On the menu today: The end is in sight for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, David Brooks desperately tries to wave Democrats away from a critical error, and the mainstream media finally finds the coronavirus scary in a particular context.
The End of Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Is Near
Is it too harsh to say that this has become Elizabeth Warren’s campaign trail . . . of tears? Polling suggests she’s on the verge of pulling a Marco Rubio — losing her home state to the frontrunner:
The poll shows Sanders is the choice of 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while Warren is in second place with 17 percent. The former mayors, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg, are in a virtual tie for third at 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Former vice president Joe Biden rounds out the top five at 9 percent.
The Sanders campaign must be drooling at the prospect of that outcome — 91 delegates and Sanders would get the vast majority, with Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and Biden below the 15 percent threshold to win delegates. (Some will be allocated by who wins each congressional district, so the under-15 candidates could get one here and there.)
If you’re a conservative, one of the great delights of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle has been watching one Democrat that the media adores after another fall flat on his or her face. Everybody looks good in a blue state or district, with a mostly friendly national media parachuting in and swooning over their inspiring rhetoric. Even a modestly successful “beating expectations” presidential campaign is really difficult. We’ve seen Kirstin Gillibrand flop, Beto O’Rourke look buffoonish, Julian Castro get ignored, Cory Booker fail to launch, Kamala Harris rise quickly and sink even quicker . . . .
And soon, Warren may join the list.
Let’s give Warren credit where it is due: Most candidates never come anywhere near frontrunner status, and in October, Warren was either ahead of Biden or right next to him nationally. She rarely turns in bad debate performances, and she absolutely tore apart Bloomberg on his nondisclosure agreements in the Nevada debate.
If you believe that the media, big progressive organizations, and the professional white-collar coastal elites are the most important demographics the Democratic presidential nominating process, then Warren ran a near-perfect campaign for much of 2019. (It is more accurate to say those groups are among the most important factions but not the most important.)
Warren touted herself as the “I have a plan for that” candidate, which invited scrutiny of her plans, and she took a lot of fire for her plan to finance Medicare for All — so much fire, that she stopped talking about her plan. The plan assumes that the federal government can get pharmaceutical companies to cut drug prices by 70 percent for brand-name drugs and 30 percent for generics through a series of reforms.
Her campaign seemed to be based upon the idea that a lot of Bernie Sanders’s supporters could be persuaded to jump on her bandwagon. The two senators are progressive allies, but each one took a different path to get to where they are, and you wonder if Sanders supporters have nagging doubts about the former Republican Harvard law professor who made hundreds of thousands of dollars representing big corporations. She converted to the progressive cause, but Sanders spent a lifetime in it. The Vermont senator has been in Washington since 1990, but he still can semi-plausibly claim to be an outsider because clearly exceptionally few people in Congress actually listen to him or his recommendations. Warren has been in important positions (Harry Reid’s TARP overseer, special advisor to the Treasury Department, U.S. senator) since 2008.
When Sanders supporters proved tougher to win over than Warren expected, she tried playing the “sexist” card on him, and that didn’t work well at all. She was much tougher on Sanders after the debate in their private exchange than she was on camera during it.
Since then, Warren has attacked everyone except Sanders, leading many, including myself, to suspect she wants to be Sanders’s running mate. Just about anything can happen in politics, but she seems to be an unlikely choice — she probably won’t bring in any voters that he doesn’t already have.
Keep in mind, Warren’s rise and fall occurred with the rest of the field steadfastly refusing to make Warren’s “person of color” status at Harvard a campaign issue, and with some members of the Washington press corps acting as Warren’s reputational bodyguards.
For someone who was supposed to be a really savvy politician, Warren is generating underwhelming results. Warren did okay in Iowa, getting eight delegates and about 20 percent of the final vote — the kind of finish that doesn’t generate a lot of momentum, but keeps a candidate in the game. But she struck out in New Hampshire, which is supposed to be friendly territory for a Massachusetts senator. Her 9.2 percent put her in fourth place, and perhaps even worse, she was ten percentage points behind Amy Klobuchar. She won no delegates in Nevada and finished fourth again with 11.5 percent.
The road ahead doesn’t look any better. No poll puts her above 15 percent in South Carolina, which was never going to be a particularly good state for her. The poll mentioned above suggests Sander might beat her in her home state, which would more or less spell the end of her campaign. If any Warren fans are hoping some overperformance in other Super Tuesday states might balance it all out . . . she might be a distant second in California, and she might get delegates in Virginia and Colorado. But you can’t second-place and third-place your way to the nomination. If Warren can’t win Massachusetts, where is she going to win?
