What Will Determine the Democratic Presidential Nomination?

to have you all here today. My name is Jennifer Victor. As you can tell, I
am not David Barker. He was intended to
moderate this program. And he called me in as a
pinch hitter, if you will, because he apparently
has World Series tickets and is now in Houston. But he frantically texted
me over the weekend when he realized there was
going to be this conflict. And he thought
the audience would be both forgiving of his
excuse and, hopefully, welcoming of me as his
inferior substitute here. I have some affiliation
with AU because I’ve done events such as this with
them and with this center over the years. But in real life, I’m
an associate professor of political science at
George Mason University, where I study American politics and US
Congress and political parties. And happily– for me, at least– I am available to do
this today because I’m on sabbatical this semester,
doing a fellowship at the Kluge Center at the Library of
Congress, where I just raced across town
from, where I’m working on a book on
congressional polarization. But today, we are here to talk
about the 2020 nomination. And I’m very pleased to
introduce our esteemed panel of scholars and experts to
help us work through some of the current happenings. So, briefly, to my
left here, first we have Candice Nelson,
who is the professor and chair of government
here at American University, and director of the Campaign
Management Institute. To her left is
Leonard Steinhorn, a professor of
communications here at AU, who also sometimes
operates as a CBS news analyst. To his left, we have Ron Elving,
the senior editor and news correspondent at
National Public Radio, and executive in residence at
the School of Public Affairs here at AU. And on the end, we have Jamil
Scott, an assistant professor of government at
Georgetown University, who is an expert in political
ambition and representation. So thank you very much
for joining us today. So my plan here is to
handle the moderated version of the program for
about 45 minutes, before we open it up to Q&A. So I’m going to organize this at
David’s direction, essentially. I’m going to have an open-ended
question at the beginning that I’m just going
to go down the line and have each of our
panelists answer. And then I have a much
more targeted question for each of them that is more
relevant to their specific areas of expertise. And then, depending
on how time goes, hopefully a couple of
other general questions for the panel. We’ll end with another
one, going on down the line before we open it up for Q&A.
So that’s my general plan. All right. So I’ll ask the first question
here of Professor Steinhorn, and then I’ll take a seat. So, Professor Steinhorn,
we’ve heard a lot lately about changes in
the Democratic Party and how the Democratic
electorate is different now than it was during
the Obama years. So holding all the
personal characteristics of the candidates, the
2020 nomination candidates, constant, including
their experience, would you rather be running
as a moderate or a progressive in this race? In other words,
where do you think the heart and soul of the
Democratic Party is now? LEONARD STEINHORN: K, well,
thanks for being here, everyone. Can you all hear me? OK. Good question. I’m not altogether sure that
the soul of the Democratic Party has changed all that much. It’s always been demographically
younger, more diverse, better educated, urban, increasingly
suburban, socially liberal, economically liberal,
and leaning progressive. The question is
whether we mistake the democratic activists for the
soul of the Democratic Party. And I think that’s
critical here. And that’s where you have a
lot of pull in this campaign, because some of the
activists want the Democratic Party to move in a
certain direction, but I’m not altogether sure
that the center of the party is with the activists
in all of that. Look at Medicare for all. It’s a popular view
among the activists of the Democratic Party. It polls reasonably well,
but it has a lot of problems. It has specific
problems because when you go into the
general election, you know you’re going to get
hammered on the concept of loss aversion, which is that
most people will be worried after the Trump campaign hits
them that they’re going to lose their private insurance. So I’m not altogether sure
that the activists necessarily represent the mainstream
of the Democratic Party. And so the real
question becomes, would I rather be a
progressive or a moderate? Well, I think that
difference has become overplayed to a
great extent in all of this. I still think that many people
think that the public option is a progressive option,
compared to what it used to be years ago,
which was no option at all. And I do think that
most Democrats generally agree on most of these issues,
within a certain spectrum. To me what’s more important
than the ideological apparent differences is whether
these candidates are perceived as authentic or not. I think authenticity is really
the heart of this election. When you look at the
younger generation, they care most
about authenticity. And so how do they
define authenticity? Certainly, Hillary Clinton
did not come off as authentic. She came off as canned
and scripted and somebody who was always thinking through
how to play a particular issue. On the other hand, Bill
Clinton, for all of his flaws, came off as authentic. Barack Obama, who wrote
two books about himself and sort of
disclosed who he was, came off as very authentic. And in this particular campaign,
who’s coming off as authentic? Elizabeth Warren, with her
passion in her selfies. Bernie Sanders certainly
comes off as authentic. Joe Biden, as regular
Joe, even though I think he’s been dinged a
little bit lately. And the reason why
Kamala Harris has fallen a bit is
that she’s always seems like she’s contrived
and scripted and lacking authenticity. So, to some extent,
I think the moderate versus progressive dichotomy
gets a lot overplayed. And what it all
comes down to is, who comes off as that authentic
candidate that can conceivably stand toe to toe
with Donald Trump and show people what the
soul of the Democratic Party is from their
interpretation, and make that convincing case to
people, because they honestly believe it. And they’re not
being focus grouped and coming up with one
liners and coming up with how to manipulate
all of these things. The voters want
authenticity, and I think that’s really going to
be the decisive point here. JENNIFER VICTOR: So that’s a
great transition, actually, to the next question
that I’d like to pose to Professor Scott. A slightly different side of
the coin than authenticity is this idea of electability. So how does this
idea of electability interact with characteristics
like race, gender, sexuality, and age? Does it play differently
in the minds of voters, as they think about
the primary election versus the general election? In other words, on balance, is
it an advantage or disadvantage to be a straight, white,
Christian male running for higher office in
today’s Democratic Party? JAMIL SCOTT: So when it comes
to this idea of electability, I think, on balance,
even if we’re not talking about the most
sophisticated voter, people understand the concept
