Presidential aspirants test waters on health care, environmental policy; ‘bring on the tension’
Looming over the intraparty debate is the question of how best to beat Mr. Trump. Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, an ally of Mr. Biden and several governors considering entering the race, said “the only way that Trump can win is if the nominee is too far to the left.” Asked his definition of “too far left,” Mr. Markell said it is “the giving-everything-away-for-free lane.”
The contest already is being framed by ideas to the left of those that Hillary Clinton campaigned on in 2016. The biggest names of the party’s opposition to Mr. Trump—Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—all support a single-payer health care system, free college at public universities and the Green New Deal.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar represent a continuation of the politics that elected Mr. Obama. Both have spoken of the need to either restore the former president’s policies dismantled by Mr. Trump or build upon them.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mr. O’Rourke are staking out space between the party’s two poles.
Ten of the 16 announced candidates have endorsed Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal, and six back his proposal for free public university tuition. Six co-sponsored legislation to provide federal paid family leave, and eight support the Green New Deal.
Some Democrats are endorsing multiple solutions without ruling out any. Several candidates who support Medicare for All also are calling for incremental health-care improvements. Ms. Warren also has called for a public option to buy into Medicare, and for simply improving the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Booker, who has said he would work with Republicans when possible, has proposed a “baby bond” program in which the government would create savings accounts which would provide $1,000 at birth, and up to $2,000 annually, to every child in the U.S.
.. Enough hard feelings remain from that fight that one of the biggest applause lines for Mr. Booker on a recent swing through the state was his pledge not to attack fellow Democrats.
.. “The Democratic platform already leans progressive. Our candidate doesn’t necessarily have to blow that horn,” said Marjie Foster, the Decatur County Democratic chairwoman. “We need to allow the American people to catch up with the progressive mind-set. If we try to push too hard, we will lose those who are slowly working their way left.”
.. “The litmus test is we need a candidate who can build a coalition to win,” said Mr. Scholten, who is considering a Senate bid in 2020. “If Klobuchar can do it with her message, that’s great. If Bernie can do it with his message, that’s great too. I think it could be someone from either side.”
.. the complicated balance Mr. Biden has attempted since leaving the vice presidency two years ago: between earning substantial wealth for the first time and maintaining viability as a potential 2020 presidential contender.
He has done so while building a network of nonprofits and academic centers that are staffed by his closest strategists and advisers, many making six figures while working on the issues most closely identified with him. It has effectively become a campaign-in-waiting, poised to metamorphose if the 76-year-old Mr. Biden announces his third bid for the presidency.
.. So long as a campaign remains possible, Mr. Biden has appeared mindful of the political backlash against the last Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, for earning millions by speaking to private interests in the run-up to 2016, and for her family foundation’s acceptance of huge sums from corporate and foreign donors.
He has imposed telling restrictions on his moneymaking and fund-raising activities: Mr. Biden does not speak for pay to corporate, advocacy or foreign groups and does not consult or sit on boards, said Bill Russo, his spokesman. His nonprofits do not accept contributions from abroad, and the Biden Cancer Initiative does not take money from drug companies, he said.
Yet Mr. Biden, whose blue-collar roots have been central to his political persona through six terms in the Senate and two as vice president, has accumulated millions of dollars through a lucrative book deal and selective paid speaking... Mr. Biden declined through his spokesman to be interviewed about his post-vice-presidency. But several people close to him emphasized that he had built his mini-empire not to prepare for 2020 but to make a continuing contribution on matters of longstanding concern.
“They planned a lot of this under the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States,” said Sarah Bianchi, a former Biden policy aide who is now a paid senior adviser to the institute.
.. Mr. Biden has long been self-deprecating about his relative lack of wealth, compared with some politicians. He and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, left office with assets worth between $277,000 and $955,000 (not including their house near Wilmington, Del.), as well as a mortgage of $500,000 to $1 million and other smaller loans
.. they have very likely earned more in the two years since leaving office than in the prior two decades, thanks largely to a three-book deal with Flatiron Books reported to be worth $8 million
.. Two months after the contract was announced, they bought a six-bedroom vacation house in Rehoboth Beach, Del. — off the water — for $2.7 million. No mortgage was recorded.
.. Mr. Biden, who earned $230,700 a year as vice president, receives a hefty federal pension after 44 years of public service. The couple also receive about $66,000 a year in Social Security benefits and in other pension benefits paid to Dr. Biden
.. At the Biden Institute at Mr. Biden’s alma mater, the focus is on domestic issues including strengthening the middle class, gay and civil rights, and violence against women.
