In this edition: Sherrod Brown takes an all-of-the-above approach, Pete Buttigieg makes an appeal to millennials and Americans are predictably divided on Russian electoral interference.
I'm thinking of getting a "barbecue grill" tattoo, and this is The Trailer.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) kicked off his multistate listening tour Wednesday night with a speech in which he sought to distinguish himself from the rapidly growing field of potential 2020 White House contenders.
He argued that President Trump has “used his phony populism to divide Americans and to demonize immigrants.”
He touted his November reelection in a key Midwestern swing state that Trump won by eight points in 2016.
And he highlighted his record in Congress, including his votes against the Iraq War, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of federal law.
But Brown’s speech was most noteworthy for directly addressing the hand-wringing among Democrats over the choice facing their party in 2020. His pitch: Democrats can have it all.
“Too often, Democratic activists and pundits act like our party has to choose between advocating for strong progressive values that excite our base — which we do — or talking to working-class voters about their lives,” Brown told about 300 supporters at a rally outside Cleveland. “For us, it’s not either-or.”
When he talks about his “dignity of work” catchphrase, Brown takes care to emphasize issues that affect women and people of color, pointing to a use of the term “working class” that’s not just shorthand for a smaller subset of people — white, male industrial workers. In doing so, he’s making the argument that he wants policies that benefit both the diverse Democratic base as well as those voters who abandoned the Democratic Party in 2016.
Democrats including Claire McCaskill, who lost her Senate reelection bid in Missouri in November, have argued that the key to beating Trump is reaching beyond the Democratic base. “I hope that no one thinks that because some of the red-state Democrat moderates lost that means we have to nominate a progressive,” McCaskill told the New York Times in November.
Others have maintained that nominating a staunch liberal who draws a clear contrast with Trump is the key to victory. “There’s one thing we already know about the 2020 Democratic nominee: She or he must offer a clear, unapologetically progressive alternative to Donald Trump,” Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for MoveOn, wrote in a USA Today op-ed earlier this month.
But to hear Brown tell it, that’s a false choice; his own six-point victory over Republican Jim Renacci is proof that “an outspoken progressive can win and win decisively in the heartland,” he said Wednesday night.
(While Brown won reelection, the Democrats’ nominee for governor of Ohio lost by close to four points, and the state’s role as a crucial swing vote has been thrown into uncertainty as it has voted increasingly conservative in recent years.)
Brown’s voting record places him among the most liberal members of the Senate, and his Wednesday speech suggests that on the trail he’ll play the role of an economic populist who wants to take on Trump by name. Brown voted against Trump about 70 percent of the time during the last Congress, according to FiveThirtyEight, but when it come to tariffs, he's backed the president. Brown is expected to make a decision on a presidential run in the next few months.
In recent presidential elections, Republicans have consolidated their support among white voters without college degrees. In the past 40 years, the only Democratic White House nominee to win those voters was Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and even then, only by one percentage point in each race. By contrast, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won white voters without college degrees by a 25-point margin in 2012, and Trump won them by 37 points in 2016.
Brown has an answer ready when asked how Democrats can win those voters back: “I don’t think I’ve ever lost them.”
Brown’s all-of-the-above approach was evident in his Wednesday night speech, which the Ohio Democrat is following up with a three-day swing through Iowa and trips next month to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
In his speech, Brown appealed to both Democrats’ diverse base and to those voters some see as lost to the Democratic Party.
“Together, we fight for workers’ rights. We fight for voting rights. We fight for civil rights. We fight for women’s rights. We fight for LGBTQ rights. That’s who we are,” he said.
He made an appeal to mineworkers, Teamsters, iron workers and “all workers — whether you shower before work or after work, whether you go to work early in the morning or whether you go to work late at night, because when you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work.”
For now, at least, Brown lacks the national name recognition of some other contenders. Brown is not well known in Iowa, for instance, where 69 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers are not sure how they feel about him, according to a December Des Moines Register-CNN-Mediacom Iowa poll. That compares with 55 percent who said the same of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), 41 percent for Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and just 16 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), all of whom have entered the Democratic primary.
Yet Brown’s lack of name ID might not necessarily be a bad thing. After all, as Trump said back in September in sizing up the Democratic field: “The only thing I worry about is that some total unknown that nobody ever heard of comes along.”
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Is the U.S. government doing enough or not doing enough to stop Russian interference in the American electoral system? (Monmouth, 805 adults)
Enough — 27%
Not Enough — 57%
Don't know — 14%
No interference happening — 2%
Three-quarters of Democrats and a third of Republicans say not enough is being done to counter Russian interference; that figure is 55 percent for independents. Forty percent of Americans definitely think the Russian government tried to interfere in the presidential election — the conclusion of the intelligence community — 29 percent say probably, and 26 percent say probably or definitely not. These numbers haven't moved much over the past year and match up with public opinon on the president: “Very few Republicans believe anything negative about him and nearly all Democrats are inclined to accept damaging information, while independents are almost evenly split,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg wanted to talk today about how he eschews labels. “I’m a millennial, Episcopalian, Maltese-American gay veteran mayor,” he said in a CBSN interview Thursday afternoon. “If I tried to understand myself in terms of labels, I’d just go cross-eyed.”
In an interview with NPR that aired Thursday morning, Buttigieg spoke about “intergenerational justice” and made note of his role “as someone from a new generation” who is running for president.
“We have got to change the trajectory that we're on so that mine is not the first generation to be worse off economically than my parents' was,” Buttigieg said.
And he told “The View” Thursday morning that “it’s not a bad thing to come from a different generation.”
The 37-year-old is making young voters a central part of his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod, setting his sights on a crucial but often unreliable voting bloc.
In his interview with CBSN, he answered a question about Afghanistan by noting that some newly enlisted soldiers hadn’t even been born when the war began.
“It’s clearly the case that endless war cannot continue,” Buttigieg said. “We’re on an authorization that was passed in 2001. There are people enlisting right now who weren’t alive for that. It’s the same war. Clearly, something’s got to change.”
On “The View,” he pointed to challenges for younger voters.
“We're the generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm,” he said. “We're the ones that are going to be living through the impacts of climate change.”
Only about 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted in 2016, compared with 61.4 percent of the overall voting-age population. Buttigieg is clearly aiming to energize that slice of the electorate with a message that lets them know they’re being heard.
Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont was due to unveil a plan to dramatically expand the federal estate tax on the wealthy, including a 77 percent rate on billionaires' estates.
Bill Weld. The former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian Party VP nominee in 2016 said he wouldn't reveal plans on a possible run until a Feb. 15 New Hampshire visit.
Kirsten Gillibrand. The senator from New York is spending the weekend in New Hampshire, including a visit to the northern part of the state.
John Delaney. The former member of Congress opened an office in Sioux City, Iowa, his sixth in the state. He goes to Raleigh this weekend to speak to the College Democrats of America.
Andrew Yang. The entrepreneur is in Iowa talking about his plan for a universal basic income.
Mark Cuban. Republicans tell BuzzFeed News's Ben Smith that he “won't rule out” running against President Trump in a Republican primary.
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… two days until Rep. Tulsi Gabbard holds a launch rally for her 2020 White House campaign
… five days until the State of the Union address
… 110 days until Kentucky primaries, where Gov. Matt Bevin (R) faces a challenge
… 368 days until the Iowa caucuses