of not wasting their vote. They understand the concept of
not wasting their vote, right? And so there is an
idea that, if I’m voting for someone
in the primary, I want them to be able to stand
toe to toe with Donald Trump. And so when it comes
to who that looks like, I think largely people assume
that that will be Joe Biden. Now, I think, does he still
poll very well with, let’s say, African-American community? Yes, he’s polling very well with
the African-American community. If we talk about Elizabeth
Warren and where she stands, I think she’s
polling a bit better with younger black voters,
and younger people, generally. They like her, this idea
that she has a plan. But I think people are
still thinking about, what will she be able to
do against Donald Trump? Now, does this idea of
electability disadvantage women and people of color? I think it does, unfortunately. I think that this idea that,
who was a voter in the 2016– who was a voter, rather, in
2020, as a general election voter, people are assuming
that their neighbors are not the most racially
progressive, now the most gender progressive. And so, even if they
like a candidate, they’re assuming that my
neighbor isn’t going to. So there’s a thought
here about who’s going to go up
against Donald Trump and who’s going to be
able to do this well. So there probably are
comparisons between– that can be made between Hillary
Clinton and some of the women that are running right now. Does Hillary Clinton falter
in this idea of authenticity in what she brought
to the table? Yes. But did she bring some policy
expertise to the table? Also, very much so. She did, right? And so the question is, as
we think about the debate performance of Hillary
Clinton, of Donald Trump, if you watch those debates
again, you might think, did Hillary Clinton win? Did she really
talk about policy? Yes. But did Donald Trump deliver
things that people remember? Was he short and to the point? Yes. Do people remember what he said? Yes. So the question becomes,
does the strategy of talking about policy work? Is there someone who can beat
Donald Trump in his debate strategy and style? People are thinking
these things. And we can’t underestimate that
people are being considerate about how they’ll use
their vote in 2020. And so, unfortunately, in
a big election like 2020, where there is a lot of question
about what happens next, where the direction of
our country is going, there are so many concerns
here, and in this era of polarization,
extreme polarization, where we don’t always get the
same political information. And when we are getting
the same information, it’s with a very
different frame. So we might get the same
story with a different idea about what’s happening. People want to make sure
that the person who’s going up in 2020 is going to
be able to beat Donald Trump. Does this disadvantage
people like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren? Unfortunately, yes. But there were already
concerns about Kamala Harris from the start. We cannot forget that Kamala
Harris, as a prosecutor, people did bring up her
history as a prosecutor. She did her job,
yes, as a prosecutor. But when you’re prosecuting
black and brown folks, you can’t think that
that’s not going to come up with black and brown voters. So she’s not polling
very well there. She’s gotten better. But is Joe Biden still in the
minds of people, particularly when we’re thinking
about people of color and who’s going to turn out? Because let’s not
mistake that 2020 is not, who’s going to stand with
the Democratic Party in terms of how they think
about candidates. It’s a turnout game. And if candidates are going
to get the support of voters, they have to be
thinking about, how are we going to get people
excited to turn out like 2008? How are we going to
get people excited? And I don’t think that there’s
been enough discussion about, how are we going to
play the turnout game? How are we going to get
people excited to come out? Anger works. We saw 2018. Anger works. But anger against what’s
happening may not be enough. JENNIFER VICTOR:
Thank you very much. Next I want to turn
to Professor Nelson. So, as you know,
campaign dynamics matter a lot more in
presidential nomination elections than they do
in general elections. What would you say has run– who would you say has run the
most effective campaign so far? And what goes into that? What does the
operation look like? Is there a particular campaign
that’s been very disappointing on that end? CANDICE NELSON: OK, so I think
the candidate to run the best campaign is Elizabeth
Warren, and for two reasons. One, is she has consistently
put out policy papers, policy ideas. It’s not just, Trump’s
terrible, vote for me. Now, she’s run into
some problems with that. We saw that in the
debate last week. But she has consistently put out
why people should support her. The second reason, and I
think it’s equally important– and it’s going to become
even more important– when she first
got into the race, and she got in very
early, there were a lot of comments about
the amount of money she was spending
on hiring staff. And that is going to come
back to help her once we get into people actually voting. I think that after the
debate in November, the race is effectively
going to freeze until we get into
Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other, early primaries. And the fact that
Warren has had people on the ground, at that point, in
some states, for almost a year, is really going to
work to her advantage in terms of getting people
actually out to the polls to vote in both the
caucuses and the primaries. In terms of the most
disappointing campaign, that award goes
to Beto O’Rourke. He ran a terrific
senate race in 2018. He came close to
beating Ted Cruz. He started out, he was the cover
story on The Atlantic magazine. He got great crowds in Iowa
when he kicked off his race. He’s jumping on
tables and chairs, and people are really excited. And then that’s pretty
much been it since. So he came in with a lot of
promise, a lot of excitement, and he really hasn’t
gone anywhere. JENNIFER VICTOR:
Thank you very much. I want to follow that for
just a second, because one of the things you said I thought
was a little provocative. You suggested that
once we hit November, we’re going to see sort of
a freeze in the campaigns until we get to the
caucuses in February. Can you explain why you
think that’s the case? CANDICE NELSON: Because we’re
going into the holiday season. There was the
debate on the books. Maybe Ron knows if that’s still
going to happen in December. But there was a plan
for debate in December. RON ELVING: I don’t
know about December. They are planning to
debate in November. CANDICE NELSON: Right,
yeah, on the 20th. RON ELVING: Right, but not
December, I don’t think. CANDICE NELSON: So I think
we get into the holidays, and then once we
get into January, the focus is going to be
on Iowa and New Hampshire, particularly. And what the polls are showing,
what people are doing there, I just don’t see a lot of
movement at that point. JENNIFER VICTOR: OK, thanks. Mr. Elving, as with
campaign dynamics, media coverage probably
has a bigger influence over the nomination contest than
the general election outcome. In what ways do you
