I’ll try to do my best Obama impression, but it’s hard in writing, so bear with me.
“Look. Folks all know…there’s a risk…of folks losing money…when folks gamble. I say to folks…why…do you folks need…to lose money that way…(pauses for 10 minutes)…when folks can…just vote for Republicans…and get it over with? Ah ha ha ha! But seriously….folks.”
Obama has mastered the art of saying something obvious, but very, very slowly so that it sounds intelligent and profound. Then he tells corny jokes that wouldn’t be funny coming from anyone else. It worked like a charm during his campaigns, and it still does.
Lather, rinse, repeat, and maybe consider invading Libya, Syria and Egypt while you’re at it.
We can make fun of all past Presidents. But Obama’s schtick was good enough to win the 2008 Democratic Party nomination and the White House (twice). More relevant to this post, Barack was considered a total dark horse and an already-forgotten candidate for much of 2007.
Beto O’ Rourke may or may not be the next Obama, an elegant statesman who can make Bush/Cheney-like foreign policy moves sound like Peace Corps missions. Politicians as smooth and talented as 44 don’t come along every day, and few share his gift for understatement. Especially today, when rhetoric is expected to be a dirty, disrespectful, full-throttle character assassination of one’s opponent.
But there’s a Kirk Herbstreit (“sense of urgency”) among Dems, desperate to win the 2020 election and kick President Trump out of the Oval Office. Bernie Sanders, a controversial outsider who is hated by the neoconservative wing of the DNC, is neck-and-neck with frontrunner Joe Biden in early nomination polling. Not that Biden is free from criticism…and he hasn’t even announced yet.
That kind of insecurity over A) who the candidate will be and B) whether Clinton voters will be willing to vote for the DNC nominee creates a restlessness. Activists are still looking for an alternative to the 2 old white men leading the pack…and to the former iron-fisted prosecutor in 3rd place.
Recent bettors at MyBookie are convinced Beto is the answer.
Beto O’ Rourke’s Odds-to-Win the 2020 DNC Nod
One thing I like about MyBookie is that the markets are often left alone, at least visually on-screen vis-a-vis the order of favorites. Some sportsbooks like to grab and rearrange the lines in a market to order-of-popularity on a frequent basis, putting the odds-on favorite atop the board.
But when the order is left alone, we can observe line movement more carefully. Senator Kamala Harris opened as a favorite at MyBookie and still enjoys 3-to-1 odds to win the 2020 nomination battle. The lines of other contenders, however, are shifting wildly.
Joe Biden’s odds have been all over the place so far. His line has been driven close to 10-to-1 in some circumstances, especially before primary-election polls began to hit every news cycle. Then the Pennsylvanian’s futures line started shrinking. Finally, it has settled at (+500) despite Biden leading almost every national poll of Democrats.
Biden’s line is not nearly as short as Beto O’ Rourke’s at (+300). The last time we checked, Beto was running at (+350). But before that the Texas politician’s odds ran much longer.
Why is O’Rourke’s line shrinking by the week?
Predictions are 50% about the subject and 50% about the direct object – his or her opponents.
There’s a lot to like about O’Rourke in the horse race. He’s young, hip, and unafraid to take video of himself skateboarding or playing games.
He’s good looking and well-spoken. And he’s already seasoned from a tough campaign against Senator Ted Cruz.
O’Rourke polled very well for a Democrat running against Cruz in 2017-18. In fact, there was even chatter from some of the Democratic partisans in the press that Beto could beat Cruz. I’m not sure anyone really thought that it could happen in such a conservative state, but Dems knew that if Republicans had to fight a desperate battle for what is normally a lock-down state, it would weaken the GOP effort elsewhere. They were right…Republicans lost the U.S. House of Representatives.
Beto’s willingness to fight a losing, sacrificial war so that others in the party could benefit earned him a lot of respect and support among DNC loyalists. What’s more, his policy positions are safe and Pentagon-friendly – not the kind of revolutionary platform put forth by Bernie Sanders. That gives O’Rourke a leg-up with the mainstream media and the mainstream of the party. There’s just one very big iceberg in the way, but we’ll get to that later.
On television and on radio (and on social media) the Republicans are called “right-wing” and the Democrats are called “left-wing.” There are stringent left-wingers in the Democratic Party. But the core of the party is not left-wing. In fact, it’s probably closer to right-wing.
Understanding that fact is crucial to successfully handicapping the Dems in 2020.
Reviewing an Old Classic
It’s instructive to look back at the 2007-08 primary election campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. For one thing, everyone has forgotten just how vicious it was. One journalist compared it to Bugs Bunny vs Daffy Duck. Hillary – in the latter cartoon’s role – grew more and more agitated. Obama just kept shrugging her off.
