February 1, 2019


How Kamala Harris Won the Rollout Primary: And Kirsten Gillibrand lost it. (BILL SCHER January 31, 2019, Politico)

[B]ecause of early voting and changes to the still-unsettled primary calendar, candidates can't just camp out on the cheap in bucolic Iowa throughout 2019, shaking the most hands and hoping for a late break. Well before the first Iowa caucus-goer stands in a high school gymnasium corner, candidates will need enough coin to bankroll an ad campaign in megastates like California and Texas. A campaign that cannot get sufficient media attention is likely to dry up and close down before we even get to 2020.

That's why the presidential campaign rollout matters more than ever. Without a good first impression, candidates may fail to achieve liftoff.

So who's winning the 2020 rollout primary so far, and who is in danger? And what should the candidates who have yet to announce learn from the early jumpers? First, it helps to start with a big crowd. If you can't assemble a big crowd right away, then you better have a big idea. If you are getting criticized, whether it's from the left or the right, treat it as an opportunity to stand your ground, and show your strength.

The Champ: Kamala Harris

Harris didn't have just a great rollout day, but a great rollout week. She made her announcement to the viewers of ABC's "Good Morning America" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and made clear the link to civil rights history was no coincidence.

The following Wednesday, after finishing an interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," the host offered, "I think there's a good chance that you are going to win the nomination."

On Sunday, Harris assembled the biggest crowd of the January rollout season, an estimated 20,000 in her hometown of Oakland, California, for her first major address of the campaign. One day later, she gave a polished performance at a CNN televised town hall, goosing the network's ratings in that time slot by 75 percent. She even picked up some of the first congressional endorsements of the campaign, earning the backing of California Reps. Nanette Barragán, Ted Lieu and Katie Hill.

Beyond her poise at the lectern and on screen, she also deflected, for now, the first attacks on her progressive bona fides. While several other announced and probable candidates have begun their endeavors with mea culpas, Harris gave no quarter in the face of criticism that she was too punitive a prosecutor as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general. She insisted her approach to criminal justice was progressive, and painted her critics as a fringe element of "people who just believe that prosecutors shouldn't exist, and I don't think I'm ever going to satisfy them."

Nothing will put paid to the Donald aberration better than a match-up between two women of color.

Booker is running. I've watched him for 20 years. Here's what I've learned (Tom Moran, 2/01/19,  Star-Ledger)

He's a rich target in crazy times like this, because he's not a normal guy. He's a vegan and a Rhodes Scholar, and he never touches alcohol or tobacco. He meditates daily, and Tweets quotes from Jewish scholars and Buddhist priests. He once supported vouchers for private schools, and he attends prayer meetings with a Republican senator who thinks climate change is a hoax.

I like all that, myself. We'll see how it goes over with factory workers in Toledo.

But put that aside. The core criticism of Booker is that he is a showboat with a silver tongue, a man whose real talent is promoting himself, not getting stuff done.

That last part -- about not getting stuff done -- is wildly unfair. He may be famous for that silver tongue, but he carries an iron hammer to work.

In Newark, Booker beat the corrupt old guard and became the first mayor in 45 years to leave office without being indicted. He cut the city's workforce by 25 percent, a record of austerity unmatched in the state. He doubled the supply of affordable housing. He drove down crime sharply, at least until a cut in state aid forced police layoffs. He was a key figure in expanding charter schools that now educate one-third of city students, and are rated as among the best in the country by outside experts.

Showboat? The man likes a camera, granted. But there's a lot more to him than that.

In the Senate, Booker had cringe-worthy moment on national TV in September during the confirmation hearings from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he threatened to break ethics rules by releasing confidential records on Kavanaugh's attitudes towards racial profiling. "This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment," he said.

Ouch. It was self-aggrandizing, and it turned out the documents had been released several hours earlier by the committee itself. "That was a little over the top," says Rutgers professor Ross Baker, one of the nation's leading experts on the U.S. Senate.

But, again, look at the larger record. Booker was a leading negotiator of the most important bipartisan effort since President Trump was elected, the criminal justice reform signed in December that shortened sentences and reformed prison practices. It was a chief goal of Booker's since his election in 2013, and he nailed it.

Posted by at February 1, 2019 8:05 AM