It takes a fool to make predictions about 2020. We are at the edge of the political map. Nobody knows what comes next. Nothing in our history has prepared us for this moment.
But it seems safe to say Kamala Harris isn’t heading to the White House any time soon.
Her plunging polls look permanent. It’s painful to watch: a California senator trailing candidates from Delaware, Massachusetts and Vermont in her home state. The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll shows her falling to 8 percent.
Her defenders say, “don’t count her out,” but it’s wearing thin. Harris’ candidacy now depends on whether she can pull out a top-three finish in Iowa – something she apparently can’t do in California.
Chances of an Iowa miracle seem slim. “Kamala Harris shakes up flailing campaign,” blared a Politico headline about her latest attempt to reset.
Deck chairs, Titanic. Maybe. After all, this is 2020. Anything is possible.
Until recently, Joe Biden was cruising to victory in the Democratic primary. Polls showed him beating President Donald Trump “like a drum” in crucial swing states.
Biden’s rising momentum terrified Trump so much that the president asked foreign leaders to investigate the former vice president and his family. He also allegedly withheld millions in foreign aid in an attempt to pressure Ukraine’s president to comply with his request.
These presidential misdeeds finally forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry. This thrills Democratic activists, but it may also take down the Democrats’ most popular candidate.
Just as Trump branded Hillary Clinton as “crooked” in 2016, he’s trying to hang the “corrupt” label on Biden. It could work. After all, it’s hard to talk about impeachment without discussing why a Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma, paid Biden’s son big money to join its board of directors.
The arrangement didn’t break any laws. This kind of soft corruption in politics – connected people landing cushy gigs – is legal, even normal. But is it moral?
It’s a question Joe Biden must confront. His poll numbers have already dropped even though Trump’s false charges against him have been widely debunked.
That’s excellent news for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She was already challenging Biden’s dominance before the Ukraine scandal hit. Now she leads him in national polls. She’s also dusting Harris by 15 points in California.
No one excites party activists like Warren. She has a plan for everything. She brings the boldness Biden sorely lacks and exudes the authenticity Harris can’t seem to locate on a map. Bernie Sanders, her chief progressive rival, just got sidelined with heart problems. It’s an unfortunate development, but it clears Warren’s path to own the activist lane.
Warren’s fans can celebrate her new status as the Democratic frontrunner, but so can Trump. He seems to view her as a perfect foil.
As I wrote in February, I think Warren is the smartest candidate in the race, but she’s seriously flawed as a candidate. She spent 40 years masquerading as Native American – a cringe-worthy fact Trump has ruthlessly exploited. He goaded her into stupidly taking a DNA test, proving that she’s “the original Rachel Dolezal,” to quote radio host Charlamagne Tha God.
Warren’s race controversy undermines her authenticity. She has apologized profusely, but this is the kind of thing a ruthless political opponent can use to attack your character and credibility. Trump – whose base only grows more energized and entrenched with each new scandal he creates – would undoubtedly make Warren’s ancestral fudge a central campaign issue.
If she’s the Democratic nominee, who will swing state voters choose to forgive? A man who lies every time he speaks, or a woman who repeated one big lie for decades?
Please forgive my lack of optimism.
Of course, this is 2020. I could be wrong. I certainly hope so.