Bob Franken




Overused but shameless cliche alert: In the political campaign schedule, Nevada is next, and for a few Democratic candidates, they will have to play their cards right.
Joe Biden, for instance, must prove that Nevada and South Carolina, which are not lily white like the first states were, are more like his natural stomping grounds. He also has to prove he has any stomp left, not only because he’s perceived as a befuddled old man, an impression he’s left on too many, but that he has yet to shed the verbal befuddlement that has plagued him for decades. If he doesn’t recover credibility after drubbings in Iowa and New Hampshire, his contributors will conclude that he and they are just spinning their wheels and will place their bets on someone else.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has to keep his momentum going not only because of the growing resistance from the rich and powerful who take his brand of democratic socialism as a threat to their cushy privilege, but also from big “D” Democrats who believe that Donald Trump would chew him up and spit him out in the general election with a campaign that presented Sanders as a threat to the free enterprise system — the kind, for instance. hat has brought Trump profits from sales of MAGA hats.
Elizabeth Warren has much the same problem, and she’s already dropping like a stone. Both of them are being threatened by the centrists in this elimination race, which has thus far not eliminated all that many hopefuls.
Pete Buttigieg is presenting himself as the candidate of the future, which is appropriate since he doesn’t have all that much past … or experience. He’s 38 years old — just three years past the Constitutional minimum for president, which was written when life spans were way shorter. His entire political experience has been as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, population a little over a hundred thousand. There he compiled a mixed record, particularly in his dealings with minorities. That continues to be an issue for him. Besides being mayor, he lost one statewide election. That’s it. But he’s viewed as the fresh face that impresses those who cover this game, particularly the fresh faced reporters.

His experience, or lack thereof, has been a constant theme for Amy Klobuchar, the 59-year-old senator from Minnesota, who has been around the track a little more, and got great traction in New Hampshire after a strong debate performance (much of it at Buttigieg’s expense) and a surprise third place finish. Her brand of self-deprecating humor and overall affability seems to have caught on. And her job will be to show that she’s not just a flash in the pan.
That affability persona had suffered a real hit at the start of her campaign, when word leaked out that she was difficult to work for, exceedingly difficult. She’s had to make the long slog back from that setback, helped by the slow realization that as a woman she probably suffers from society’s double standard. A male boss might be described with the “D” word for “demanding.” A female would be tagged with the “B” word, and let’s just not say what that means.
The truth is we don’t know how America will deal with matters sexual, whether it’s with a woman as the Democratic candidate, or whether it’s Buttigieg, who is gay.
Nor do we know whether Michael Bloomberg can buy the nomination. Even with his fortune spent on TV ads, he hasn’t been able to escape accusations that he had racist policies and is closely aligned with his fellow rich guys.
Will we end up with an ugly battle between two rich guys from New York? Battles between New Yorkers are always ugly. Particularly when one of them is named Donald Trump. Democrats now have to gamble that whichever one emerges from their mess will be exciting enough to rally those who insist they desperately want to replace President Trump. First they have to prove they are a party playing with a full deck.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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