think the media have influenced this race so far? How do you see that
playing out going forward? RON ELVING: The media– yes. JENNIFER VICTOR: You
know, it’s one thing. RON ELVING: Indeed. I was just reflecting on,
a few years ago, some of you may remember a journalist
named David Halberstam– wrote a great book
about Vietnam, and then wrote a book that had
a lot of influence in the 1970s called The Powers That Be. And it focused on the four
leading print organizations in the United States– New York Times,
Washington Post, and, believe it or not, Time and
Newsweek were considered up in that league, and then, of
course, the three television networks. And he went on at some length
about how these “super cultural seven,” as he called them,
were enormous determiners of our politics,
particularly in the phase that we’re in right now, that
there was a primary phase before we even talked to voters,
in which the candidates were essentially trying to get
on the mentioners’ list. And there was something we
used to call the David Brodeur primary. Some of you may
remember David Brodeur, who was a legendary reporter
for The Washington Post, as somebody who did
all the right things and was an enormously balanced
and objective reporter. And there may not have
been more than a handful who you could say that
about over the years. But certainly David
Brodeur was one. He certainly knocked
on more doors than anyone but the Gallup
organization, over the years. And people really
tried hard to get a mention from David Brodeur. And that was an important
part of running for president, was to essentially
do the groundwork to be mentioned in the
right media places. And these really had an
enormous determinative power over who became the leading
candidates in either party– in either party, but certainly
in the Democratic Party. Needless to say, we live in a
tremendously different media environment now. So much so, that when we even
talk about which candidates are doing well or
poorly, I’m not sure we really have the
proper metrics to know, that the polling and even
the measuring of money, as reliable as counting dollars
may be in many respects, we are in a much different
media environment now. And what we have,
instead of gatekeepers, such as those super
cultural seven– no gatekeepers, really,
to speak of anymore. And what we have are portals. And the portals are Facebook
and Instagram and Twitter. And the people who are doing
well through those portals don’t try to influence
Facebook and Twitter. They try to influence the
people who go to those portals to then go out to 100
or 1,000 other places to get information
and misinformation and disinformation,
the difference being that disinformation
is intentionally misleading. It is intentionally trying
to give you a false picture. And as we know, much of that
comes from foreign agents. It comes from people overseas. Not exclusively the
Russians, but they do seem to be the leading
champions at this point. So in this new media
environment, while we do still have powerful news
organizations– and we can talk about the
Fox News presidency, which I think we are having. And that is an important
news organization that has tremendous
influence on that side of the political spectrum. We have such an unpredictable
and different landscape because of the personally
chosen sources of information that people have
through these portals, instead of through
gatekeeper organizations, that I think it’s
difficult to know– before we get to
real results in Iowa, New Hampshire, et cetera– where we are and, basically,
who is leading this race. JENNIFER VICTOR: Thank you. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JENNIFER VICTOR: Could
we have any tech support with some of the microphones? They don’t seem
to be amplifying. RON ELVING: They
do seem to be on. JENNIFER VICTOR: If I
do this, does that help? All right, so this
one is working. I’ll pass it. RON ELVING: It’s just proximity. OK. JENNIFER VICTOR: Or,
we’re talking very close– if could ask panelists to talk
very close to the microphones, that might help. I want to do something,
and just quickly go down the line on one question. And then I’ve got
a couple of things that I want to ask as the group. I’m wondering if
there’s anything that’s happened in the
primary campaigns so far that you have
been surprised by? A moment or a
candidate or something. So down the line. CANDICE NELSON:
What surprised me is that the people who were–
the three candidates who were the front runners
at the beginning are still the front runners. We had 23 people in the race. We still have, what– 18, roughly? But we haven’t really
seen much of a shakeup. And so that’s what surprised me. LEONARD STEINHORN: Well, I
haven’t been surprised at all, actually, because I think
we’ve been through these ups and downs for years. How many of us remember front
runner Howard Dean or Ed Muskie or Scoop Jackson or
Jerry Brown or even Hillary Clinton in 2008? And my whole point
is– and I may disagree with you
a little bit– is I think that there is a
media narrative out there. And the media does
drive the conversation. And these are content creators
that social media then picks up and shares with everybody else. So there’s a great deal to
be said about that sort of– it may not be those
gatekeeper seven, but that amorphous group
of political journalists that are writing the
narrative of this campaign. And to some extent,
they chronicle the rise of a particular candidate. They reinforce it
with their articles. Then they bake in narratives
about other candidates, and their strengths
and weaknesses. Then they get bored with the
narrative and the storyline, and they look for
something else. And I think that’s where
we’re at right now, is they’re somewhat
bored with this. They’re seizing on
the weakness of Warren with the Medicare for all. You even see it in Paul Krugman
article in The New York Times recently, where he’s raising
that question about Elizabeth Warren. And so it’s really in flux. And I think it always
has been in flux in almost every
election, particularly with the Democrats. And ultimately, it’s the
voters in those retail states– Iowa and New Hampshire,
in particular. They’re starting to
make their decision. They’re dating right now. They have to figure out
who they may ultimately want to get engaged with
or potentially marry. So, to me, what’s happening
is that these early voters are baking in their own
calculation about electability and passion and
ideological purity and who can beat
Donald Trump, and who’s good enough for them that may
be able to beat Donald Trump. And then it’s the candidates
with the best ground game are out there and the
best grassroots support. And I think,
ultimately, none of this has surprised me because I think
we’ve seen this film before. And the media narrative
has taught us things. And it’s taught us how
to follow the media narrative as much as we have
to follow those candidates. RON ELVING: I see all those as
friendly amendments, actually. But let me just say that
the problem right now is we pay so much
attention to the people who pay the most attention. So, for example,
people think of Fox as being the dominant, dominant
news source in America. And they certainly will
tell you that every time you turn to Fox. And they say it over and