.. Administrators at both universities declined to provide budgets or salaries. Their presidents called Mr. Biden’s contributions invaluable, particularly in luring dignitaries to their campuses. “Among our strategic priorities is bringing Penn to the world and the world to Penn, and who better to do that?
When asked recently who Republicans should fear most in the 2020 presidential campaign, two prominent GOP figures, both women speaking independently of each other, gave the same response: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
A third Republican, a male, asked which kind of candidate Democrats should want, replied: “They need a boring white guy from the Midwest.”
So, there you have it: The dream ticket of Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Case closed, cancel the primaries, on to the general election.
So if all that creates an opportunity for Democrats in 2020, here’s their dilemma: Can they pick a candidate who can blend the party’s conflicting impulses?
This may seem a long ways off, but the reality is that most Democrats thinking of running for president—and the number probably runs into the 20s—plan to make their decision over the next several weeks, so they can move out starting in early 2019.
.. The winning lottery ticket, of course, goes to somebody who can appeal to both. And that’s why Ms. Klobuchar’s name—and profile—attract attention. She’s a woman, obviously, which is important at a time when newly energized women are a growing force within the party. She pleased her party base in the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh when she challenged him about his use of alcohol, but did so in a sufficiently calm and understated manner that she won an apology from Mr. Kavanaugh after he initially responded angrily.
.. She also won re-election this year with more than 60% of the vote in the one state Trump forces lost in 2016 but think they have a legitimate chance to flip their way in 2020.
.. The question is whether she or anyone can put together a policy agenda that pleases both party liberals, who are pushing for
- a Medicare-for-all health system,
- the demise of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement system and an
- aggressive new climate-change action plan, and more moderate Midwestern voters, who may be scared off by all of those things.
Ms. Klobuchar’s policy priorities may suggest a path. To address health care, the top priority of Democratic voters, she advocates a step-by-step approach, one that seeks to
- drive down prescription drug costs by opening the door to less-expensive drugs from Canada,
- protect and improve the Affordable Care Act, and
- expand health coverage by considering such steps as allowing more Americans to buy into the Medicare system.
.. She’s talked of a push to improve American infrastructure that would include expanding rural Americans’ access to broadband service, paying for it by rolling back some—though not all—of the tax cuts Republicans passed last year. She pushes for more vigorous antitrust enforcement, more protections for privacy and steps to curb undisclosed money in politics
.. For his part, Sen. Brown, a liberal who this year won Ohio as it otherwise drifts Republican, offers a working-class-friendly agenda that combines progressive impulses for government activism to drive up wages with Trumpian skepticism about trade deals and corporate outsourcing.
Democratic leaders in Iowa, the starting line for the party’s wide-open 2020 presidential contest, are hungry for a young standard-bearer who will usher in generational change, which is erecting a potential roadblock for the three best-known prospective contenders for the nomination.
.. Of the 76 Democratic county party leaders who responded to the survey, 43 said they would prefer a young candidate. They said they want a fresh face and expressed interest in potential candidates who haven’t run for president before. They yearn for a nominee with the energizing charisma of President Barack Obama to counter President Donald Trump’s rowdy base. Most said gender wouldn’t be a determining factor.
.. Those are hurdles that could trip up three of the best-known potential candidates, former Vice President
- Joe Biden, and Sens.
- Bernie Sanders of Vermont and
- Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts,
each of whom will be at least 70 years old when Iowa Democrats caucus in February 2020.
“They’re all too old,” said Chris Henning, the 71-year-old Democratic chairwoman in Greene County. “It’s not white bread America any more, we’ve got to get with the program.”.. “We have to look for the Barack Obama scenario for the party,” said Bryce Smith, the 26-year-old Democratic chairman in Dallas County, a booming Des Moines suburb that is the fifth-fastest growing county in the nation, with a 32% population increase from 2010 to 2017. “I can’t see how my generation, 18- to 34-year-olds, can get excited about a 70-year-old candidate ever again.”.. He said he is intrigued by Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz. “Beto, he sounds and talks like he’d be Barack Kennedy,” Mr. Smith said, suggesting that Mr. O’Rourke had charisma akin to Mr. Obama or the Kennedys... New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.. When Ms. Harris, 54 years old, appeared recently in Cedar Rapids, “I got calls from people in counties 100 miles away” hoping to attend.. The clamor for a generational change may take its harshest toll on the 77-year-old Mr. Sanders if he decides to run again...Ms. Warren, who will turn 70 in June, declined to run for president in 2016 despite a high-profile effort to draft her into the race. The delay may wind up hurting her chances in 2020... Some said they might make an exception for Mr. Biden, a 76-year-old who was still in demand as a campaign surrogate during this year’s midterms. One person defined “young” as “less than mid-70s.”