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Hillary telling friends: If I thought there was an opening in the primary, I’d consider jumping in

Westlake Legal Group hc-1 Hillary telling friends: If I thought there was an opening in the primary, I’d consider jumping in warren The Blog sanders primary nomination New York Times mike bloomberg Hillary Clinton gabbard entry biden 2020

A tantalizing detail from this NYT piece about establishment Dems wringing their hands over the primary. If you’re a Wall Street liberal, you’re in a bad place nowadays. After all, the Republican nominee is very much anti-liberal and two of the top three candidates on the Democratic side are very much anti-Wall Street. And even if those two can be pacified, it’s very much in doubt whether they can beat Trump head to head. Your only hope is smilin’ Joe Biden, who has yet to impress anyone on the trail or at the debates in six months of trying and who may not have the money to win a hard-fought race. He has less than half the cash on hand that some of his rivals do, notes the Times. And since he’s dependent on rich donors, he’s already maxed out much of his potential source of revenue.

That is to say (and as others have already noted this morning), this story about rich Dems asking each other “Is there anybody else?’” is really a story about them asking each other “Is there anybody else besides Biden who can get in, hold off Warren and Sanders, and beat Trump — and not end up confiscating half our wealth to fund their new programs when they do?” Klobuchar and Buttigieg have been plugging away, offering themselves as a potential cure for Biden anxiety to moderate Democratic voters, but it just isn’t happening for. (Except maybe in Iowa?) Who can save Wall Street liberals from their terrible predicament?

There may be … one person.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary — but that they were skeptical there would be an opening, according to Democrats who have spoken with them…

The chances that another major contender decides to run are remote: While Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both been encouraged to enter the race, Democrats close to them believe the only scenario under which they’d consider running is if Mr. Biden drops out or is badly weakened

Democrats who have recently spoken with Mrs. Clinton say she shares the same concerns other party elites have about the field — worried about Mr. Biden’s durability, Ms. Warren’s liberal politics and unsure of who else can emerge to take on Mr. Trump. But these people, who spoke anonymously to discuss private conversations, say she enjoys the freedom that comes with not being on the ballot.

She’s not the only Democrat who’s reportedly watching Biden wobble and worrying that something must be done. There’s Bloomberg, who’s several months older than Biden; there’s another former presidential loser, John Kerry; there’s even Eric Holder, who seems convinced that there’s some sort of constituency out there for him for reasons that completely escape me. Not coincidentally, these are all people linked to the neoliberal wing of the party. Progressives seem perfectly happy with their choices thanks to the one-two punch of Warren and Sanders:

It’s the bad luck of centrists that Biden has stayed aloft in the polls to date but without gaining the sort of altitude that would inspire confidence in his ability to put Warren away. Either a very good or a very bad showing by Grandpa Joe would have been tolerable to the party’s Hillary wing. If he had gotten in and quickly began to sink, that’s fine. Plenty of time for a Bloomberg-type to jump in and fill the vacuum. If instead he had gotten in and begun to soar in the polls, putting, say, 20 points between him and the progressives, that would be fine too. Obviously a candidate in that position is a strong favorite to win. But to get in, limp along through multiple debates, and enter the fall basically tied with Warren and only 10 points or so ahead of Sanders leaves moderate Dems paralyzed. If they try to push a big-name neoliberal into the race now, won’t that help Warren by splitting the moderate vote? But if they don’t push someone into the race, Biden might falter and Warren or Bernie might win the race in a walkover next spring.

Let me ask this, though: If Hillary Clinton is the answer, what’s the question? Nate Silver wonders that too.

There’s no reason to think Clinton would do any better head to head against Trump than one of the progressive candidates would. In fact, I’d guess that her favorable rating nationally and even within the party is much worse than Warren’s or Bernie’s is. I don’t think she’d neatly fill the vacuum left by Biden either. Hillary has more diehard fans than Biden does so there’d be *some* insta-support for her, but she’s literally the one person in America who’s a proven failure at performing the core duty of this year’s nominee, which is, purely and simply, defeating Donald Trump. She’s Biden except with less of an electability argument. Progressives hate her already and would hate her even more for jumping in to try their thwart their Warren/Sanders bid for presidential power once again. Neoliberals may sympathize with her over 2016 but would also naturally look for an alternative, someone like Klobuchar with one one-thousandth as much baggage.

Her terrible political instincts haven’t gotten better over time either. If it’s true that Hillary is mulling a candidacy, even as just an emergency thing in case something happens to Biden, why would she do something as reckless as accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian asset? Nominating Hillary again would make Democratic party unity in 2020 nearly impossible even under the best circumstances but smearing a progressive candidate as some sort of Russian operative makes it that much harder. That’s piss-poor politics for someone who’s entertaining even the smallest chance of running herself and poor politics even if she isn’t considering running. After all, as I said last night, attacking Gabbard will only serve to raise Tulsi’s profile in the primary and give lefties new reason to disdain the neoliberal wing of the party.

All of which is to say that there’s no room for Hillary in the primary even if Biden quits tomorrow. Moderate Dems are right to worry about a Warren or Sanders nomination; read this shrewd Sean Trende piece about how far-left candidates risk alienating the Democrats’ secret weapon in last year’s primaries, the well-heeled suburbanites who are pretty happy with their health insurance right now. But if Biden quit, they’d have a perfectly solid option in Klobuchar to rally around — or, if they’re willing to overlook the fact that she’s an awful retail politician, they could always give Kamala Harris a second look. The age of Hillary is done. Not even the coked-up writers of the “President Trump” reality show we now inhabit could invent a plot arc that restores her to political viability. I think.

The post Hillary telling friends: If I thought there was an opening in the primary, I’d consider jumping in appeared first on Hot Air.