over– largest audience, this and that, et
cetera, et cetera. About 2 and 1/2 million
people on average are watching Fox during prime
time on a given evening. That’s 2 and 1/2 million people. Now, if you take ABC News, NBC
News, CBS News, cumulatively– and yes, they are still
in business– over there on broadcast, they
have over 20 million broadcast viewers on just
their evening news programs, just their evening
news programs. So that’s considerably larger
than the average Fox audience. And the single most popular
Fox program, Sean Hannity, is 3.3 million at peak. 3.3 million at peak. So compare that then
to the 8 million people who watch the ABC evening news. That’s something I think
is fair to bear in mind. Plus, just in the space
of cable news alone, CNN and MSNBC taken together
easily exceed the Fox audience. And when Rachel Maddow
was on, for example, she runs a pretty close second,
sometimes even slightly ahead, of Sean Hannity, over
3 million viewers. So we all have this
impression of that juggernaut. And I only throw that
out because there is a sense that everyone
is on Twitter, for example. Only about 22% of Americans
are actually on Twitter. And only 10% of that
percentage, that minority, does political Twitter. The rest of the
people are tweeting about important things like
baseball and the World Series and all the other things
that matter to people. So, of that, 10%, or rather, by
that 10% of the 22%, we get– how much do you think, of all
the political Twitter there is? 97%. Almost all political Twitter
comes from 10% of 22%. So we are really down to talking
about some ferocious Twitter users. I can think of
one in particular, lives here in Washington DC. And the response to
that person makes up an enormous percentage of all
the political Twitter there is. So a lot of all of this that
we’re feeding on all the time, and the ideas we’re getting
about how the candidates are doing and not doing, is
from that very narrow space within the general
political world. And when we get to
Iowa and New Hampshire, we’re going to find, perhaps,
a somewhat different set of reactions. JAMIL SCOTT: I think
that the thing that was most surprising to me is
the early attention to campaign staff. There was a discussion very
early on about who was on staff and how diverse staffs were. We usually don’t get
into these conversations. We often don’t think about
how much the campaign staff can matter. They’re pivotal for
decision making, in terms of what direction
the campaign goes in, how do we think about policy,
what steps the candidate takes and where they’re going. And so the attention
to diversity there and calling people to
task for not doing it, I think, it was really meaningful
and might have implications for what we see for
the candidate, where the candidate who makes it to
the general election will go. JENNIFER VICTOR: I want
to follow up on that. Does anybody– for anybody
on the panel, I guess– know which of the
current candidates has adopted more of the
legacy campaign staff from both Clinton and Obama? Anybody look at that,
just out of curiosity? RON ELVING: Well, I
would guess Biden. JENNIFER VICTOR: I would guess
that as well, but I don’t know. RON ELVING: I don’t
know that for a fact. But I would guess Biden
just because Biden had a line on a lot
of Obama people. Hillary had picked up a
lot of Obama’s people. In 2016. Was not necessarily well
served by some of them. But she certainly
thought they were the people who knew how
to reach voters in 2016. LEONARD STEINHORN: And
there’s one more point, is that some people
are concerned that some of those
longtime veterans don’t get the new media
ecosystem on Facebook and the need to do all of the
advertising to reach people. When you look at what
the Trump campaign is doing, under Brad Parscale,
they are flooding Facebook. They are beta testing
ads on a constant basis. They’re trying to figure
out whether certain language or certain background
colors are going to make a difference in terms
of how people respond to all of this, and they’re
pouring millions upon millions of
dollars into all of that, whereas some
of the legacy advisors are putting a lot of
their money right now, is Joe Biden’s campaign
is into TV advertising. Now, is that smart? It may be if he believes
that his demographic is 55 and older, and they’re
watching legacy TV, and potentially
watching enough ads to be able to be reached
by a particular ad they’re putting out. But the bottom line
is that if you’re not playing in all of these fields
and not playing effectively in all of these fields, then
you may well fall behind. And clearly, right
now, the Trump campaign has an advantage on that. JENNIFER VICTOR: That’s
an excellent point. Let me pose another question
to anybody on the panel who’d like to respond. I have the sense that the
impeachment inquiry going on Capitol Hill is having a
sort of homogenizing, coalescing effect amongst Democrats,
at least the elites that are currently elected. And I’m wondering how you think
the impeachment process changes primary politics. In a way, it’s weird
to me because they’re both similar processes. So with impeachment,
you’ve got this process of Democrats coming together to
a particular point of decision making, which is the same
kind of thing that’s going on in the primary process in
a very different venue, using very different strategies. But what I’m wondering
your thoughts on is how, as that
coalescing is going on Capitol Hill with
respect to impeachment, that might affect
primary politics. CANDICE NELSON: I
think it’s making it much harder for
democratic candidates to get their message
out, to get people to pay any attention to
the primaries at all, because impeachment is just
sucking all the air out of the room. And that’s going to continue. We talked about
the race freezing. Impeachment is going to be the
story, for the next few months at least. And that’s just going to
make it harder and harder for people to pay attention
to the Democratic candidates and their messages. JAMIL SCOTT: So from a
different perspective, I think that what is going to– what’s hard about the
impeachment, what’s going on with everything
around impeachment is that I don’t think the
average American understands what’s really happening. And so I think as we
talk about impeachment, and it’s very easy to
think this is all that’s going on because we’re in DC. And I’ll talk to my students. And they can give me a quick
answer about what’s happening. But I doubt the
average American would. And so we keep talking about
impeachment, impeachment. I think what will
be very pivotal as we move through the
primary, into the general, is if this is going
to be something that a general election
candidate is going to bring up as an attack. They actually have to make
sure that the general public understands what happened and
what’s the impact of this. So I don’t think it’s
very clear to everyone what this is all about. LEONARD STEINHORN: And I think
the voters multitask very well. And I think the voters
in those retail states are going out to all
of these town meetings, talking with the candidates,
speaking with the organizers that Candy was talking
about, figuring out who they would like best to
run against Donald Trump. And remember, most of those
