Over the past few weeks, the number of Democrats jumping on the presidential bandwagon has leveled off. It appears to be holding steady at a still comical 24, leaving Senator Amy Klobuchar to quip recently “It’s a ‘Hunger Games’ situation.”
Leading the pack is Joe Biden, who by brand recognition alone, was above the fray even before he entered the race. Following him is 2016 runner up, Bernie Sanders but closing in on Sanders is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
In the past month, Warren has gained some traction that can only be explained by her assiduousness. Although, you’d be hard pressed to find too many media outlets that are reporting on her upswing. To them, it’s still the Joe and Bernie show. Frankly, it would be a challenge to find the media reporting too much on any of the six women running for president.
Spread out over two days, the first Democratic debates are set to take place in Miami on June 26 and 27. This will certainly thin the herd.
However, if you rely only on mainstream media outlets for news, you’d think that this was Joe Biden’s debate, and candidacy, to loose. While recent polling and data indicates that Biden holds a sizable lead (+/- 15 points) he’s lost about three points since the beginning of June. Warren has gained just under three points and Sanders is flat. Of all the other candidates, it’s only Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg who continue to gain momentum.
According to a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, it is only those five candidates who pass 5% support in the Iowa caucuses. In another survey by Axios, if an election were held today, it’s only those five candidates (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Buttigieg ) that would defeat the incumbent president.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot riding on these upcoming debates.
We know about former Vice President Joe Biden, are familiar with Bernie Sanders from 2016, so who is Elizabeth Warren and what about her seems to be slowly winning people over?
Well, here’s what you need to know about Elizabeth Warren. She is a mother who taught children with disabilities, was an ivy league academic, the author of 11 books, helped oversee the 2008 financial recovery at the behest of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a United States Senator and is now a candidate for President of the United States.
In other words, Elizabeth Warren knows how to explain things. And she’s not afraid to do that. Which seems to be where she excels.
However, political stump speeches appear to be one area she is still finding her footing. A recent article in Slate by Dahlia Lithwick pointed out that Warren isn’t the most dynamic speaker when she is giving her campaign stump speeches. Despite her strong opinions on the current administration, her thoughts on impeachment and her candor, once referring to Fox News as “a hate-for-profit racket”, she’s not the most effective speaker.
Where Elizabeth Warren really shines is during the improvised Q&A after the speech. Not only does Warren relish in the dialogue with people, but she also has the unique ability to break apart something as complex as student loan predatory behavior and explain it to you. Even better, she has a plan to eliminate it and how to pay for it in order alleviate the pressure on graduating students.
Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything. Unlike many of the other candidates, she’s had these plans posted on her website for months. Take, for example, her plan for college. Her plan covers all the basics and gets very specific: due to the for-profit college business model that “sucks tax-payer dollars and provides a poor education to students of color”. It details a five point plan that includes:
- A $50 billion dollar fund for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).
- Making additional federal funding available to states that demonstrate substantial improvement in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color.
- Banning for-profit colleges from receiving any federal dollars (including military benefits and federal student loans), so they can no longer use taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves while targeting lower-income students, servicemembers, and students of color and leaving them saddled with debt.
- Requiring public colleges to complete an annual audit that identifies issues creating shortfalls in enrollment and graduation rates for lower-income students and students of color.
- Prohibiting public colleges from considering citizenship status or criminal history in admissions decisions.
It’s safe to say that no other candidate has that kind of plan and most certainly do not have that kind of specificity.
Joe Biden seems to be taking a more paternal, some might argue condescending, “leave it to me, I’ll get it done” perspective to his campaign. Bernie Sanders has a grumpy, almost Grandfatherly, “this is how we do it” point of view and Elizabeth Warren is in full on teacher with “this is all a mess, here’s how it works, here’s how we got here, here’s how we fix it, now let’s fix it together.”
All three differ, but if one believes polls and data, only one seems to be gaining resonance.
Elizabeth Warren has slowly and methodically moved forward with her campaign. She’s proven adept at social media, as well as traditional media. Also, since her campaign has been defined by fighting corruption and money in politics she has eschewed big corporate donors. She’s funded her campaign primarily through grassroots donations and has gone so far as to make a rule of having no fundraisers, dinners, receptions or phone calls with wealthy donors.
Conversely, the very same day Joe Biden announced his candidacy, Comcast chief lobbyist David Cohen held a fundraiser for him. It should be pointed out that Comcast, a giant media conglomerate, spent 15 million dollars lobbying in Washington D.C. in 2018. Coincidentally, the same year that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) repealed net neutrality. Unlike other candidates, Joe Biden hasn’t been shy about his traditional political nature of courting high-dollar donors.
Trying to predict who the Democratic presidential nominee will be this early is a fool’s errand. However, what is interesting is that we Americans are living in somewhat of a contradictory state. In a year that has seen some of the most restrictive female reproductive laws voted into law, we also see the growing emergence of one of the strongest politicians in recent memory, who also happens to be a woman.
Joe Biden continues to hold a comfortable lead over the other candidates. But that lead is shrinking and of the current candidates it is only Elizabeth Warren who is gaining momentum. However, gaining momentum and maintaining it are two wildly different things.
As we approach June 26 and 27 those poll numbers are sure to bounce around even more. I think we’ll have a clearer picture of who the true front runners will be. I suspect Elizabeth Warren will be very close to the top of the fray.
Elizabeth Warren may in fact be trying to teach us that a woman can be the President of the United States.