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Live at 8 p.m. ET: Dems clash in Ohio with race in flux

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“Why should I watch a fourth debate with these losers?” you’re asking yourself. “I’ve seen this show three times already.” Eh, not really. Not like this. Nate Silver ably summarizes how much has changed for all three members of the top tier since the last debate in September:

The news cycle will intrude tonight on the usual oneupsmanship over who can offer the most free sh*t. There’s impeachment and Ukraine, of course, and all of its attendant questions: Should House Democrats vote to formally open an impeachment inquiry? Should they in fact impeach the president based on the facts already known to us? Should they throw Rudy Giuliani in a makeshift congressional brig for contempt? But there’s much more going on besides impeachment:

There’s Trump’s decision to stand down amid a Turkish onslaught against the Kurds, an uncomfortable predicament for a field of candidates that’s duty-bound to oppose him on everything on the one hand but on the other hand likes to present itself as the peace-loving alternative to GOP warmongering. How hard do they want to hit Trump for *not* leaving American troops in harm’s way?

Lesser topics may assert themselves too. Where do our candidates stand on the NBA’s stance towards China? The world’s wokest professional sports league is a natural ally of the Democratic Party; do the Democratic candidates want to jeopardize that alliance with harsh criticism?

How much abuse will Beto O’Rourke take from the competition for his recent insane demand that we strip charities that oppose gay marriage of their tax exemption? Pete Buttigieg in particular has been critical of O’Rourke, eager to use the issue to signal to wavering Biden voters that he’s a “moderate” alternative. Will the left-wing candidates like Warren and Sanders, whose fans might like the idea of punishing dissidents who oppose some LGBT rights, go after Beto?

And what about the feud between Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard, who missed the third debate but returns tonight? They’re both basically asterisk candidates at this point but Harris owes Gabbard payback for wrecking her at the second debate over her record as California AG. Maybe she’ll come after her for her foot-dragging on impeachment, assuming she doesn’t spend every moment this evening trying to claw back into the top tier by attacking Elizabeth Warren. As for whom Gabbard will target, it’s anyone’s guess. She’s criticized Trump harshly for his decision in Syria. Maybe she’ll focus on him tonight in hopes of ingratiating herself to left-wing voters instead of the righties who like her but would never vote for her over Trump.

There will of course also be an awkward question for Joe Biden about what exactly Hunter Biden was doing sitting on the board of a Ukrainian company whose field he had no expertise in. Democratic strategists have spent the day wondering what the hell Hunter was doing inserting himself into the news cycle this morning on the very day of a Democratic debate, all but inviting dad’s competition to attack him about it tonight:

“Everyone else had laid off of Joe Biden,” the senior adviser added. “Now that’s all gone. I would bet $100 it’s the first question. If it is, it’s a major disaster.”

“Why even put it out there to answer for that?,” another rival campaign aide asked. “Now it’s fair game that a moderator can bring it up.”

A third aide wondered why the whole thing was necessary at all: “When I saw that I thought, why would you do that? There was no clamor to hear from Hunter directly.”

That may be the single greatest source of suspense tonight. Will anyone onstage dare align themselves with Trump by attacking Biden aggressively for serving as the Obama White House’s point man on Ukraine while Hunter Biden had business interests there? If you’re Amy Klobuchar or Cory Booker or Tulsi Gabbard, what do you have to lose?

The debate will air on CNN and all of its online platforms from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. (It’ll also stream on the homepage of the New York Times, which is sponsoring the debate.) There are, by the way, no fewer than 12 candidates onstage tonight, which I believe is the largest number yet to share a single stage this year — a weird detail at a moment when the field of credible candidates is supposed to be shrinking. The October debate featured just 10 candidates, but since the DNC imposed the same qualifying requirements for this one as for that one, both Gabbard and Tom Steyer were able to make the cut in the interim. When are we going to get a debate between the top three and maybe Buttigieg and Harris, the only five candidates with even a remote chance at the nomination? It’ll have to wait for next month, if not later. But it’s coming. This evening is probably the last chance for a breakthrough for everyone except those five.

The post Live at 8 p.m. ET: Dems clash in Ohio with race in flux appeared first on Hot Air.

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Study: Independents six points less likely to vote Democratic when told that candidates have shifted left

Westlake Legal Group ew Study: Independents six points less likely to vote Democratic when told that candidates have shifted left warren Trump The Blog shift sanders republican left indies independents democratic biden Allahpundit Alexander Agadjanian

A noteworthy caution to Democratic voters on a day when Biden’s lead in the RCP poll of polls has slipped to just 4.2 points, easily the smallest margin he’s enjoyed since entering the race. Progressive flamethrower Elizabeth Warren is now hot on his heels and has even led narrowly in a couple of polls taken over the last 10 days. Maybe the exciting left-wing candidate who can mobilize Dem voters is the way to go against Trump!

Or maybe not, says researcher Alexander Agadjanian:

The experiment’s procedure was simple. A random half of participants read a news snippet illustrating the leftward shift, while the other half read about unrelated topics, such as the schedule of election dates. The news item was a few sentences that included policies discussed by the candidates: decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings; expanding undocumented immigrants’ access to government services; replacing private health insurance with a government-run system; and establishing free public college for all children from working-class families. The content was drawn directly from real news coverage.

Both sets of respondents then indicated how they planned to vote in 2020 (whether for President Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee), how strongly they were considering voting Democratic, and how motivated they felt to turn out and vote for or against the Democratic nominee. Because of the random assignment — with some reading about the policy positions and others reading innocuous, unrelated information — the difference in responses between the groups can be attributed to the effect of reading about the leftward shift.

When deciding between Mr. Trump and the Democratic nominee, voters in the middle — the independents who could ultimately tilt things in Mr. Trump’s favor — became six percentage points less likely to vote Democratic after reading about the leftward turn compared with the independents who had read the innocuous content.

The good news for Warren is that *Democratic* voters who read about the leftward shift were *more* likely to say they’d strongly consider voting for the eventual nominee — but only by a margin of three points, less than the share of indies who were repelled by the leftist trend. If you’re a true-believing progressive, maybe none of that matters. Better to place a risky bet on meaningful change in the form of Warren or Bernie Sanders as nominee than to place a safe bet on the status quo by backing Biden. Or maybe you think the “alienated independent” effect here will be weaker than Agadjanian expects. For instance, if Trump ends up bogged down in impeachment and scandal, or if the economy slows down, indies who might be reluctant to vote for a leftist might nonetheless be more reluctant to vote for Trump. And maybe Warren as nominee will so energize Democrats, including far-left Democrats who sneered at Clinton three years ago, that Democratic turnout will blow the roof off and more than compensate for the loss in independents.

