unclear, at this point, which former DOJ and FBI officials Graham and his panel could contact for interviews.

Graham vowed to probe alleged abuses of FISA last year, following the release of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.

The continuation of Graham’s investigation comes after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the findings from his FISA review. Horowitz found specific evidence of oversights and errors by several top FBI employees as they sought to obtain a warrant to surveil Page under the FISA statute.


The FISA Court has ordered an inquiry into a slew of the FBI surveillance abuses over the past several years but has stopped short of requiring the FBI to reverify several potentially impacted warrant applications.

FISC presiding Judge James E. Boasberg said in a recent letter exclusively obtained by Fox News that the court anticipates “additional rulings will be forthcoming.”

Last week, during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Wray said that the actions taken by the bureau to obtain the FISA warrant against Page were “unacceptable” and “cannot be repeated.”

The FBI director underscored that activities surrounding FISA during the 2016 presidential election were unacceptable and “unrepresentative of who we are as an institution.”

Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.