At least in Iowa, and the stars in the election galaxy may be lining up elsewhere too. As our readers know, we began focusing on South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, quite a while ago. He is, to us, looking stronger and stronger, and for good reason. He’s young. He’s smart. He’s a superb campaigner, and he speaks truth to nonsense…And would we love to see him in a debate with President Trump. After all, when America went to war against terror, Mayor Pete made an appointment with his military recruiter, became a naval officer and went to Afghanistan and on to Bagram Airbase, where he served as an intelligence officer. With America at war in Viet Nam, Donald Trump made an appointment with his Podiatrist.
Looking at the top tier of Democratic contenders for the nomination, Pete Buttigieg looks more and more like the candidate to watch. He’s young and smart and Sanders is old and possibly ailing. Elizabeth Warren has hoisted herself on her own petard. Medicare for all, like it or not, is not a winning proposition, especially when it is contingent upon a ridiculous promise; that she won’t sign a Medicare-for-all bill if it doesn’t reduce costs. Does anyone really believe she or anyone will really know what Medicare-for-all, including pre-existing conditions, will cost over the next decade? What we do know for sure is that her proposal will increase taxes on almost all taxpayers. Buttigieg’s proposal of Medicare for all who want it, is much sounder, politically, and, therefore, much more saleable.
To our surprise, Senator Warren, a very bright candidate, seems tone-deaf with respect to basic political reality. Winning political campaigns are always about addition; never about subtraction. You campaign to add voters, not to subtract them. Elizabeth Warren insisting that no one likes their private health insurance just isn’t so. Nearly 150 million men and women have employer-provided health insurance and tens of millions have also purchased their own private plans. Research demonstrates that the vast majority of people are satisfied with their private plans. Senator Warren harping on the idea that no one likes their private plan is, in our judgment, a huge error that could well cost her the nomination. Finally, Joe Biden is not presenting himself as Presidential timber, because he probably isn’t Presidential timber. But, then again, Trump is President of the United States, so who knows how Americans define Presidential timber today.
Mayor Pete’s perceived weakness is that he is gay and that he polls very low among African Americans. We say “perceived” because most African Americans have had little exposure to him. That he is gay is a negative among African Americans, as was his early decision to fire South Bend’s first and only African-American Chief of Police, over the police department’s practice of illegally wiretapping conversations among police officers. Mayor Pete openly acknowledges that firing Chief Boykins was a serious mistake. Buttigieg has also had to contend with a fatality involving a white policeman using lethal force against an African-American member of the community.
At this stage of the Presidential contest, we skim national polls and study state polls. We find the polls in Iowa, where the nation’s first primary will take place in less than 100 days particularly fascinating. We took note when, about two weeks ago, Buttigieg climbed over ten percent in the Iowa polls, closing in rapidly on Sanders, Warren, and Biden. In this week’s polling data, Buttigieg has surged past Biden and is but a hair’s distance behind Warren and Sanders. Warren leads at 22 percent, followed by Sanders at 19 percent and Buttigieg at 18 percent and closing fast. This is fascinating for a number of reasons. First, we find it encouraging that a young, gay contender is polling so well in Iowa. Second, the New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Democratic Iowa Caucus participants shows that most Iowa caucus voters prefer improving private health insurance plans rather than eliminating them. This is, as inferred earlier in this essay, the Achilles Heel of Warren’s campaign. At least Sanders admits his Medicare-for-all plan will raise taxes on just about everybody. Senator Warren may have squirmed and danced around this reality one debate too many. Buttigieg’s “Medicare-for-all who want it”, plays much better.
Warren may well falter early with a Medicare-for-all plan that taxes, as the saying goes, everything that moves. Should that happen, we will see the 2020 primaries play out between a fading, past-ready-for-primetime, Joe Biden, an old socialist, Bernie Sanders, a policy wonk who committed too early to mandatory universal health care, Elizabeth Warren, and a very bright, young, decorated veteran, who can debate with the best of them, Pete Buttigieg.
We suspect President Trump will be at a loss for insults to hurl at Pete Buttigieg. Given President Trump’s preference for politics of personal destruction, he would be at a strong disadvantage facing Pete Buttigieg in a debate. Nonetheless, Trump is still polling pretty well in the rust belt where large electoral votes lurk. On the other hand, it is expected that 2020 could see the largest turnout in a century, driven largely by newly eligible young voters. Current polls suggest that those who are college-educated will vote overwhelmingly for whoever is running against Trump. Trump is, however, expected to hold his own and, perhaps, do quite well among non-college- educated young voters.
Hold on to your hat. It’s going to be quite a ride.