Wasserman: Klobuchar could provide strong challenge to Trump
AVENTURA, Fla. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, could provide a strong challenge to President Donald Trump in the key Midwestern states that a Democrat needs to win in order to win the presidency, a prominent political analyst told agribusiness executives here today at the International Sweetener Colloquium.
David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report said he had been impressed with Klobuchar’s performance on a CNN Town Hall, and that she could appeal to voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Klobuchar recently announced she is running for the Democratic nomination.
Trump won those three states by a combined total of 78,000 votes. They delivered the presidency to him even though former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, won the national popular vote.
Wasserman praised Klobuchar’s potential in comparison with candidates he considers frontrunners: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Wasserman noted that Biden and Sanders are both elderly. Warren’s problems with past declarations that she is part American Indian and her long history as a professor at Harvard Law School will not play well in the Midwest, he said, and Harris spoke in “platitudes” during her CNN Town Hall appearance.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., are more long-shot candidates, he said.
Wasserman acknowledged that Klobuchar had gotten negative coverage over the issue of how she treat her staff, but said she can turn the issue to her advantage if she “owns” it, and also that it has gotten her more press attention.
To confront Trump, Wasserman said, voters would rather have a candidate who pushes her staff hard. (On CNN, Klobuchar said she has been a demanding boss.)
Wasserman, who specializes in House races for the Cook Report, is a popular speaker among farm groups, devoted most of his speech to an analysis of the 2018 midterm elections and the political relationship between urban and rural America.
He said Republicans lost the House in 2018 because Trump did not attempt to broaden his appeal beyond the 46 percent of Americans who voted for him. Trump could have broadened his base by convincing Congress to pass infrastructure and comprehensive immigration bills, he said.
“As a result of catering to the 46 percent, Trump’s approval rating has been 39 to 41 percent, and he lost control of the House,” Wasserman said.
The turnout in the 2018 elections was “historic,” he noted, the highest percentage in 104 years. Usually 40 percent of the people who vote in the presidential election do not turn out for the midterms, but the fall off in 2018 was only 15 percent because voters were so strongly motivated, he said.
The main issue in the election, Waserman said, was not the Russia investigation or Trump, but opposition to the Republican attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, particularly the provision that would end mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The Democrats won 40 House seats that had been held by Republicans and might have won even more and done better in Senate races if the controversy over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh close to Election Day had not motivated Republican voters, he added.
Wasserman stressed that the gap between urban and suburban voters, on one hand, and rural and small town voters on the other, has never been so great. He noted that voters in northern small towns and rural areas are voting more Republican like the South, but that voters in the southern suburbs “are beginning to vote like northern ones,” which vote Democratic.
Democratic women did so well in the House races that he has concluded “the best way to send a message against Donald Trump is to send a woman,” he said.
Wasserman noted he had tweeted on Dec. 9 that there are now huge gaps in the types of people and areas that Republicans and Democrats represent.
The Senate Republican majority represents only 18 percent of the American people, he said. Democrats have the majority in the House, but represent only 20 percent of the land area of the United States. (See link)
Wasserman, whose prominence is due partly to an article he wrote two months before the election in 2016 titled “How Trump Could Win the White House While Losing the Popular Vote,” said he sees a pathway for Trump to win in 2020, but that there are too many wild cards to predict the outcome of the race at this time.
The number of Democratic candidates running for the nomination for president is so large that the Democrats could end up with a brokered convention, he said.
But one critic that Trump won’t have to worry about running against him is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has become famous as the youngest woman ever elected to the House. Ocasio-Cortez, born in 1989, will be too young to run in 2020 and “barely eligible” in 2024 to meet the Constitutional requirement that American presidents be 35 years old, Wasserman noted.