Back in December, when Elizabeth Warren formally launched an exploratory committee for a 2020 run at the White House, we (somewhat harshly) critiqued the messaging in her video announcement.
Specifically, we suggested Warren was at risk of fostering the same kind of divisive politics that Donald Trump thrives on – of pouring gas on the fire, so to speak. Warren’s message about the state of America’s working class echoes Trump’s as do the bombastic (if accurate) terms she uses to describe the plight of everyday citizens.
“[Some] who work hard slip through the cracks into disaster”, Warren lamented in the first video of what has since morphed into an official 2020 campaign. She went on to describe the situation as “terrifying.”
As we wrote in December, Warren’s message rings true, but it’s couched in the exact same kind of populist rhetoric that got Trump elected and that found expression in his insane “American carnage” inauguration speech.
Since that post was published, virtually every mainstream media outlet in America has remarked on the same potential problem with her candidacy – namely that try as she might to soften the messaging, Warren is a fighter, first and foremost. Her reputation for bulldogging CEOs during congressional testimony is the stuff of legend and generally speaking, she comes across as someone who will likely lash out furiously when goaded by Trump (indeed, we’ve already seen this movie thanks to the “Pocahontas” debacle).
Critically, many of the other 14-dozen (that’s a rough estimate using our proprietary trackers) people vying for the Democratic ticket have adopted a similarly confrontational tone, at least as it relates to Trump. And while that’s admirable, it’s not entirely clear that “fighting fire with fire” is the best strategy right now, considering how much of Trump’s appeal resides in stoking conflict, division and animosity.
Additionally, this probably isn’t a scenario where he can be “beat at his own game”, as it were. We are, after all, talking about a man who just spent his entire weekend tweeting insults at a dead US senator, accusing Google of conspiring with the Chinese military, spreading blog posts written by conspiracy theorists, demanding Fox News bring back an anchor who was suspended for a wild anti-Muslim rant aimed at a sitting US congresswoman and implicitly threatening to bring the weight of his office to bear on General Motors if the company didn’t “do something” to ameliorate the closure of an Ohio plant.
So, what’s the plan? In the above-linked post on Warren, we suggested that Beto O’Rourke could likely beat Trump. Biden, we remarked, could probably win, but the campaign would be couched in terms of absurd pretensions to machismo. That is, it would be cartoonish and has the potential to accelerate America’s descent into farce. Additionally, Biden comes with baggage that’s potentially exploitable although his track record as a public servant isn’t in dispute.
Beto, then, emerges as the only candidate capable of creating the kind of unstoppable wave – the electoral fervor – that could rival the fanaticism of Trump’s base.
Since then, Beto has of course joined the race, after a painfully-long decision process. On Monday, his campaign announced that it raised $6.1 million in one day, “without a dime” from PACs, corporations or special interests, according to a spokesman.
Notably, that is more than Bernie Sanders raised in his first 24 hours, no small feat, as Sanders’s one-day haul ($5.9 million) was front-page news late last month.
By comparison, Kamala Harris raised just $1.5 million in her first day and Elizabeth Warren received $300,000 on New Year’s Eve (her campaign did not disclose the full one-day tally). Beto’s one-day haul is twice the combined figure raised by Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper in their first two days.
“In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president — a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the PACs, corporations, and special interests but to the people,” Beto said, in a statement.
What this also “proves”, is that the ridiculous $80 million he raked in during his ultimately unsuccessful run at Ted Cruz’s senate seat last year was not a fluke. Here is The Washington Post putting this into context:
- It’s nearly 8 percent of the total amount he raised in his record-setting Senate campaign ($79.1 million). O’Rourke pulled in $38 million in the third quarter of 2018, also a record.
- It’s nearly as much as President Trump raised in all of 2015 ($6.6 million), after getting in the campaign in June. (Trump largely relied on self-funding.)
- It’s more than the following 2016 GOP candidates raised for their entire campaigns: Rick Perry ($1.3 million), Lindsey O. Graham ($4.9 million), Bobby Jindal ($1.2 million), Rick Santorum ($1.9 million), Mike Huckabee ($4.2 million). It’s also getting close to what Chris Christie ($8.6 million) and Scott Walker ($9.3 million) raised for their whole campaigns. On the Democratic side, it’s about as much as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley raised in total ($6.3 million).
- It’s nearly one-quarter of what both Hillary Clinton ($26 million) and Barack Obama ($25 million) raised in the entire first quarter of 2007 — the comparable period to this one for the 2008 race. Both entered the campaign in January, giving themselves more than two full months to raise those totals.
Yeah – “big league” to quote a certain reality TV show host.
As you’re probably aware, Beto has been literally driving around Iowa and Wisconsin in an actual minivan, which, God willing, will eventually make it all the way to New Hampshire. On Sunday evening, we gently suggested he was taking this a bit too far in an effort to duplicate his famous “Baba O’Riley” air drums moment:
I’m starting to think he’s overplaying things a little bit – already https://t.co/sQE0m2lbds
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) March 18, 2019
That tweet was before we knew how much Beto had raised. Apparently, we were mistaken to suggest he’s trying too hard.
As Bloomberg’s John McCormick points out, O’Rourke is taking a different approach to Trump than the rest of the crowded Democratic field.
“Campaigning across Iowa and Wisconsin during the weekend as a newly minted 2020 presidential candidate, O’Rourke frequently talked about his willingness to cooperate with those of differing political stripes, echoing the sort of calls former President Barack Obama made during his 2008 campaign for political civility that became elusive during his tenure”, McCormick wrote Monday, adding that “the Texan’s approach contrasts with some other Democratic presidential candidates who have been highly critical of Trump and Republicans in general [and] also risks making him look like someone who won’t throw punches at a time his party is searching for a candidate who can compete against Trump’s street-fighting style on a debate stage, Twitter and elsewhere.”
Right. But maybe that’s just what America needs in a Democratic candidate. Because “competing” against Trump’s “street-fighting style” isn’t really possible considering the president is someone who doesn’t just relish in low blows, but is in fact willing to slander entire ethnic groups, marginalize people based solely on religion, lampoon those with disabilities on national television, encourage violence against the free press and just generally urinate all over anybody and everybody (figuratively, for now) in the course of undermining the very foundation of American democracy.
Underscoring the abject futility in trying to out-Trump Trump was, well, Trump, who tweeted the following on Monday while staging a dubious encore to his weekend Twitter shenanigans:
Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President. Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!
The irony there is that Trump can scarcely get through 140 characters without spelling something wrong and he’s been variously described by his cabinet (behind closed doors and at private events) as a “moron” with “the intelligence of a kindergartner“.
But there again, that’s why “fighting fire with fire” won’t work with Trump. You can’t get into an insult contest with a man who, despite knowing he has a reputation for being a world-class idiot, has the nerve to call a former Vice President “a low I.Q. individual!”
Incidentally, Trump once challenged Tillerson to an “IQ test”, although as far as anyone knows, Rex never took him up on it.
Ultimately, it looks as though our prediction from December has come to fruition when it comes to who the frontrunner for the Democratic ticket is likely to be by the time it’s all said and done (his somewhat bizarre former life as a hacker notwithstanding).
So far, Trump has only jabbed at Beto (once during their dueling El Paso rallies and once last week).
You can expect that to change.
Here’s a preview of what’s coming (from the El Paso event):