Biden’s speech in Iowa, Booker’s speech in Charleston, Sanders promises to release info about extraterrestrials if he obtains any, Buttigieg meets with superdelegates, Gabbard is currently training with the Army National Guard, Yang qualifies for September and October—for real this time, and the generational divide on electability.


Biden’s speech in Iowa

First up today, I want to call your attention to a speech that Joe Biden gave yesterday in Burlington, Iowa. This was streamed live just before noon, and it didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s show, but I saw so much Twitter activity around it, I went ahead and grabbed the audio so I could listen later.

Biden’s speech went directly at President Trump, through the lens of American history, presidential leadership, and focusing explicitly on Trump’s encouragement of white supremacists and his failure to unite the country in times of crisis.

This is something Biden is really good at, and it hearkens back to his initial campaign launch video, when he suggested that one term of Trump would be a historical aberration but two terms would change the character of our nation.

It’s a long speech, and there’s a link in the show notes to it. I’m going to play a two-minute segment here from near the beginning. Listen in:


Booker’s speech in Charleston

Next up, Senator Cory Booker gave his own speech, actually earlier in the same day as Biden, at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The church is also often called Mother Emanuel. Again, the speech was rather long at about 30 minutes, so as much as I would like to give you the whole thing, I have to give you a little highlight.

The speech was broadly about gun violence, racism, the nature of tolerance and what that ought to mean, plus—like Biden—a nuanced discussion of American history.

And a quick note, the audio here is SUPER scratchy. That comes from the source, and I did spend some effort trying to fix it, and…it helped a little. So I hope you can listen past the scratchy quality and hear what Booker is saying. And, yes, there is a link in the show notes to the whole thing. It is well worth your time. Listen in:


Sanders promises to release info about extraterrestrials if he obtains any

Next up, something to lighten the mood. And it’s also a topic I’ve always wondered about.

One of the reasons to seek the Presidency, at least for me, would be that you’d presumably gain access to a bunch of top-secret government information. And I would love to know if there’s any kooky E.T. stuff.

I presume there isn’t, or that whatever we have is extremely boring, but still—that is, legitimately, one thing I would request a detailed briefing on, probably within my first week in office. Like, show me whatever we’ve got. Sit me down, explain it all. Start from the beginning. You know what I mean?

The same thing is true of UFOs—which, while not necessarily extraterrestrial in origin, likely do have some pretty interesting background that, you know, our own Air Force can pass along, or maybe our intelligence services know something about.

Well, the next best thing to getting this info yourself as president is getting a candidate to promise to pass that info along.

On the Joe Rogan Show on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders told Rogan that, if elected, he would pass along any information pertinent to UFOs and extraterrestrial beings. He suggested this was partly because his wife is apparently very curious as well, and has already asked him whether, as a Senator, he has access to any special records. He claims he does not. But that’s what you would claim, right?

Anyway, in a surprising twist, this was all written up in an article by Adam K. Raymond in New York Magazine, and I think you need to hear just a snippet. Reading from the end of that article:

“…Trump was the preferred candidate of many in the UFO set in 2016. Not because he had evinced any support for releasing documents related to UFOs — in fact, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta is a well-known believer, and Clinton had nodded toward spilling the beans on UFOs once she got to the White House — but because of Trump’s apparent willingness to burn everything down.
As one UFO hunter told CNN in 2015, “My candidate is Donald Trump because he’s not a politician. I could be wrong, but the extraterrestrials tell me that Donald Trump is the one to lead America.””

And that is a quote for the ages.

Gabbard is currently training with the Army National Guard

Next up, a quick one. Representative Tulsi Gabbard is currently on a two-week training exercise for the Army National Guard, and that means she is in Indonesia currently and therefore not able to campaign like the other candidates. As one of the few veterans in this field, and indeed the only one currently serving, Gabbard takes this stuff seriously.

A Washington Times article detailed Gabbard’s service, and noted its possible effect on her eligibility for the September debate. She has already cleared the donor threshold, but still needs three more polling results at 2 percent or higher to reach either September or October. She also has a bunch of 1 percent results, so I think Gabbard is one of those potential October add-ons we’ve been talking about.

Anyway, reading from the Washington Times, this is a quote from Cathy Allen, whom the Times described as a “Democratic strategist.” She’s talking about the poll numbers here.

““Her time away for military service is not what will keep her from the next set of debates. Like several of her counterparts, she has little means of catching up before the debates as there is no mechanism for making up those numbers except for the debate.
“Her military service — and media surrounding it — is likely to be the only major boost she could receive before the next debate-qualifying numbers are due.
“The public is ready for the race to be cut at least in half. She seems one of those likely to be in the cuts."”

Yang qualifies for September and October—for real this time

Next up, good news for Andrew Yang. He has indeed qualified for the September and October debates, having picked up another 2% result in a qualifying poll. That poll came from Monmouth University and looked at likely caucus-goers. It put him right at 2%, which is where he needed to be. So, he is in those debates, and now there are NINE qualified candidates, with Castro as my prediction for the next to qualify.