voters in the Democratic Party who will be voting, already
don’t like Donald Trump. So it’s already built into
how they’re viewing the world. And they want to choose somebody
who can run against him. I do think– and you talk
about the general election– that the sort of continuing
drip of information about Trump and the alleged corruption
of his administration, and if the impeachment goes
public with these hearings and have somebody like
Ambassador Taylor, detailing on television,
the same way John Dean may have done 40
whatever, 45 years ago, I think that will
make a difference as independent voters evaluate
who the Democrats choose and start to think about
whether they want to keep Donald Trump in the White House. So it may well be that
they’re paying attention to both things at the same
time, and that the impeachment process may actually
have a greater result on the independent
voters, the people who are more in the middle, than the actual
Democrats going out and voting in the early states. JENNIFER VICTOR:
Excellent points. A number of you have
brought up– or maybe, I think, everybody has brought
up Iowa and New Hampshire, as the first contests. Whom do you think the sequential
voting system and the calendar advantages most? To anybody. RON ELVING: Well I’d
make a first observation that having a lot of
states drop their caucuses and go to a primary would
appear to have been done in part to disadvantage
Bernie Sanders, because Bernie Sanders picked up
a tremendous, tremendous bonus of delegates by concentrating on
caucuses in 2016, as, in fact, Barack Obama had done in 2008. It was a crucial
part of his campaign, that they went to the
Dakotas and Montana and Idaho and organized
caucuses where they could get a disproportionate
number of delegates by winning in the caucus. Now, that was something the
Hillary campaign essentially just neglected to do. They said, well,
we didn’t really think that those caucuses
were going to be worth much. And, in fact, they admitted at
one of the post-election forums that they really hadn’t
even read the rules about the
disproportionate delegate allocation out of the caucuses. So that hurt them
very badly in 2008. And a lot of the states
have looked around and said, who shows
up at the caucuses? It’s a handful,
relatively speaking, even smaller than the
universe of a primary, which is pretty select already. And those people
tend to be activists. They tend to be the
people who are producing 97% of the political Twitter. And they are going to be over
on one side of the spectrum, in all likelihood,
in either party. They’re going to be the
polarized of the polarized. And so they were,
at least in 2016, very friendly to Bernie Sanders. And so this has
been read as a sort of anti-Sanders,
anti-insurgent move being made by the parties
in the various states. And I think that would tend to
advantage a more establishment candidate if there were clearly
an establishment candidate. But right now, Joe Biden seems
to be in danger of sliding out of that designation. LEONARD STEINHORN:
The other thing I would look at in the polls is
the ranked choice in the polls. I wouldn’t look at who’s
leading in the polls, but who is second and third
among the people when they’re asked about all
this, because it’s the 15% threshold
in these states, and particularly
in Iowa, where you need that 15% to be able to
score delegates in the Iowa caucuses. So who are these candidates
looking at second and third? So when their top choice
may not reach a threshold, they may not seem
as viable, who is that second and third choice? So that’s what I’m going to
be looking out for because, ultimately, the way these
primaries and caucuses are structured is, you
have to reach a threshold to be able to get a certain
number of delegates. JENNIFER VICTOR: Just, I want
to put a couple of points together here that
I heard because one is, if we take Candy’s
point that it’s the Warren campaign that’s the best
organized, and Ron’s point that it’s really important
to pay attention to the rules and delegate allocation, then
that would suggest that perhaps the Warren campaign is most
advantaged in terms of the rule setup or at least in the best
position to take advantage of that. Agree or disagree? CANDICE NELSON: I think it’s
hard to know at this point. I mean, I think we’ll
see what happens in the next couple of months. But Sanders has run
before, Biden’s run before. They know what the rules
are, what they need to do. It’s the question
of, the second– Buttigieg, Harris– how are
they going to figure out how to play with these rules? JENNIFER VICTOR: Any other
thoughts on the calendaring? RON ELVING: Well, obviously,
California’s moved up. And that’s a huge cache. And that would seem to
advantage Kamala Harris. But on the other
hand, maybe it won’t, because California likes to
vote for somebody that they think is going to win. And if Kamala Harris
hasn’t broken out by then, hasn’t somehow broken
through and become one of the leading candidates,
one of the top several– and we used to say there were
three tickets out of Iowa, two tickets out of New Hampshire. And maybe with this larger
field and this much of a, what should we call it? A discombobulated political
landscape and environment, there will be more tickets
out of Iowa and New Hampshire. And maybe it’ll really be
South Carolina and Nevada that winnow the field,
particularly if South Carolina produces a comeback
for Joe Biden, as the Biden campaign
is clearly hoping. So we could see maybe half a
dozen candidates still viable by then. And then California
could actually be really important in sorting
out a big chunk of delegates. And maybe Kamala Harris
could base a comeback there. But my guess is,
we’re going to see a lot of traditional states
falling into the kind of roles they had before. Wisconsin, picking somebody like
Bernie, as they did in 2016, or George McGovern in 1972. JENNIFER VICTOR: [INAUDIBLE] RON ELVING: Yes, right,
and all the other people that they’ve gone for
who were more challengers to the establishment. JAMIL SCOTT: I think
as we move forward, I think it’ll be even more
important to think about who’s still sticking in the race. Because I think it has
implications for excitement about the general election. I think there were a
number of Bernie supporters who opted out in 2016
general election. And some of them were
even switchers, something that we wouldn’t predict. So what does it
mean that someone who was a Bernie
supporter in the primary then becomes a Trump voter
in the general election? And so as we go into
the general election with such a large
field of candidates, I think we have to be
cognizant about the impact that may have especially as these
candidates get people excited. Will they continue
to– will they help the chosen
candidate continue to keep people excited? Or will they completely opt out? I don’t know if at the Andrew
Yang supporters or the world will be a general election
supporter, the Democratic Party in 2016. They put me in the mind of,
perhaps, some switchers. And so we have to
think about what that means for the Democratic
Party and their ability to turn out voters. JENNIFER VICTOR: Now, I
think that’s a really, really key point. OK, I want to ask
one last question I won’t say down the line,