But alienating independents is a big risk, obviously. And the result here buttresses Trump’s strategy to run against socialism next year no matter who the nominee ends up being, even the not-particularly-socialist Biden. That would have been an interesting follow-up question for Agadjanian — do candidates with a rep for being far-left, e.g., Sanders and Warren, lose more independents than a moderate like Biden does when indies are made to read about the party’s leftward shift or is the effect uniform across all candidates? If it’s less pronounced for Biden, obviously that supports his electability pitch.

Another possibility: Maybe Warren as nominee would simply reposition herself as kinda sorta centrist in the general election. All nominees move towards the middle a little, after all. Perry Bacon argues today at FiveThirtyEight that that’s unlikely to happen this time, though. In recent history, party nominees have tended to pander to the center of the general electorate more through “tone” and their VP choice than by backing down on policy promises they made during the primaries. Watering down one’s policies for the general election might not even amount to effective pandering:

The previous Democratic presidential nominees were all in some ways following a kind of “median voter’ model, imagining that there was a set of voters whose views were basically in between the positions of the Democrats and the Republicans. But there is a lot of evidence that moderate, swing and independent voters aren’t particularly centrist, but hold a lot of different views, some of which are conservative, some of which are liberal.

So maybe Sanders or Warren, in a general election, keep their populism pretty amped up in an effort to woo voters who may swing between the two parties but would prefer an unabashed economic populist. Maybe Harris, instead of choosing a centrist white man as her running mate, picks Warren — or Warren chooses Harris — and they run a campaign with strongly liberal stands on issues of race and identity, hoping to win the election by energizing voters particularly turned off by Trump’s racialized and racist appeals.

Any “alienated independents” who are lost now aren’t likely to be wooed back next year in the general, in other words. Democrats are going to have to beat Trump with a version of Trump’s own strategy from 2016, with sky-high turnout among their own base and indies concluding that the other party’s candidate is just a little bit more reprehensible on balance. Every election is a “lesser of two evils” election now!

Speaking of centrism and electability, go read this story about Pete Buttigieg trying to reposition himself as a centrist in the primary now that Biden’s grip on the frontrunner role has begun to slip. Moderate Dems are going to demand an alternative on the ballot next year to Warren and Sanders, even if Grandpa Joe suddenly appears unelectable. Right now, with Harris having collapsed and none of the other also-rans showing signs of life in the polls, Mayor Pete is the only game in town.

The post Study: Independents six points less likely to vote Democratic when told that candidates have shifted left appeared first on Hot Air.

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Debate night in America: Three full hours of left-wing geriatrics bickering with each other

Westlake Legal Group bs-1 Debate night in America: Three full hours of left-wing geriatrics bickering with each other warren The Blog sanders o'rourke harris booker biden ABC

8 p.m. ET on ABC. Congrats, everyone: With Kamala Harris having faded and Boot Edge Edge serving as a trash receptacle for left-wingers’ disposable income, the battle tonight really is down to Grandma versus the two Grandpas.

The winner is whoever falls asleep last.

Lotta moving pieces to this spectacle. Biden remains the prime target for the simple reason that he remains the frontrunner, although at least one poll has Elizabeth Warren pulling into a tie with him and virtually all polls have showed her gaining since the second debate in July. Because only 10 candidates made the cut for this one, everyone’s on the same stage — which means this is the first time Biden and Warren will face each other. Due to the luck of the draw, they ended up in different groups for the first two debates. She’s going to come hard at him for being a corporatist DINO; he’s going to come hard at her for being a big-spending phony who was happy to court rich donors until recently. In fact, Biden crony Ed Rendell published a splashy op-ed this morning in WaPo previewing that line of attack. Title: “I like Elizabeth Warren. Too bad she’s a hypocrite.”

Warren attacked former vice president Joe Biden for holding a kickoff fundraiser in Philadelphia in April, which she criticized as “a swanky private fund-raiser for wealthy donors” in an email to supporters the next day.

Well, I helped organize that affair, and I thought her attack was extremely hypocritical because nearly 20 of us who attended the Biden fundraiser had also given her $2,000 or more in 2018 at closed-door fundraisers in “swanky” locations.

Warren didn’t seem to have any trouble taking our money in 2018, but suddenly we were power brokers and influence peddlers in 2019. The year before, we were wonderful. I co-chaired one of the events for the senator and received a glowing, handwritten thank-you letter from her for my hard work.

Rendell told Politico this afternoon that he was getting ripped by the “Elizabeth Elites” on Twitter for his piece but added mischievously that the “Bernie Bots,” who normally detest him for his centrism, “really liked the column.” That touches on the central mystery tonight: Will Bernie come after Warren for being insufficiently socialist or will their nonaggression pact hold? If he holds his fire and she has a big night, she might bounce out ahead and never look back. If he attacks her, some Warren voters might be enraged and Biden might benefit long-term. No good options.

Team Biden has had enough of the media trash-talking their guy, meanwhile:

“I don’t know of anybody who has taken as sustained and vitriolic a negative pounding as Biden and who has come through it with the strength he has,” said a top Biden adviser. “So why isn’t the argument not that he’s a ‘fragile front runner,’ but instead why is this guy so strong? How is he able to withstand this? Because it is unrelenting. Every story that has been written about Biden for a month has been negative! I would ask Warren and Sanders and these folks: He’s been pummeled for months. For months! So why is he going to fall apart now?”…

They brandish the many predictions of his demise as evidence of their more sophisticated understanding of the Democratic electorate. “He’s still leading the race nationally. He’s leading in Iowa. It looks like he’s in a dead heat in New Hampshire,” said the top Biden adviser. “I don’t know why the story in New Hampshire isn’t how Bernie Sanders went from sixty to fourteen. And why is it that Biden is beating Warren in Massachusetts? And he’s way ahead in South Carolina. And this is all on the back end of really the most vicious press I think anyone’s experienced. So that to me is a statement of strength. And anyone who’s sitting around waiting for him to fall apart—you know what, it hasn’t happened yet.”