Brooks: Bernie Sanders Is What the Founding Fathers Feared
David Brooks is desperately trying to warn the readership of the New York Times what they’re signing on to if they choose to nominate Bernie Sanders:
Populists like Sanders speak as if the whole system is irredeemably corrupt. Sanders was a useless House member and has been a marginal senator because he doesn’t operate within this system or believe in this theory of change.
He believes in revolutionary mass mobilization and, once an election has been won, rule by majoritarian domination. This is how populists of left and right are ruling all over the world, and it is exactly what our founders feared most and tried hard to prevent.
A few months ago, Brooks — former Weekly Standard contributor, the center-right voice on the op-ed page — wrote he would vote for Warren over Trump. But Sanders appears to be a bridge too far. Brooks ends today’s column: “I’ll cast my lot with democratic liberalism. The system needs reform. But I just can’t pull the lever for either of the two populisms threatening to tear it down.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times had six columnists write the best argument for each candidate; Brooks made the case for Mike Bloomberg. Thomas Friedman did not participate, but I think he would have picked Bloomberg, and it would have gone something like this: “The world is hot, flat, and crowded, which is why we need somebody cold, short, and super rich to manage it. I was hiking across the Himalayan ranges outside Kathmandu with a tech CEO from Dubai, and we agreed that billionaires just have an intrinsic sense of what is best for the common man. We’re the only ones who recognize that the only way to solve problems in a world full of terrorism and the coronavirus is to open our doors wide to the world and say, ‘come on in and cough up your best ideas.’ The best way to take care of the little people is to pick a little mayor who understands what they need better than they do themselves. If we could be China for a day, we would clear out all the messy divisions and get stuff done, without all the complaints from the great unwashed who—”
The Daily Beast: Oh, Hey, Now the Coronavirus Is Generating ‘Mayhem’
Headline at the Daily Beast, February 6: “The Virus Killing U.S. Kids Isn’t the One Dominating the Headlines . . . Coronavirus, with zero American fatalities, is dominating headlines, while the flu has killed dozens of U.S. kids this season—including 11-year-old Luca, a true ‘Giver of Light.’”
Headline at the Daily Beast, February 28: “Trump Spends 45 Minutes With ‘Deep State’ Play Actors Amid Coronavirus Mayhem . . . Meanwhile, the man he tapped to run point on the virus, VP Pence, took to a conservative activists conference and had meetings with pro-Trump media luminaries.”
The gist is that because the Daily Beast has decided that now that the coronavirus is generating “mayhem,” the president and vice president should not take any time out of their day to speak to CPAC or handle any other duties. Twenty-two days earlier, the Daily Beast was playing “the flu is the real threat to America” card.
Much like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the coronavirus became much scarier and more newsworthy to U.S. mainstream media once Donald Trump became involved.
That being said, I would not have minded seeing the president appoint a separate coronavirus “czar” — some sort of temporarily appointed special advisor to the president on COVID-19.
Way back in 2009, when the Obama administration was naming policy “czars” left and right, I argued that one newly created position was easily justifiable, the one focusing on cybersecurity. Because that potential threat covered so many areas of the federal government — the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, Energy, Health and Human Services — that it made sense that if and when there was a crisis, to have one person in the room who has focused almost exclusively on this issue. Cabinet secretaries are fine people, but they have a lot of duties. You have to wonder how much Vice President Pence or HHS secretary Alex Azar can put their regular duties on the back burner during the coronavirus outbreak.
ADDENDUM: Thanks to everyone who came out to last night’s get-together for NRPlus subscribers down the street from CPAC. (You, too, could get invited to those events by becoming a subscriber. NRPlus is currently $69 per year, $75 if you want the print magazine as well — for just six bucks, you might as well throw it in — and as far as I can tell, there’s always some sort of reduced-price promotion going on.) I was struck by the number of people who told me how much they’re enjoying The Editors podcast, and it is pretty fascinating how you can get together a group of conservative writers and editors — Rich Lowry, Charlie — er, Charles C. W. Cooke — Michael Brendan Dougherty, and frequent appearances by Alexandra DeSanctis and political consultant Luke Thompson — and get such a mix of personalities and perspectives.