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Campaign Surrogates-- Who Helps, Who Hurts

I asked some of the candidates endorsed by Blue America which political leader they would like most to come to their district to campaign with them. Very typical was the response from Philadelphia progressive Alexandra Hunt: "Nina Turner and Bernie Sanders came to Philly for a rally to stop Hahnemann Hospital from closing and that meant a lot to people in this district. We are also a big fan of Cori Bush and she would receive a warm reception here in Philly. All three of them have an open invitation to rally in PA-03!"

Jason Call, a super-progressive in northwest Washington didn't hesitate for a moment: "Without question it would be Bernie. For me, he’s the spark behind all of this. We’re all running on a platform of Not Me, Us. I don’t know that any of us would be here without his leadership." Others, like Steven Holden, running in the new Syracuse-Ithaca district in Central New York, had just a simple 3 letter reply: "AOC."

Southeast L.A. Assemblywoman and open seat congressional candidate, Cristina Garcia, explained exactly why show would opt for Ocasio Cortez. "AOC is one of only national Latina leading voices. As a Latina I am always looking for leaders that look like me, but the reality is that for the most part, society has done a good job of silencing us. Even here in California where Latinas make over 20% of California's population but we don't have any statewide representation. Making her one of our only Latina voices out there, period. As a Latina I appreciate that she comes from humble roots and that doesn't hold her back, it actually drives what she fights for and the issues she elevates with her platform. This is very admired by many in my community, including myself."

Early this morning, The Hill published a piece, Democrats hunt for the right campaign stars, by Hanna Trudo and Amie Parnes, suggested a search for the right surrogates in swing districts. Obviously names like "Pelosi," "Hoyer" and "Clyburn" never came up. Nor did the "next" generation of awful leaders like Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar. "Democrats," wrote Trudo and Parnes, "want their brightest stars to hit the campaign trail ahead of November. The only problem? It’s an open question who they are. Democrats hold the White House, but President Biden's less-than-stellar approval ratings-- even with a possible bump from the State of the Union last week-- might not have candidates welcoming him on the campaign trail. Progressive fixtures such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can draw a bigger crowd than Biden anyway, based on the 2020 Democratic primary cycle. But it’s far from clear if their messages will play well in the swing-districts that will determine the next House majority."

I suppose that depends on what you're looking for. If you want to turn out the base, Bernie and Elizabeth are great. If you want to de-motivate the base but beg conservatives and even Republicans to vote for you, then you can always try Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema... although polls show that both are colossally unpopular with Democratic voters. The most recent YouGov polling for The Economist shows favorability for several Democratic leaders-- overall with registered votes (and then just with Democratic voters).

  • Biden- 46% (80% among Democrats)

  • Harris- 42% (81% among Democrats)

  • Pelosi- 37% (68% among Democrats)

  • Schumer- 32% (54% among Democrats)

  • Obama- 51% (83% among Democrats)

The only candidate I spoke with savvy enough to opt for Obama was former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, the current progressive candidate taking on Marco Rubio. This morning he told me that "If the point of such a rally is to help win an election, then the answer is Barack Obama. He, Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter and Colin Powell are, sadly, the only Americans who most of us know and like. Obama also is, in his own way, the anti-Trump, providing rational, principled, unbiased and somewhat compassionate decision-making and leadership, without demagoguery. He would have smashed Trump in the 2016 election, saving us from the Trumpocalypse."

In early February, YouGov's Economist poll asked about 3 other Democrats in the news

  • AOC- 36% (65% among Democrats)

  • Joe Manchin- 32% (15% among Democrats)

  • Kyrsten Sinema- 25% (12% among Democrats)

Our Senate candidates had more nuanced answers. If he were looking to raise money, generate local endorsements and validation in Wisconsin, Tom Nelson-- a former Bernie delegate-- told me he would turn to Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who, he said "has it figured out." I'm assuming Tom meant that what Sherrod has all figured out is how to make a populist Midwest appeal in a swing state. Glenn Hurst is in a similar environment and he told me he would opt for Cory Booker , who, he feels, "would be a great presence in Iowa again. He has the progressive voting record that rivals Sanders and Warren which would appeal to the Democratic base in our state. He also has a speaking style that resonates well here and is able to message to all sides of the party without moderating on his values. Cory Booker has been a unifier in Iowa and while lifting our campaign for the US Senate, he would also motivate people in swing districts for our state House and Senate and in our Gubernatorial race. He would raise the boat with all of us in it."

Trudo and Parnes, talking out of their asses, as Hill reporters are taught to, noted that conservatives and corporate whores among Democrats (or what The Hill labels "moderates") "say that the demand for progressives in core urban areas, where they have had proven success, doesn’t translate to swing areas with higher populations of independent and Republican voters. They say candidates in those types of states and districts are more cautious to avoid any figures who could end up tipping the election scales against them and point to policies that may alienate such voters. Some democratic socialists, for example, recently came out against sanctions to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine." Did they? I thought that was Trump and his far right coterie. Trudo and Parnes suggest "two midwestern moderates, current Transportation Secretary," Mayo Pete and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar "dazzled voters in parts of the country where Democrats are now competing down ballot." No one I spoke to-- neither incumbents nor challengers-- thought Buttigieg or Klobuchar would move the needle for them any more or less than any garden variety cabinet member or hack politician. One congressional incumbent in a swing district said that if Mayor Pete were coming to her district to announce a big jobs-creating project, people would pay attention; otherwise "a PTA meeting would be preferred."

You can always count on The Hill to twist the facts to make its conservative point. Trudo and Parnes wrote, inaccurately that "Buttigieg won the Iowa caucus from nearby South Bend, Indiana over his more progressive rivals. The actual results in the 2020 Iowa caucuses:

Round one:

  • Bernie- 43,581 (24.7%)

  • Mayo Pete- 37,572 (21.3%)

  • Elizabeth Warren- 32,589 (18.5%)

  • Biden- 26,291 (14.9%)

  • Amy Klobuchar- 22,454 (12.7%)

Round two:

  • Bernie- 45,652 (26.5%)

  • Mayo Pete- 43,209 (25.1%)

  • Elizabeth Warren- 34,909 (20.3%)

  • Biden- 23,605 (13.7%)

  • Amy Klobuchar- 21,100 (12.2%)

Lourin Hubbard is running in Devin Nunes' old Central Valley district. He has a better understanding of what people are looking for that DC pundits do. "If I could have anyone come to my district to do a rally it would have to be Bernie Sanders! The amount of excitement that Bernie generates is unmatched. He won the CA primary in my county by almost double digits. Whether conservatives like it or not Bernie Sanders represents an agenda focused on fundamental improvements in the lives of working people. Turns out the most popular politician is popular."

Pathetic former campaign fossil from another age, James Carville, who hasn't been right about anything in decades, was rolled out to confirm the conservative GOP-lite perspective: "I’d be surprised if somebody in North Carolina or Pennsylvania or Florida or Wisconsin, in the general election, if they brought in any of the really leftist people. I don’t think anybody’s asking them. They ride by themselves on the school bus. No one wants to be on it with them."

Maybe Carville and his wife don't want to be, but I can't imagine anyone I know wanting to be on a school bus or any kind of transportation anywhere near either one of them. Los Angeles congressional candidate, Daniel Lee, the mayor of Culver City was all in on Bernie and told me that he thinks Bernie's presence "would imply that we are a deeply principled campaign and I am a candidate that will stick to his guns."


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