Each candidate said things in 2008 that would become much-bigger scandals today than they were at the time. Obama, for instance, said that he wanted to make peace with Russia. That sort of statement could not only get him kicked out of the Democratic Party and labeled a traitor to the Stars & Stripes these days, it might even make President Trump his only friend. Wouldn’t that be a pickle.
Late in the nomination fight when Obama was all but assured of winning, Hillary told a reporter that she was “supported by hard-working Americans, white Americans.” It’s hard to imagine what the carnage would be like if a politician with a 35% approval rating (though Clinton’s rating was higher in ’08) said anything like that today…even if it was just an innocent gaffe. I mean literally it’s hard to imagine bombs and tanks and a civil war in the streets, or what Twitter would be like. But I repeat myself.
At another point during her losing primary campaign, Hillary said she was staying in the race because “everyone remembers what happened to Bobby Kennedy.” Ouch.
Public rows were just the tip of the iceberg. I know people who worked on Obama’s campaign in ’08 and people who worked on Hillary’s bid in ’08. The sides were constantly playing dirty tricks on each other. The Clintons were innovators of the first “bot” system for winning social media battles with automated accounts, and Obama soon fought back with his own auto-YouTubers.
Again, not kosher in 2019. But who knew?
It would appear that Beto O’ Rourke-for-POTUS speculators are using process-of-elimination to mentally check-off several other candidates from having a chance next summer. When using process of elimination, it’s nice to know that the political party you’re dealing with is not afraid to eliminate people (speaking metaphorically, Secret Service!) from the race with no-holds-barred attacks.
Setting Them Up, Knocking Them Down
The idea that Beto is the best wager due to every other major player in the DNC race being fatally-flawed is an interesting one. It could be true. But if you ask me, it fails in one crucial instance.
Let’s go through the likely losers first.
Bernie Sanders may have an outside shot to win the Democratic Party nomination in 2020. But it’s not likely. The left-vs-right fight among Democrats is not going away.
This is just the calm before the storm for Bernie. His role as spoiler will be more and more resented by the establishment, and the media will crank-up the scandal machine against him while his fans become more and more irritated at being called Russian traitors and spies.
Bernie doesn’t want to be a divisive figure, but newspapers are determined to paint him that way…and the press is capable of crafting its own reality in the political landscape.
Kamala Harris is polling modestly. Not nearly as well as you would like to see for a candidate who announced early. Bernie could have something to do with pols like Harris being less blindly-accepted into the liberal mainstream as they once were. Her record as a prosecutor is quite conservative in places. Even though she’s CNN’s pet candidate already, the early returns aren’t great.
Elizabeth Warren’s campaign might as well end tomorrow.
Tulsi Gabbard’s line has contracted to (+900), but she’s got even less of a chance than Bernie due to her stringent anti-war views clashing with mainstream Democrats.
That brings us to Joe Biden, who might be a tougher nut for Beto to crack.
Biden His Time
There really isn’t a great argument for why Beto O’ Rourke would be likely to beat Joe Biden in a primary election.
In fact, a few days ago I saw a mainstream editorial – the kind printed in WaPo and written by a committee from Dow Chemical or Boeing – complaining that the current DNC field is “not experienced enough.” That’s a high-priced Democratic donor pulling strings to lay the ground for Joe. The former VP will have the support of 70% or 80% of party activists when he runs.
Biden has all-but-announced and is already leading primary polls.
“Biden and Sanders are white men,” some pundits say, reasoning that it would be easier for a less-racially privileged American to convince others to vote against President Trump. But that argument fails as a reason for picking Beto, because Beto is a white guy too.
Ultimately the voters will choose who they choose. I’m sure there are many Democrats who feel that a POC/woman (or both) would help attract key voting blocks in what will be a contentious general election. But all they can do is hope. They can’t force it to happen.
It’s not as if Kamala Harris is running against 3 or 4 far-left progressives and that’s it. If she were, then whether the genuine left-wing candidates were white or black, they’d be rapists and murderers by the time the Military-Industrial Complex, I mean the media (but I repeat myself) got through with them.
Biden won’t get that treatment. He’ll be praised by everyone but Fox. If it’s a battle between MSNBC’s preferred candidate (while will be Biden) and CNN’s (Harris), then I’m siding with the bigger TV ratings.
Good luck fighting the cable-news cartel while trying to beat Joe Biden. Fox News won’t endorse Beto, and CNN has already “declared” for Kamala. If Biden’s donors sway NBC into praising and primping the former Vice President for over a year, then O’ Rourke will be trying to climb Pikes Peak.
Predicting the 2020 Primary Election
The buzz around Beto O’ Rourke is misleading. He’s a nice guy, willing to go along with an all-over-the-place mainstream party platform, and likely destined for Congress in the future.
But gamble on O’ Rourke at (+350) instead of the frontrunner at (+500)? A frontrunner with billions in potential fundraising and the media in his hip pocket?
Heck, you couldn’t even talk a Russian spy into that. Just ask a Bernie voter.