I wonder if that top advisor’s name rhymes with “Ed Rendell.” The good news for Team Joe is that tonight’s outcome will resolve their dilemma one way or another. If Biden does well in his first debate with the entire top tier onstage together, some of the “soft frontrunner” buzz will quiet down. If he doesn’t do well, it’ll get louder and it’ll seem perfectly justified. It’s not just Warren who’s coming for him either, needless to say. Harris is desperate to use this opportunity to turn her sinking campaign around; her best option to do that remains targeting Biden and trying to pry loose some of his black supporters, who have stayed loyal to him after a brief flirtation with Harris following the first debate. Cory Booker’s going to try the same approach — this is his moment to elbow past Harris as the most formidable black candidate in the race and make an impression on the South Carolina electorate.

As for the other five onstage, there isn’t much to say. Beto’s been warned not to curse. Joaquin Castro is running for VP. Klobuchar’s hanging around just in case Biden forgets his own name and centrists need somewhere to run. Buttigieg’s campaign is essentially one long fundraiser now. The only interesting figure in the bottom half of the top tier is Andrew Yang, whose campaign promised yesterday that he’d do something unprecedented onstage tonight — a tease which he’s been having fun with ever since:

A likable guy who’ll benefit from the extra attention he’ll receive tonight in a smaller debate crowd. He won’t be the nominee but there’s a nonzero chance that he’ll be in the top four(!) in the next round of polling if he does well this evening. Right now Harris is fourth in the field averaging 6.5 percent, Buttigieg is fifth at 4.8 percent, and Yang is sixth at 3.0 percent. But he actually polled a point better than Buttigieg in a recent Harvard survey and was just one point behind him and Harris in the latest from Reuters. He’s a wild card. I’m rooting for him.

One more thought about the big three before the debate starts, this time from RCP elections analyst Sean Trende. Every four years people start heavy-breathing about a brokered convention and every four years it doesn’t happen. It’s not as unlikely this time as it has been in the past, though:

The modern era of elections, where fundraising is effectively crowdsourced on the Internet and where candidates can reach millions of voters through social media effectively for free, seems to suggest that at some point in the next few cycles we will have a situation where no candidate wins a majority of the delegates. The Democratic Party seems particularly vulnerable to this outcome, since delegates are awarded proportionally (once candidates cross a certain vote threshold). This is unlike the Republican primaries where the final ones are winner-take-all; this is probably the only thing that prevented a brokered convention in 2016 on the Republican side.

This Democratic nightmare scenario doesn’t involve six or seven candidates making it to Super Tuesday – that is unlikely to happen. Instead it involves two or three candidates, and then a factional candidate who continues to draw 15% in the polls in most states and refuses to drop out as two other candidates duke it out. In other words, something like Biden vs. Warren vs. Sanders.

Right, Bernie might hang around to the bitter end even if he’s reliably landing in third place in primary voting, believing that he owes it to progressives to give them a pure socialist option on the ballot. There might even be tactical reasons for him to keep going, as some polls show that more of his supporters prefer Biden to Warren as their second choice and thus Bernie would be aiding the progressive Warren by hoarding those voters himself. Imagine if Biden finishes with the most delegates, Warren finishes second, and Sanders finishes third but with enough delegates that he and Warren together have a majority. Who’s the nominee in that scenario? Biden because he finished ahead or Warren because a majority of delegates are pledged to progressive candidates? (Presumably Bernie would endorse her too.)

The debate will air live on ABC and online on ABC.com and on the ABC mobile app and on the ABC YouTube account — which is embedded below, so it’s virtually impossible to avoid this thing. Here’s your thread to comment.

The post Debate night in America: Three full hours of left-wing geriatrics bickering with each other appeared first on Hot Air.

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CBS poll: Biden now trailing in New Hampshire and Nevada, barely ahead in Iowa

Westlake Legal Group jb CBS poll: Biden now trailing in New Hampshire and Nevada, barely ahead in Iowa warren The Blog south carolina sanders poll New Hampshire Nevada Iowa frontrunner CBS biden

Just how soft is Biden’s frontrunner status? Pretty soft even according to people who support him. Politico reported this weekend that a top state senator in New Hampshire who’s backing Grandpa Joe was so concerned about his low-energy campaign events in the state that he drove more than an hour to meet Biden in hopes of staging an intervention. Another piece up at the site today has Biden cheerleader Ed Rendell acknowledging fear among colleagues that his lead may be fragile, a house of cards that’ll eventually collapse under the weight of his gaffes and age-related concerns:

“There’s a clear worry among Biden supporters that he can’t be the front-runner from June of 2019 through July of 2020 … that eventually, the gaffes will pile up and he’ll come down,” said Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and one of Biden’s most vocal supporters…

“It’s a deceptive lead, because it really doesn’t get tested until we get down to a narrower race in which, at some stage, people are going to have to say, ‘Is he our guy or not?’” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean…

Biden’s appeal to Democrats is so tightly tied to his perceived ability to defeat Trump that if he appears likely to suffer an early loss, one veteran Democratic strategist in Iowa said, “if you take any drop in [polling] support, you might bleed.”

Right, essentially Biden’s edge in the race is self-reinforcing. He’s the “electable guy”; the evidence of his electability is his lead in the polls (and head to head against Trump); but perceptions of electability are themselves contributing to his polling. If Warren or Sanders starts to outpoll him and air begins leaking out of the Biden “electability” balloon, how much might it deflate? An unnamed Dem who works for a rival campaign pointed Politico to Hillary’s sudden collapse in South Carolina in 2008 after Obama shocked the party by winning Iowa. She went from a huge lead to a blowout loss practically overnight, once it became clear to voters there that her nomination wasn’t inevitable. Once the balloon was punctured in the early states, it couldn’t hold air anymore.

Which brings us to the new early-state polls from CBS:

South Carolina is the one early state with a majority-black primary electorate and, not coincidentally, it’s the one state where Biden continues to run rings around the competition. He’s in trouble everywhere else, though — three points ahead in Iowa, behind in Nevada and New Hampshire. In every state except SC, Bernie is within three points of him or less. In fact, if not for Kamala Harris’s collapse, Biden might not have an edge on Bernie. He picked up 15 percent of Harris’s supporters since the last CBS poll (Elizabeth Warren picked up 29 percent!), helping to buoy him up against Sanders.

