I dislike her strongly, as I hope I’ve made clear in two dozen other posts about her. She’s a cynical opportunist even by Washington standards. I can’t begin to imagine what the case is for electing her president over Biden or Bernie or Warren.
But we should be kind on the eve of her announcement, so here’s my attempt: I’m pretty sure she’ll last longer in the race than Julian Castro. Not definitely sure. And if she does outlast him it won’t be by much. But I think he’ll be on the golf course before she will. Castro won’t make it out of Iowa. Gillibrand, given her Wall Street connections, can probably slog on to New Hampshire before bowing out.
Her campaign will have a focus on gender — the key to the Rust Belt, as I like to think of it.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Saturday signaled to a group of about 20 influential women that she will run for president, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Gillibrand made her intentions clear, said the source, who asked not to be identified to speak about the event. Gillibrand said that she needed their help if they would offer it to her. The closed-door gathering was attended by feminist Gloria Steinem, the source said. A second source reached by BuzzFeed News confirmed the meeting took place but would not elaborate on what was said…
Although Gillibrand is not the only woman likely to run for president, she is the candidate whose campaign will most focus on gender. The New York senator’s signature issues have been women’s issues, such as how military sexual assault is prosecuted and #MeToo in politics; her outside group focuses on funding women candidates for office, something on display as a record number of women ran in 2018, when Gillibrand, herself, was reelected in New York.
That would be an interesting strategy if she were the only woman running in a field of men. She could try to do with women Democrats what Obama did so successfully with black Democrats in 2008 — consolidate that group’s vote, then hold your own with the rest of the primary electorate and let it carry you to victory. She’d never be able to win women as overwhelmingly as Obama won with black voters but she wouldn’t need to. Women are a majority of the electorate. Just win handily, let the boys split the male vote, and you’re golden.
But that’s not the field we have. There’s Harris and Warren, and there’s the fact that women traditionally have never voted as a bloc to the degree that black voters typically do. She’s the third-most interesting woman candidate in the race, leaving her … where? Is the idea that her focus on women’s issues might help her nudge past Warren and Harris, setting her up for a “Gillibrand vs. the male candidates” phase of the race as it progresses? That’s highly unlikely: Harris’s home state of California votes early next year and Warren’s next-door neighbors in New Hampshire hold the first primary in the country. Gillibrand won’t have much time to make a splash at their expense.
Even if she did, the sine qua non of progressive virtue in a Democratic primary in 2019 is a strong track record of left-wing economic populism. Bearing that in mind, here’s a headline that was circulating on Twitter last week to snickers from liberals:
Building strong momentum among women voters would make Gillibrand a formidable threat to Trump in the general election if she somehow got out of the primary, but even there you can ,ale a case for skepticism. Trump’s last presidential opponent was the first major-party woman nominee in American history, one who’s topped Gallup’s list of most admired women for many years, who ran on shattering the glass ceiling and used to say when she was accused of “playing the woman card,” “Deal me in.” Gillibrand would be tougher to beat than Hillary not because of some special appeal to women but because she has 1/1000th as much baggage. The election would be a referendum on Trump instead of a referendum on the Clintons.
But even then, would you bet on Gillibrand’s magical blend of Wall Street donations and strident cultural leftism to swing Pennsylvania and Michigan back into the Democratic column?
I keep wondering if she’s running with an ulterior motive. Maybe she thinks having her name out there might make her an appealing VP contender for someone like Biden. But that can’t be: Democrats will get anxious if they have two white candidates on the ticket for the second election in a row. And they’d probably be (a little) anxious about an all-woman ticket of Harris and Gillibrand, although that’s certainly more viable than Biden/Gillibrand. Basically, unless Cory Booker wins the nomination, Gillibrand’s likely frozen out of the VP race on diversity grounds. So, again, why is she running? She can’t possibly think she’ll win.