but of each candidate or of each panelist, rather. I just promoted you all. Or maybe it’s
demotion, I’m not sure. And put everybody
on the hot seat about their own prognostication. And then we’ll open
up to Q&A here. So, in the end, how
many people would you say have a real chance
at being the nominee? Who are they? What are their
respective odds, and why? RON ELVING: Could we
turn off the videotape? CANDICE NELSON: I’m
going to say five– Sanders, Warren, and Biden. I think Buttigieg
is interesting. I wouldn’t rule him out yet. And then one other. I don’t know that other is. But I think unless somebody,
other than Sanders, Biden, and Warren, really
take off, I think it’s going to be
one of those three. LEONARD STEINHORN: Who
has the biggest odds? I’m going to go for
the Nationals right now, winning the World Series. JENNIFER VICTOR:
Playing to the room. That’s it. LEONARD STEINHORN: There we go. But I always follow Yogi
Berra, speaking of baseball, when he said, “I never make
predictions, especially about the future.” It was 44 years ago this week
when The New York Times wrote their big article
basically saying, there’s somebody who is going to
surprise you in Iowa that year. And that happened
to be Jimmy Carter. When Jimmy Carter
announced his candidacy, his home state paper,
The Atlanta Constitution, had a big headline,
which was “Jimmy Who?” And all of a sudden,
he wins the presidency of the United States. So I agree that a lot’s going
to depend on the ground game. And a lot’s going to depend
on the media narrative of who captures that moment in
the imagination of people at the exact time when people
are solidifying their choices over the holidays, in
conversations with family and friends, when they have
a chance to talk and think about all of this stuff. And so that’s what I’m going to
be looking out for in the weeks ahead, is what is that meeting
and narrative telling me at that exact moment when people
begin to make those decisions? So right now, it’s easy to say
all of those front runners. But you never know if an Amy
Klobuchar or a Cory Booker, who happens to have
a decent ground game, may emerge at some point
because it could be Cory who, or Amy who, and all of a sudden
they could get the nomination. So I just don’t know. RON ELVING: And I think that’s
really the only honest answer. I like your list
very much, Candy. I’ll make this slight
amendment to it. I would say, probably the
three leaders go forward and have a real chance. Any one of them could
have a scenario. And then either
Harris or Booker. Now, if Kamala Harris
can’t break through, I do think there’s a lane
there for Cory Booker. I don’t know why he
has not done better. I think if there’s one
person who has surprised me by not having more appeal
more of an evident appeal, it would be Cory Booker. I think he’s done very
well in the debates. So one of those two, I
would make my fourth. And then whoever wins Iowa,
if it’s not one of the people I’ve already named– so if
either Klobuchar or Mayor Pete breaks through in
Iowa, then that person’s going to be around. JAMIL SCOTT: This is
a very hard question. So I think there
is certainly room to talk about Sanders,
Warren, and Biden. As far as Kamala
Harris and Cory Booker, I’m not sure if they have
as much as the chance as we might have assumed
before the Obama election. I think that there’s a lot
of conversation about them. And after Obama, I think there
are voters who are looking for, what can you actually
do, beyond this being in symbolic importance
to the black community, if we’re talking about
black voters in particular. Kamala Harris isn’t polling
well with black women, not as great as we might expect. She has some. But not as great
as we might expect. Cory Booker, I don’t think he’s
polling very well black women either. And so not to say that black
women are the only metric, but I think they’re
a metric that we have to be thinking about. They are strong voters. And there’s a lot of
interest in Biden and Warren. Some Sanders, too. So it’s a hard decision
to make about who’s going to be at the end. But I think those three
might have the best shot. There is some interest
in Julian Castro. But I think at this
point, Julian Castro isn’t playing to win. He’s playing to be heard. And I think at this point,
he has the best chance of having his policies be
pushed forward in any presidency because he’s bringing
up questions that people want to be talking about. So– CANDICE NELSON: And there’s
a CNN poll out today that has Biden up
considerably from where he was the last time. But what’s even more
interesting in the poll is 42% of African
Americans favor Biden. For Warren and Sanders,
it’s 13% and 16%. So Biden is holding
on to that vote. JENNIFER VICTOR: All right, I’m
going to go ahead and open it up to the floor. And if I could ask for
a little bit of help with running the microphone,
that would be great. We’ve got a question from
the red-shirted gentleman in the back. AUDIENCE: There
are so many things that I can think
of for questions. But I have two major questions. One is for the panels
thinking about the health of the candidates
and how that may affect what you have learned. The Democratic candidates,
particularly Mr. Sanders and Vice President Biden, and
also the Republican candidate, how is the health of the
candidates being viewed? The second question
I have is, the role of environmental
issues in galvanizing the populace, particularly
the young voters, to get to the polls,
because I believe Ms. Scott, I think you used the
term turnout game. And so I would particularly like
to know about the environment, which seems to be it should
be a concern of all of ours, but particularly
a young person’s. So the issue– so the
health of the candidates and the role of the
environment in the candidates. What is your point of view
as to how this is affecting the candidates at this point? CANDICE NELSON: Well, I think
the health of the candidates is going to be in
how they perform. Senator Sanders
had a heart attack. But he came back in
the debate and he looked robust and engaged. I don’t know if people
would say, well, because he’s 78, or
Biden’s, what, 76, that they’re too
old to be president. I don’t think
that’ll be the case. I think people will
judge them on how they perform on the campaign trail. In terms of the
environment, I think that’s going to be a huge issue
in turning out young people. I mean, climate change
is something that’s really, really important. All of us see that
with our students. And so the candidate that
can speak to that issue, to that demographic, is
going to have the best option of turning them out. LEONARD STEINHORN:
I generally agree. I think the fact that
Bernie Sanders has come back to the campaign trail
sprinting, that he’s energized, that he’s going to go out there
and prove that this was just a temporary health
blip, I don’t think his people will criticize
him because of that, because they also don’t want
to alienate older voters and suggest that older voters
themselves don’t have agency. In some ways, that may
actually help Joe Biden if he continues to show the
revived vigor on the campaign trail. And what’s interesting
is, when you look at some of those
second choice voters, Biden does well with people