How long can that last, though? What if Harris has another good debate on Thursday night, or Biden a bad one? Certainly Warren’s going to come hard at him too. CBS went on to note that if you aggregate its polling from all four early states, including South Carolina, it’s not Joe who leads overall. It’s Warren, with 26 percent to Biden’s 25. She’s way ahead of him too when early-state voters are asked if they’d be enthusiastic if she/he became the party’s nominee, 46/29,

What kind of “frontrunner” is actually behind among the voters who matter most?

The standard dismissal of a survey like this one is that It’s Just One Poll and that other early-state results for Biden are better. Yes and no. It’s true that most polling in the early states shows Biden with a lead, but it’s also true that his leads there tend to be smaller than his national lead is. He leads by 11.7 points today at RCP in the national average but in Nevada his lead is closer to six points and in New Hampshire he’s actually down by less than a point in a three-way race with Warren and Sanders. The three polls of Iowa since July have each had him up, but two of those placed him in the three- to five-point range. If he were strong on the stump, you might treat all of those numbers as promising, with room for growth. For a candidate who’s weak on the stump, they seem tenuous.

Maybe the real takeaway from the CBS numbers is how resilient Bernie is in the early states. Biden, Warren, and Harris have gotten all the hype over the past few months, the first because of his frontrunner status, the second because of her steady polling rise, the third because of her collapse. But there’s Bernie, plugging away, poised for victory in every state except South Carolina. If he surprises the field by out-organizing everyone in Iowa and wins there, then leverages that momentum for victory in New Hampshire, he might cause a stampede of voters from Warren to him as the new progressive hope, giving him a commanding lead in the race. That’s the bind he and Warren are in right now — since it’s plausible that either one of them could win early and consolidate the other’s support, there’s no incentive for either to get out and endorse the other. They’re going to split progressives. The only question is whether Biden can capitalize.

Exit quotation from Warren, referring to persons who shall not be named: “We can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in because we’re scared.”

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Daily Beast: The opponent Trump is increasingly worried about is…

Westlake Legal Group ew Daily Beast: The opponent Trump is increasingly worried about is… Trump The Blog sanders populist Native American Elizabeth Warren democrats biden

There’s only one Democrat who’s risen steadily in the polls since summer began, only one who’s getting buzz for the enthusiasm with which she’s received at events. She also happens to be running on populism, muscling in on Trump’s pitch to the working class.

Coincidentally, she’s also the member of the Democratic field who’s taken the hardest shots from Trump to date. Except they haven’t seemed to hurt her much.

Go figure that a president who places great stock in crowd energy, in draining the swamp, and in his own ability to tear down opponents is a little nervous about the rise of Elizabeth Warren.

The frustration Republicans are beginning to feel about Warren’s non-stick nature was picked up repeatedly in interviews with 10 Republicans, including Trump campaign and White House officials, associates of the president, and other GOP operatives with knowledge of the situation. These sources stressed that the anti-Warren effort within GOP circles hadn’t fallen off since the DNA snafu. Indeed, everyone from officials on Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, to the Republican National Committee, to a select group of opposition researchers have been sifting through her record in search of vulnerabilities. But with few punches landing, the worry is that Trump may have already taken his best shot, and that Warren will end up looking increasingly formidable for having bounced back.

“Sure the Republican base will ultimately loathe Warren, but she doesn’t inspire the same kind of historic vitriol that Hillary Clinton did,” a separate Republican strategist said. “That, combined with fact that SCOTUS isn’t on the line as it was in ’16, and remembering that Trump needed the perfect inside straight to barely win last time, and any Democrat is going to be tough to beat, Warren included.”…

According to three people who have spoken to Trump about Warren over the past two months, the president has specifically highlighted what he views as her surprising political and populist talents during the Democratic primary, and has told multiple advisers and associates that he hears she could be “tougher” in a general election than many initially expected. One of these sources said Trump asked the room if they thought Warren was a “fighter.”

One Republican told the Beast that right-wing think tanks may have been caught flat-footed by the sheer number of policy plans Warren has introduced, unable to analyze and critique them as quickly as she’s rolling them out. That assumes, of course, that (a) anyone on either side cares what think tanks say and (b) a conservative critique of the cost of Warren’s agenda would resonate with centrist Dems. Would it? How many Biden fans are with him because they worry about the budget and how many are with him simply because he’s familiar and seems electable?

There isn’t much Trump or the GOP can do to hurt Warren right now. If anything, Trump attacking her regularly again would gift-wrap a talking point for her that she’s the candidate whom he really fears, which would be catnip to Democratic voters. If anyone’s going to take Warren down, it’ll be her rivals in the primary. That’s coming soon, of necessity — if they don’t start chipping away at her, she might just run away with this thing.

Aides to three rival candidates confirmed in interviews they’re revving up opposition research on Warren in preparation for the next debate on Sept. 12. Still others privately complained she’s gotten fawning treatment in the media as she unveiled a litany of ambitious plans without being pressed on where the money would come from to pay for them…

“She’s promised about $50 trillion worth of benefits in the last 30 days. Her economics are fraud and at some point someone is going to point that out. She’s a multimillionaire professor at Harvard. She can’t rail against the 1 percent — she is one of the 1 percent,” [Biden organizer Dick] Harpootlian said…

In an interview, [Harris advisor Bakari] Sellers complained that Harris has battled sexism, racism “and the Russians” while others in the race, including Warren, have had an easier ride, including on the debate stage.

Mm yeah, that’s the good stuff. Sellers’s point in particular may resonate: Although the latest poll of South Carolina had Warren inching into second place, she’s a distant second due to how poorly she performs with black Democrats there. Among white SC Democrats Warren actually leads the field with 26 percent; among blacks, who are a majority of the primary electorate, she’s in fourth behind Biden, Harris, and even Bernie Sanders. Winning Iowa and New Hampshire would do *a lot* to change that for her next year, but maybe not quite enough to completely erase Biden’s advantage in the state. Doesn’t mean she won’t be the nominee but it does mean that the primaries could go on much longer than she’s hoping and end up with black Democrats no more enthused to turn out for her in the general election than they were for Hillary.

