The 5 BIG 2020 storylines to watch this week

Here’s a look at the 5 big story lines to watch in the 2020 campaign this week.

1. What does Week 2 of Beto look like?

There’s no candidate about whom there is more interest — and hot takes — than O’Rourke. The first few days of his candidacy were VERY uneven — he drew tons of media attention and crowds but also made some dumb statements (about his marriage and family, about how he was “born” to run for president) that suggest both a lack of discipline and a maybe-not-totally-ready-for-primetime-ness. (His supporters will, of course, write off these early hiccups to his authenticity; his opponents will be less charitable.)

O’Rourke will be very busy this week — with stops in Wisconsin (Sunday), Michigan (Monday), Ohio (Monday), Pennsylvania (Tuesday), New Hampshire and, this coming weekend, South Carolina.

Judging from his performance in the first few days of his 2020 candidacy, Beto can use the reps he will get with that busy schedule. But, it also speaks to one of his advantages in this field: He doesn’t have a day job, so he can campaign full time, all the time.

2. Does Biden’s bonhomie sell?

The debate over whether the former veep is running or not is over. He is — and all indications suggest he’ll make it official next month. The real question is whether the decision Biden has clearly made — to run as a sort of throwback to a time when politics were less nasty — will actually work.

“We don’t treat the opposition as the enemy,” he said at a speech in Delaware on Saturday night. “We might even say a nice word every once in a while about a Republican when they do something good.”
That’s not the prevailing view of the Democratic base, which loathes President Donald Trump and the GOP who has lined up behind him. And, Biden has already been bitten once by this approach; his kind-of praise of Vice President Mike Pence made liberals crazy and Biden quickly had to issue an apology/explanation.

Does Biden stay the course with his not-all-Republicans-are-bad approach? And how do his soon-to-be opponents react?

3. Stacey Abrams for president???

Everyone had assumed that Abrams, the former Georgia state legislator who very nearly became the first black female governor in the country last November, was being heavily recruited to run against Sen. David Perdue (R) in 2020.

But it turns out that Abrams might have another race on her mind. Abrams told the Washington Post over the weekend that if she decides not to run for Senate — a decision expected next month — then she will turn her attention to whether or not to run for president. And, if she runs for the nation’s top office, she suggested to the Post that she will put voter rights at the center of her campaign.

“To win in 2020, a Democrat has to talk relentlessly about voter suppression because when Republicans talk about vote fraud they are telling a lie, and they’re repeating that lie so much that it sounds like the truth,” Abrams said.

The truth is that if Beto can lose a Senate race and run for president, there’s no reason Abrams can’t lose a governor’s race and do the same. And as a young — she’s 45 — black woman with a national following, she could cut a very interesting figure in the contest.

4. Gillibrand’s officially in. Now what?

Count me among the people that forgot that the New York Senator wasn’t already officially running for president. But, she actually only had an exploratory committee — until Sunday that is when, with a video entitled “Brave wins” that paints her as someone willing to stand up for what’s right, Gillibrand made it official.

To date, her candidacy — or, I guess, her exploratory phase — has been something of a disappointment. It’s been far from clear how Gillibrand, who took Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate, is planning to distinguish herself. She’s not the most charismatic candidate in the field. Or the best known. Or the most liberal — or moderate.

And, she spent the past week fending off allegations that her public persona on the #MeToo movement didn’t match her private rhetoric as it relates to her own Senate office.

It’s still early, but Gillibrand needs to find a way to build some momentum. And soon.

5. Mayor Pete has momentum

Most Democratic voters still don’t know who Pete Buttigieg is — or how to pronounce his name. But, there’s some buzz building around the South Bend mayor.
Consider: a) Buttigieg’s performance at the CNN town hall a week ago drew strong reviews b) he hit the 65,000-donor threshold to qualify for the first presidential debate in June and c) he went viral thanks to speaking Norwegian.

Buttigieg is the youngest candidate in the field, one of the most charismatic and, most importantly, one of the few politicians running for president who talks like a regular-ish person. He also has zero expectations hovering over him, meaning he can play fast and loose in a way that many of he candidates above him can’t.

He’s starting to look like the dark horse — or a dark horse — in the field.

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