who support Sanders first. And Biden is often second
or third in that group, because they tend to be older
folks who are supporting each of those candidates, even
though Bernie certainly has his younger cohort. I also agree that it’s turnout. But I always caution
people on turnout. And while I think
young people have to turn out in large
numbers, I look at what may be the most critical
state in November of 2020, and that’s Wisconsin. And I look at the
demographics of Wisconsin and realize that most
counties in Wisconsin have lost population of people,
I think it’s 25 and younger. And their population is getting
older among those voters. So, yes, you need those young
people to be turning out, to be mobilized,
but if they turn out in Los Angeles and
New York and Chicago, that may not ultimately
affect the end result of the electoral
college come November of 2020. But the bottom line is, you have
to excite the progressive base. And certainly,
the sustainability in the environment is
one of the key issues in that overall fabric. RON ELVING: Well, on health,
I would say, first of all, hats off to Bernie
Sanders’ surgery team. That had to be one of
the most successful heart operations in the history
of presidential politics for somebody who
is still running. You could certainly say
he got his stents’ worth. But at any rate– and more than that, I mean,
that was the best debate performance he’s had in years. And it was almost
as though he had been hugely energized
by the health issue and by the surgery. And it was as though
somehow he had been operating on fewer than all
cylinders up until that point. Suddenly, we got the real
Bernie again, full Bernie. And so I don’t think it’s an
issue for him as a candidate. However, whether you’re
talking about him or Joe Biden, the idea of a president
turning 80 in his first term, and in the case
of Bernie Sanders, in his first year in the
White House, that concerns me. That concerns me,
as a person who has come to feel differently
about all the age issues in recent years. I think that that’s
something to bear in mind. This is a job
that, I think, we’d like to see somebody doing
on a full-time basis, seven days a week, and being really up
to it, physically and mentally. And here’s one more thing. If you were to elect
president in our era, you’re not hiring
somebody for four years. You’re hiring somebody
for two terms. You want a
re-electable president so that you can get the
incumbency advantage that’s so strong in our
political history. You don’t want somebody
who is just signing off after four or fewer. So that’s a factor. You want somebody with longevity
as a hiree in this case. And as far as the environment,
I completely agree. This is one of those places
the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party
if it should so choose, must lay claim to
the youth vote. And by youth vote,
I mean everyone who wants to be around
for a few more years in a livable environment. But it’s certainly
anybody under 30. JAMIL SCOTT: So, in
regards to health, we talked about
the media earlier, and I think the media does have
an important role in priming. So before the debate, there was
a lot of conversation about, oh, Bernie hasn’t told us
about his health records. What’s happening there? There hasn’t been
much talk about that. It’s been more about
his debate performance. And so, given that the media
does have this priming ability, I don’t think it’s going to
be much of a conversation. I don’t think the conversation
has recently been about Bernie, we would like to see the
note from your doctor to say you’re OK. But I think that could
be a conversation if the media pushes it. I doubt they will. I think that people
are going to focus more on his debate performance and
push for what happens next. If he gets sick again and
that becomes a conversation, then I think we will
see more talk about it and more concern
about it, and that be primed in people’s
heads to think about. In regards to the issue
of the environment, I think that this is an
issue that young people are interested in and do
want to hear more about. I think in order for this to
become a conversation that is not just focused on one
demographic of young people, we have to think about the
nuances of the environment conversation. So we can talk about
climate change, and yes, that’s very
important, but we should also be talking about living
in a neighborhood where they’re dumping. If you’re in a space in which
you live by a chemical plant, those are conversations
that people can get behind and think about. And so it isn’t just about
climate change, which is extremely
important, yes, but I think we need to bring it
home to people about how much climate change is affecting
them in their daily lives. JENNIFER VICTOR: I’ll
add to that point. In thinking about young voters,
I saw the statistics just the other day that if you
compare midterm turnout in 2014 to midterm turnout in 2018,
particularly in that younger demographic, from 18
to 25-year-old voters, the difference is 80% higher. So they still don’t– we’re still talking about
30% turnout or something like that in that age group,
but they were significantly more motivated to vote in 2018
than they were in 2014. And if we see that
same swing in 2020, then those are
turnout changes that can make a real difference. Another question from
the audience, over here. EMILY: Hi, I’m Emily. I’m a senior in SPA. And a lot of my study
is focused on how media can influence voter turnout. So a lot of Americans
will consume their news through forms of soft news,
such as late night TV shows, social media, things like that. And I think that that can
play into the authenticity factor you were talking about,
in terms of giving candidates a space to quote, unquote,
“be more themselves,” or be a little more not
as presented as they would be another spaces. So what kind of
role do you think those sorts of appearances are
going to play on this election, in terms of specifically
going on late night talk shows or doing these social media
interviews that are distributed so widely, especially
on Twitter or Snapchat, things that younger
people are focusing on? LEONARD STEINHORN: I think
the Elizabeth Warren selfie phenomenon is a big deal. And what that shows is that
she understands that saying she has a plan for this is
necessary for her candidacy, but not sufficient
to seal the deal. And look, it’s a
personal decision that people make when
they vote for a president. This is something that
they are going to then have a conversation
about why they voted for a particular person. It’s what we do in all of life. When students choose to
come to American University, they tell a story
about why they chose to come to American University. When people say who they
want to vote for president, they tell a story about that. So I think what’s really
happening now is the candidates who are best able to tell
that story publicly– and those venues you’re talking
about are a big part of it– you have to give people a story
to tell about why they chose somebody to become president. Donald Trump gave people that
story, OK, in a lot of ways, in 2016. And he continues to give people
that story as the disrupter president who’s
battling the status quo. And I think somebody who
mentioned Andrew Yang, are those voters going to stay