The X-factor is Bernie. For all the hype about Warren’s surge, and despite the narrative that she’s pulling away voters from Sanders, his own numbers have barely budged this summer. He was at 17.0 percent on June 5, when her rise began. Three months later, she’s gained nearly 10 full points in the average while he’s lost less than one, landing at 16.1 percent. Warren isn’t cannibalizing longstanding Bernie voters — but she is almost certainly depriving him of undecideds who are in the market for a progressive candidate. What’s he going to do about it? Politico notes in the story above that he and Warren have had a nonaggression pact thus far, with neither wanting to antagonize the other’s base by attacking their favorite. Warren voters are potential Bernie voters, after all, and vice versa. Some progressives think the nonaggression pact should be maintained no matter what, in the belief that nominating Sanders *or* Warren is what’s most important for progressivism.

But how does Bernie feel about that? If he agrees that it’s essential to have a progressive nominee, even if that comes at the cost of his own defeat, then the way forward is clear. He should drop out, endorse Warren, and campaign aggressively for her. There’s a risk of backfire in that since some Sanders fans have Biden as their second choice but an aggressive effort by Bernie to steer them towards Warren would doubtless pay off with some. At the core of Sanders’s ideological base, though, is the belief that he alone can rescue America from its capitalist excesses. He’s the only candidate with the stones to label himself a socialist, the only one to refuse to call himself a Democrat (until recently). Warren and Sanders may be indistinguishable to right-wing eyes but they certainly aren’t to left-wing ones, in which case how can Bernie pass on the opportunity to attack her? He owes it to the Cause to try to convince her voters that she simply won’t deliver on her promises like he will — but if he does that, he risks an embittered progressive schism that’ll benefit Biden long-term. What does he do?

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Hoo boy: We don’t necessarily need to win Iowa, says Team Biden

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This is the sort of thing candidates normally say when it’s two weeks before the caucuses and they’re down 10 points in the polls. Doom is impending, so you shift to damage-control mode in hopes that the media won’t write your political obituary before New Hampshire gives you a shot at redemption.

What are we to make of a “soft” frontrunner who’s flirting with that sort of damage control five months before Iowa votes?

Also: What if he’s right? What if Iowa doesn’t much matter?

“Do I think we have to win Iowa? No,” a senior adviser told campaign reporters Tuesday in a background briefing. The adviser said Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest in the nation, will be “critical.”…

“We feel we are going to be in a very dominant spot,” after the first four early states, another adviser said.

Still, the campaign downplayed expectations in first-in-the-nation Iowa as well as in the first primary state, New Hampshire, which borders the home states of Warren and Sanders.

“As you all know, historically, there’s an incredible home field advantage for a Massachusetts candidate or a New Englander,” an adviser said.

Early damage control for losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, eh? Team Joe is preparing for the worst — understandably, as his polling in each of those states is worse than it is nationally. In national polls he’s averaging 30.4 percent, good for a 13.5-point lead over Elizabeth Warren. In Iowa that lead shrinks to eight point over Warren, with Biden at 26 percent. In New Hampshire it shrinks further to just 1.7 points with Grandpa Joe pulling a mere 21 percent. (Note, though: There are far fewer state polls of IA and NH at this stage than there are national polls so the state averages may not be as reliable.)

Bearing in mind that nearly the entire case for Biden is his perceived “electability,” what’ll be left of those perceptions if he ends up losing both early states? What’ll be left of them if he doesn’t just lose but ends up clobbered?

This is the second time in just a few days that someone in the campaign has undermined its own electability argument. The other was Biden himself telling WaPo that “almost anybody” in the field can beat Trump, a point he made because (in context) he was reluctant to endorse the interviewer’s suggestion that only an old white guy can beat another old white guy. Even so, that’s strange messaging. The Iowa comment is more revealing than Biden’s offhand remark, though, since it may signal that Team Joe thinks they’re headed for a long, contentious primary fight, not a quick blitz in the early states that ends with Biden running away with the nomination by Super Tuesday.

“We expect this to go one for a while,” the adviser added.

During Biden’s previous two presidential campaigns, Iowa was a thorn. In his first race, it was the scene of him plagiarizing words from a British politician, which led him to drop out of the race in 1987, well before the next year’s caucuses. During the 2008 campaign, he received less than 1 percent of the vote and soon dropped out.

The state does not line up with Biden’s perceived demographic strengths, lacking a substantial population of black voters, who have provided a strong base of his support nationally and in other early-voting states such as South Carolina.

A caucus state like Iowa rewards candidates with good organization and passionate fan bases, people who’ll tolerate a night out in the cold of Iowa in February to represent their guy/gal. That is … not the Biden fan base. It’s the Sanders/Warren fan base. Berniebros turned out in Iowa and put him on the map nationally three years ago by coming within a whisker of upsetting Hillary there. They’ll be tough to beat there, as will Warren’s fans. New Hampshire is in Warren’s and Sanders’s backyards, meanwhile, and Bernie crushed Clinton there in 2016 so beating them will be a tall order there as well. South Carolina is Biden’s potential “firewall,” the state with a huge black majority in the Democratic primary; because of Biden’s popularity with black voters his lead in South Carolina polling is actually bigger than it is nationally. South Carolina saved Hillary against Sanders too, giving her a landslide win that put her back on track for the nomination. But “Hillary vs. Bernie” was a binary choice. This year’s field isn’t.

How resilient will Biden’s lead be if he flames out in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially if he performs dismally? Will black voters give up on him and take sides in the Sanders/Warren fight? Will they take a hard look at Kamala Harris or Cory Booker instead? It’s easy to see how the entire house of cards collapses for Grandpa Joe if he does badly in the first two elections. Even if it doesn’t, emerging from the early states with only one win in his pocket will badly damage his electability pitch in the many remaining primaries to come. Imagine Warren winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada (where she reportedly has a stellar organization), earning a huge bounce in the polls and a raft of new donations, while Biden comes away with just a win in South Carolina. Who would you bet on to take the nomination at that point?

