Hurricane Dorian’s dangerous politics – CNNPolitics

5. Why the Iowa caucus decision matters: The Democratic National Committee’s rejection of Iowa’s plan to hold so-called “virtual caucuses” via phone — and then to extend Iowa a waiver that will allow the state to avoid the mandate to have some form of absentee voting program — will have real consequences on the 2020 candidates’ strategies in the state between now and February 3, 2020.
Campaigns have been operating for months under the assumption that there would be a virtual option for those who, for whatever reason, were unable to make it to the caucuses in person. (Much more on caucuses vs. primaries here.) Now those plans are useless. Any hope of broadening participation in the caucuses beyond what it has historically been looks unlikely now.

What does that mean for the candidates? That the key to winning Iowa will be commitment and passion from supporters. You will need dedicated voters to show up on caucus night, caucus for you and cajole others to do the same. The universe of voters who can do that will be similar to years past.

That should help candidates, like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with huge Iowa staffs capable of identifying supporters in these next months and ensuring that they turn out. It will, without doubt, make it harder for the less well-funded candidates to surprise in the state.  

“The DNC has disallowed plans to increase participation in the first-in-the-nation caucus state,” said Julián Castro, one of those candidates, in a tweet. “I strongly urge the DNC to embrace our party’s values and allow absentee voting, either through a virtual caucus, mail-in, or early voting process.”

4. Beto’s blunt talk on guns: With a(nother) mass shooting in Texas over the weekend, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is using crass language not usually associated with presidential candidates not named Donald Trump to describe his feelings about the problem of gun violence in this country.

“Thoughts and prayers have done nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence,” tweeted O’Rourke Sunday in response to the murders of eight people by a shooter in West Texas, with a link to his appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Yes, this is (f***ed) up; and if we don’t call it out for what it is, we will continue to have this bloodshed in America.”
O’Rourke responded in similarly blunt terms to the murders of 21 people in his hometown of El Paso last month.

While O’Rourke’s visceral responses seem to be born of genuine frustration with the implacability of gun violence in the United States, there is also political calculation here. O’Rourke has struggled mightily to distinguish himself in the 2020 race after entering to much fanfare after a near-miss 2018 challenge to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. He clearly hopes that channeling the rage created by these mass shootings may be a way to gain a foothold in a race where he has simply never been able to find one.

3. Joe Biden’s staying power: The former vice president hasn’t exactly been showered with positive press since he entered the race in the fall. The dominant storylines on Biden have focused on his age, his gaffes and his unwillingness to kowtow to the party’s liberal wing. Biden hasn’t done himself any favors with two very uneven performances in the first two national debates.

And yet, on the eve of this Labor Day — the traditional kickoff of the serious campaigning to be president (see next item down) — the former veep’s numbers (and lead) remain remarkably steady.

According to the Real Clear Politics average of all polling conducted in the 2020 contest, Biden sits at 29% and a double-digit lead over his next closest competitor — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. And that polling average includes a recent Monmouth University poll that showed Biden in a statistical dead heat with Sanders and Warren, a result the Monmouth pollster has described as an “outlier.”

None of this is to say Biden can’t be beaten. He absolutely can. But, there is a strength in his support over the past few months that suggests that Biden’s current edge is built on more than just name ID. (That’s especially true in the black community.) These last few months have proven — at least to me — that Biden isn’t going to suddenly falter or disappear in this race. He’s going to be there right at the end — whether he wins or not.

2. The 2020 Democratic race is (finally) getting serious: There are now only 10 people (and, to be honest, fewer than that) who can win the Democratic presidential nomination. The 10 are those who qualified for the third presidential debate on September 12 in Houston. 

The 10 candidates still running who missed the debate will argue with this contention. They will say that the Democratic National Committee’s debate qualifications rules are too random, too high. That they can live off the land until the October debate, when they will make the stage. 

Two words: Wishful thinking. If you didn’t make this debate stage, you ain’t going to be the nominee. You can keep running. You might even stay in the race long enough to see one of the issues you care most about stand front-and-center in the national conversation. But not making the September debate means your money will dry up. Your staff will begin looking at other campaigns longingly. Crowds will dwindle. Your bid will be over in all but name.

The only possible exception to this rule is self-funder Tom Steyer, who can keep writing personal checks and keep himself in the race for as long as he wants. But even for Steyer, this question has to be answered: If you can’t get 2% support in four national or early state polls (which was needed to qualify for the September debate) then how can you justify continuing to run?

1. Dorian’s political dangers: Let me say this off the bat: The possible loss of life and property are the biggest issues when it comes to the massive Category 5 hurricane advancing toward the southeastern coast of the United States. By a lot.

But as with any major natural disaster that the country is watching closely, there will be (or at least could be) political ramifications from Dorian — and the way in which President Trump and the affected states handled it.

History is riddled with politicians who watched their careers disappear — or be badly damaged — by botched reactions to major natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina effectively ended Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s career and was the spark that drove President George W. Bush’s approval numbers into the 30s — from which he never really recovered. DC mayor Marion Barry’s decision to remain at the Super Bowl in California while the District got hit by more than two feet of snow is the stuff of legends (and not the good kind). Ditto John Lindsay’s reaction as mayor of New York City to a blizzard in 1969. 
Trump, never much a student of history, appears to know this stuff. He canceled a planned trip to Poland over the weekend to monitor the storm and the planned state and federal reaction when it makes landfall sometime early this week. His public statements have been decidedly Trumpian — “It really began to form and form big,” he said last Friday of the storm — but they have been frequent. (Trump took a break from tweeting hurricane updates on Sunday to attack actress Debra Messing and tout the ratings of “The Apprentice.”)

One thing to watch: Empathy has never been Trump’s strong suit. Can he do any better knowing the eyes of the country are on him?

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