with the Democratic Party? Are they attracted
to a disrupter? And will, all of a sudden,
that translate to Donald Trump if Andrew Yang doesn’t do
better in these primaries? So, basically, what
you’re talking about is, who is best going to capture
the ability to tell the story that people need to tell
themselves and their friends as to why they are supporting
a particular candidate. And I do think that’s
a really big deal. And it goes all the way back
to when John Kennedy appeared on Edward R. Murrow In
Person to Person in the 1950s and talked about his marriage. And he played that
story very well up through the 1960 election. The candidates who have
played the story well– Bill Clinton, Barack
Obama, Donald Trump– have done probably the
best job getting elected. RON ELVING: Yes, and used
whatever the cutting edge technology of that moment was. Television for Kennedy,
Arsenio Hall’s late night show for Bill Clinton
on the saxophone, and then, of course, Obama being
the first really successful making friends candidate
on Facebook and so on. And then Donald Trump,
with that enormous array of things that were both
intentional and perhaps entirely, let us
just say, accidental, that were done on
his behalf by others. What’s the
breakthrough for 2020? What’s the new technology? What is it? What is the way that you’re
going to reach people that no one’s ever done
it quite the same way before, based on some new
technological breakthrough? And if you have that
answer, I’d really like to speak to you immediately
after we end the program. JENNIFER VICTOR: One more quick
question from the audience. Let’s go to the other
side of the room. Then we will have
hit all corners here. AUDIENCE: Thank you. I actually have a statement
as well as a question. So I’ve been listening to the
panel and their responses. One of the things that I would
like to hear from the panel– we had a conversation about
their presidential picks. But what about, we’ve made it
through the actual primary, we’re now going to
the general election– where do you see
and who do you see would be the best match-up,
in regards to president and VP pick, to be able to take
on the Trump administration in re-election? One of the things that I’ve seen
from history is, in my opinion, I think that the VP
pick, it matters. It really does matter. We saw that in Obama and Biden. One of the things I think
that American voters liked about Obama is he was relatable. He had the ability to be able
to speak directly to them. Some of his stories, some of
his history, his upbringing. But the folks that he missed, in
his particular cultural bucket, he picked up those voters
through Joe Biden– the middle of America
voters, et cetera. We also saw that work in
tandem the opposite way with McCain and Palin. So when we’re looking at
opportunities to say, look, if these two people
were to team up, I think that they would have the
best shot at defeating Donald Trump in the general,
who would your choice be for the presidential and
vice presidential match-up? CANDICE NELSON: Well, what we
know from political science is, typically, the presidential
candidate will try and pick somebody as his or her VP that
brings something in addition to the ticket, be it age,
demographics, experience, with Obama and Biden. So if I’m right, and it’s
any of those top three, that would suggest that
whoever their pick is, if it’s Biden or
Sanders, they would pick, one, somebody younger, and
perhaps somebody of color. If it’s Warren, again,
somebody younger, and perhaps somebody of color as well. So, I mean, history shows us
that that’s how it plays out. Who exactly those will be– you know. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] CANDICE NELSON: I mean, again, I
think Buttigieg is interesting. LEONARD STEINHORN: I think one
of the most consequential vice presidential picks for the
reasons you’re suggesting, was Donald Trump’s vice
president, Mike Pence. He was a guy who sewed a
lot of doubts, Donald Trump among evangelicals. And it was Mike Pence who
basically sort of said, no, you can trust this guy
and turn out in large numbers. And it turns out that Trump’s
biggest base right now is among older,
evangelical voters. And that’s why he
would never get rid of Mike Pence on that ticket. He needed Mike Pence,
and he needs Mike Pence. If it were me, and
I were advising, let’s say, Elizabeth
Warren or Joe Biden, I would say,
absolutely, slam dunk, choose Stacey Abrams as your
vice presidential candidate. JAMIL SCOTT: I would
agree with that. I think Stacey Abrams, of any
campaign that we can think of, did an amazing job of
mobilizing people and getting people registered to vote. And if we think
about 2020 as being the importance of a ground game
and getting people to turn out, Stacey Abrams did that. And she came closer than a
lot of us thought she would. I didn’t think it would
be as close as it was. And so the fact that she
was able to get people not only registered, but
interested in turning out, in a campaign–
in a race, rather, in a race that was
certainly not in her favor, she came a lot closer than
she probably should have. RON ELVING: There was
actually even a boomlet earlier this year for
having Joe Biden literally say, my vice presidential
choice will be Stacey Abrams. That’s not to anyone’s
advantage to do too early. But this would
certainly be a way that she could pursue her
acknowledged– acknowledged right here, in Bender– when
she gave the School of Public Affairs commencement
address earlier this year, her acknowledged interest
in being president, but her clear preference not to
run this year as a candidate. This would work
very well for her. There’s one caveat, and that is
that you, generally speaking, don’t want to be
outshone by your vice presidential candidate. And at least in
terms of charisma and in terms of big
auditoria and so forth, Stacey Abrams would threaten to
do that to much of this field. So it largely depends
on who the person is. I also think Amy Klobuchar
has some potential for balancing a ticket. And Mayor Pete is
fascinating as a person who would not outshine you,
but would clearly be there to provide a lot of firepower
intellectually, and perhaps, appeal, if you’re talking
about a candidate of color is at the top of the
ticket and so forth, to provide a little
balance in that sense. One thing is clear, in the
Democratic Party, the age of two white males is over– not coming back. [APPLAUSE] JENNIFER VICTOR:
And on that note, I think we’ve hit right
up here on our time mark. So I want to thank all of
you for your participation and your attention and
your excellent questions and your engagement. Thank you very much. JAMIL SCOTT: That
was me, I’m sorry. [APPLAUSE] CANDICE NELSON: Yep. That’s the right answer.

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  1. "Of the candidates approved by, and not undermined and blocked by the DNC, establishment Democrats who are unduly enfluenced by the corruption of big donations…

    get real

  2. Public option is good.. Moron says , same Moron says Clinton is authentic.

    Moron doesn't know Private companies are lobbying for public opinion for dumping unhealthy people and keeping rich and paying customers

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