In lieu of an exit question, some trivia for you from Steve Kornacki: The last Democrat to lose Iowa *and* New Hampshire and go on to win the nomination was Bill Clinton back in 1992, and that carries an asterisk because it was Iowa native son Tom Harkin who won the caucuses that year. Iowa was basically uncontested because of his home-field advantage. To find a Democrat before that who won neither Iowa nor New Hampshire but won the nomination, you need to go back to George McGovern nearly 50 years ago, at the dawn of the modern primary system. Biden would need to make history to become the nominee if he gets shut out in the first two states.

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“This is essentially a three-way race”: Seth Moulton drops out of Democratic primary

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If you’re thinking “I didn’t know he was running,” that’s understandable. Moulton never managed to qualify for the first two debates even though the DNC broke them into two-night events to accommodate as many candidates as possible.

I mean, Eric Swalwell managed to make the first debate. Imagine waking up in the morning to the reality that you’ve performed worse than Eric Swalwell.

I have no idea why Moulton was running for president this year he did have the distinction of owning one of the most impressive resumes of any candidate. He’s a Marine who did four tours in Iraq and received the Bronze Star, ultimately working as a special liaison to Iraqi tribal leaders for David Petraeus. He joined the Corps fresh off graduation from Harvard; when he left with the rank of captain, he went back to Harvard and got two postgrad degrees. He got elected to Congress a few years later and showed some stones in trying to organize an insurrection against Pelosi as Democratic leader, insisting that younger leadership was needed.

Still: Couldn’t manage to beat out Swalwell, or Tim Ryan Steve Bullock Michael Bennet John Hickenlooper (I have trouble keeping them straight), for a debate slot.

Two interesting details about his departure. One: He thinks if he’d gotten in just a bit sooner he might have made the first debate after all. That may be true, in which case why’d he wait? Presumably the whole point of him running this year was to try to raise his name recognition among Democratic voters, especially back home in Massachusetts. He’s only 40; he’s sure to run for a Senate seat or for governor eventually once a spot opens up. But by missing the debates he defeated the purpose of his candidacy.

In an interview this week, Moulton said that “getting in late to the race was a handicap, much worse than expected. If I had gotten in even just a few weeks earlier, I probably would have made the first debate.”

But by waiting until April 22, Moulton joined a field that already had 18 candidates and was the most crowded primary in the party’s modern history. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, in particular, was surging at the time, and his presence made it harder for Moulton since they both were running on themes related to generational change and military experience.

Did he decide to run on a lark, at the last minute? In a field that already had 18 candidates, when the entire point was to try to use the spotlight of a presidential run to raise his public profile?

Doesn’t seem very well thought out.

The other interesting detail: Sounds like he’s all-in on Grandpa Joe.

“I do think that Trump is going to be hard to beat,” Moulton said. “I think Vice President Biden would make a fantastic president. He’s a mentor and a friend, and I’ve been impressed by the campaign he has run so far.”

Moulton added, “It’s evident now that this is essentially a three-way race” among Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Moulton said he worries that “veering too far left could lose us this election” and warned his party against embracing Medicare-for-all proposals on health care.

That’s an interesting salvage plan for his candidacy. Moulton doubtless made some enemies in the Democratic establishment when he tried to depose Pelosi. Going to bat for Biden and for center-leftism more generally at a moment when the leadership’s worried about the challenge from progressives (“I think we should strengthen Obamacare and have a robust public option that can compete against private plans,” he told WaPo) might heal that rift, which will be good for his prospects statewide in Massachusetts in the future. Maybe he’ll even end up on the trail for Biden. Moulton is among the youngest candidates running this year, a quality that Team Joe would doubtless value in a surrogate amid worries about Biden’s age. Moulton’s stellar military credentials are an added bonus. Presumably he’ll be in line for some sort of administration appointment if he hops aboard the Biden Bus now and Joe wins.

Here’s his favorite candidate yesterday on the trail, sounding sharp as ever.

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Second Democratic debate live thread: Two socialists enter, one socialist leaves

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Am I not allowed to call Elizabeth Warren a socialist because she claims she’s a capitalist, even though her policy plans are indistinguishable from Bernie’s?

C’mon. By that logic, we’d have to call her a Native American.

8 p.m. ET on CNN, the first group of 10 for the second Democratic debate converges for a three-hour descent into madness. And this group happens to have more in common than just the fact that they all want to give free health care to illegals on your dime. Democratic diversity will … not be on display tonight:

I think Beto counts as 1/1,024th Latino. In case you can’t identify everyone there by sight, it’s:

Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Pete Buttigieg
Beto O’Rourke
Amy Klobuchar
John Hickenlooper
John Delaney
Steve Bullock
Tim Ryan
America’s sweetheart, Marianne Williamson, who is certainly not a “wacky new-age nutcase”

Five of those candidates are no-shots and two, Klobuchar and O’Rourke, are once potentially serious contenders who are on the cusp of no-shot status. It may be early but the stakes tonight are high, notes Byron York:

To make it onstage [for the third debate in September], candidates will have to “receive two percent or more support in at least four polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada),” according to the DNC. The committee went on to list several specifications for the polls themselves to make sure the candidates can cite support in legitimate surveys.

Beyond that, the DNC says, candidates must show they have received donations from at least 130,000 unique donors, plus at least 400 unique donors in at least 20 states. Together, those rules will eliminate a lot of current Democratic candidates.

Right now in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, just seven candidates are polling at 2% or higher: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, and Beto O’Rourke. If they stay that way, they will be in the September debate.

Another way of putting that is that fully seven of the 10 candidates onstage are likely fighting for their campaign’s lives, trying to make enough of an impression to clear the bar for an invitation to debate three. That means they’re all incentivized to let it rip — including Beto, whose hold on two percent is no longer steady and who’s surely hoping to claw back some of the “fresh-faced white guy” bloc that migrated from him to Buttigieg some months ago. We’re past the introductory phase of the campaign. Tonight’s the night to show Democratic voters what you’ve got. It’s basically the left-wing version of “America’s Got Talent,” befitting the fact that we elected a game-show host president last time. CNN’s treating it like a game show too:

The Beto/Buttigieg showdown is one plot line, obviously. The other, even more obviously, is Sanders and Warren sharing the stage for the first time and competing for progressives. Will they attack each other or play nice and let the chips fall where they may among lefty viewers? Warren must be tempted to needle Bernie over his labor troubles lately. And Bernie may have no choice but to come after Warren to reverse the trajectory of the race, which has seen her slowly but steadily gobbling up his support. He’s still second to Biden in the RCP poll of polls but she’s right behind him.

Another question: How much of the debate will be defined by theatrical condemnations of Trump?

[A]fter Trump’s comments about multiple lawmakers of color in the past two weeks, including telling minority congresswomen to “go back” to the countries from which they came, there’s a higher chance that the candidates feel more urgency to contrast themselves with the president, if only in terms of their character.

“It’s in the moderators’ interest to put everyone on the record about that, whether it’s about Ilhan Omar or Cummings,” one senior Democratic campaign official, who like others in this story spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid, told me. “I think campaigns are preparing to respond to those because you want to show that you have the cleanest rebuke of his comments of everyone. It’s really a matter of showing you can hold your own and aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Trump.”

Because Democrats kept their focus on Trump to a minimum the last time around, the president hardly engaged in real time, with “BORING!” being among his few tweets over the course of the two-night debate. But should moderators bring any of Trump’s recent attacks to the forefront, he is likely to punch back from afar.

Attacking Trump may be Beto’s core strategy. His guests at the debate are several black high-school football players from Texas who kneeled for the anthem last season in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Beto’s single most “viral” moment from the Senate campaign against Cruz was a defense of the right to kneel during the anthem. His plan may be to avoid squabbling with Buttigieg and the others and try to out-woke them instead, elevating himself by picking a fight with Trump. Probably won’t work but he’s running out of ways to distinguish himself.

Comments are open below. If you’re in need of a rooting interest, root for a breakout performance by Williamson, as her all-you-need-is-love shtick is the only thing that could liven up this exceedingly dreary primary. By the way, the rules tonight call for candidates not to interrupt each other; if they do they’ll be penalized by having their speaking time reduced, although whether Jake Tapper and the other moderators really intend to enforce that rule is anyone’s guess. Why would CNN want to *discourage* angry interruptions at a big game-show spectacle?

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Quinnipiac: Biden bounces back out to a big lead, up 12 points in a month, as Harris fades

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FiveThirtyEight noticed last week that, very quietly, Biden was recovering from the polling hit he took after the busing exchange with Kamala Harris at the last debate. Harris had zoomed up after that in some polls, even touching 20 percent in Quinnipiac’s June survey, but the trend didn’t continue. It was Biden who was once again on the rise while Harris dipped a bit.

Now here comes Quinnipiac’s July poll with even clearer evidence of the trend.

What happened?

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Look back to the numbers from June. After a long slide in early July after the first debate, with Harris nearly passing him, Biden’s regained 12 points and now enjoys a bigger lead than he did before. And most of that 12-point surge has come at Harris’s expense. Check this out (“AA” is “African-American”):

A huge number of black voters migrated from Biden to Harris after the busing exchange … and now they appear to have come home to Joe. It’s not just happening in the Quinnipiac poll either. Over at RCP’s poll of polls, Biden has regained nearly all of the lead he enjoyed shortly before the first Democratic debate. In mid-June he stood at 32 percent with Bernie second at 15. Today Biden’s at 31.3 with Elizabeth Warren second at 14.8. Harris, the supposed breakout star of the last debate, is in fourth place at 11 percent — still several points higher than where she was before the busing attack on Biden but by no means threatening Uncle Joe for the lead.

Again, what happened?

Nate Silver speculated last week that the post-debate polls were affected by a burst of enthusiasm from Harris supporters. As that enthusiasm cooled a bit, the polling equilibrium was restored:

[O]ne contributing factor may be nonresponse bias — after a good debate for Harris and a poor one for Biden, for instance, Harris supporters may be more likely to respond to polls and Biden ones less so. I tend to think this phenomenon is a little overstated and that an easier answer is simply that a lot of voters don’t have deep convictions about the race until much later, and so bounce around among whichever candidates have gotten favorable press coverage recently.

The latter explanation about the lack of deep convictions makes more sense to me. Voters liked what they saw of Harris at the debate but they haven’t seen or heard much lately unless they’re so attuned to daily political news that they’re following the rollout of her Medicare for All plans, so they’re back in default mode. If I had to float a theory for why they’re reverting to Biden it’d be pure, clean, simple electability: Uncle Joe blows the field away when Dems are asked who stands the best chance of beating Trump, taking 51 percent of the vote when no one else does better than 10. Every day that Democratic voters are focused on the latest Trump outburst instead of the daily squabbling among Dem candidates is probably a good day for Biden inasmuch as Trump’s antics remind liberals that winning next fall is all that matters, which naturally leads them back to the safest, supposedly most electable choice.

The most frequently recurring narrative about the primary in political media this past week is Biden vowing to get his game face on for the upcoming debate. Literally every four hours or so, some media outlet regurgitates another “no more mister nice guy” piece about Uncle Joe. He’s been taking shots at Harris and Cory Booker too, partly to preview the battle to come on Wednesday night and partly to reassure nervous Biden fans who thought he looked a bit … frail at the first debate that he’s up to the challenge. I hope for his sake that that’s true. Because Philip Klein’s right that he’s staring down the barrel of a “Pawlenty moment” if he wimps out again when he’s face to face with Harris:

For those who need a reminder, Pawlenty was a governor of Minnesota who ran a failed bid for the 2012 Republican nomination. From the get-go, he was hindered by the perception that he was too boring and too much of a nice Midwesterner to survive the brutal world of presidential politics. Seeking to disabuse people of this perception, he used the run up to a summer 2011 debate as an opportunity to attack Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare law that provided the model for Obamacare. In interviews leading up to the debate, he deployed the phrase “Obamneycare” and talked about his sharp elbows from playing hockey. Everything was teed up for Pawlenty to swing at Romney’s biggest vulnerability. Yet when he was given the opportunity to challenge Romney on the debate stage, he totally bungled it. He didn’t merely wiff, he backed off his attack altogether. Pawlenty wouldn’t formally drop out of the race until August, but effectively, his chances were doomed once he blew his chance in the June debate.

Romney analogies usually aren’t good for Harris but she’ll take that one. Exit question: Will Biden wimp out? I think he’ll wimp out.

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