Now, this poll was also good news for billionaire Tom Steyer, who is rapidly rising from near-total obscurity to a kind of viable presidential candidate. He got 3% in this poll, and he already had two other qualifying polls. Now, he still needs one more poll, plus the donors, to make it to the debate stage, but Steyer only announced his campaign on July 8th. Today is August 8th! He’s been in the race for ONE MONTH and he’s legitimately close to making the debate next month. That is wild stuff.

Other low-polling candidates who did well in this poll include Senator Amy Klobuchar, who got 3% but didn’t officially need that, as she already had a 2% result that cemented her place in the debates. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also picked up her FIRST 2% result in this period, meaning she needs three more, plus some donors, to get there.

Sanders had a surprisingly weak showing, dropping to just 9%, down from 16% in April. Meanwhile, Biden leads the pack at 28%, Warren has 19%, Harris has 11%, and Buttigieg has 9%. So, the top five are still in there, though the mix keeps changing. This is to be expected—the real questions at this point are whether anybody can leap above Biden, or whether anybody else can break into that top tier.

Meanwhile, there are still TEN candidates who don’t have ANY qualifying polls for this upcoming debate. Some of them have literally 0 percent in everything, others have some 1% results—either way, not enough to make it, and not a ton of time either.

Buttigieg meets with superdelegates

Next up, let’s talk about superdelegates. These are people within the Democratic party who have a superpower—they can vote for a candidate at the Democratic Convention without representing a state that has held a primary or caucus. Roughly 15% of all voting power at the Convention is held by superdelegates. These are typically people who have some kind of position within the party, either an actual Democratic Party job or notable members of Congress, or Governors, and so on.

So the deal with superdelegates is that may vote for whomever they wish—but, as of 2018, they can only do so under very special circumstances. And given that they represent 15% of the overall voting power, with this large field of candidates, that voting bloc might—maybe—probably not, but might—matter.

We could head into the nominating convention without a clear majority winner—that’s called a contested convention, and the last time Democrats have seen one was in 1952. So the likelihood of that actually occurring next year is slim. But still, it’s a thing that can happen, and IN THAT CASE that’s when the superdelegates suddenly get to vote. That’s the rule change from 2018—prior to that, they voted on the first ballot, so they could actually swing the result right there. Now they do not vote on that first ballot—that’s just for pledged delegates from the states—but if you don’t have a clear winner on the first go, they join the voting pool. And that’s where stuff gets interesting.

Well, here’s some news. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is actively courting those superdelegates just in case. Reading from a Daily Beast story by Adam Wren:

“The South Bend mayor’s team held a conference call with a group of so-called superdelegates on Monday to ask them for their support, according to an invite obtained by The Daily Beast. It was just the latest sign that the mayor’s aides are still playing catch-up against competitors such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been cultivating relationships with party insiders for nearly 40 years. But it also signals that—for all the focus on the early voting states—Buttigieg's team sees a convention floor fight as a possible path towards securing the party’s nomination.”

Again, very unlikely, but POSSIBLE. So The Daily Beast managed to CALL IN and just listen during the call. What they heard was pretty straightforward, and actually something that other candidates are probably doing too—we just don’t have a first-hand account of those efforts. Essentially the call was about where Buttigieg stands on various issues, and a request for support just in case. Reading once more from the article:

““Nobody wants to anticipate a campaign where we go to a second ballot, but if you’re smart you have to,” said Jed Ober, Hillary for America’s deputy delegate director in 2016 and chief of staff to Rep[resentative] Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, who is uncommitted but was invited to the call. Ober joined Monday’s call on Wild’s behalf. He said the Buttigieg campaign was the first to reach out this cycle and that all signs point to them building a sophisticated delegate-wrangling operation.
“Any of these campaigns that have a legitimate shot to win should be doing this,” Ober said.”

The generational divide on electability

And last up today, in a story for FiveThirtyEight, Erin Doherty examined the question of electability. Now, we’ve talked about this somewhat before, but the key idea here is that there is an argument within the Democratic party about how we should choose a candidate. Do we choose one who we think can beat the other person? Or do we choose someone who closely mirrors our own values? Now obviously, everybody is somewhere in the middle of those two positions, but people tend to lean one way or another. Personally, I lean differently depending on how I’m feeling on a given day.

So, anyway, what does the data tell us about all this? Well, Doherty found that:

“Recent polls from YouGov/HuffPost and Gallup show an age split on whether voters prioritize policy or electability. Both polls found that younger Democrats tended to prioritize nominating a candidate whose positions on issues were closest to their own over a candidate who they believed had the best chance of defeating Trump. Conversely, older Democrats were more likely to want an electable candidate even if they disagreed on the issues.”

And then she presents a graph that demonstrates this in a very striking way. As age increases, the groups diverge on their interest in electability versus policy. It’s reminiscent of the age-old idea that young people are idealistic while older people are pragmatic, and there’s some data here to back that up—plus, some caution about what that could mean. Reading once more from the article:

“...[B]y prioritizing electability, older Democrats may wind up backing a candidate with a major weakness: an inability to drive youth turnout. While younger voters tend to lean heavily Democratic — in 2016, for instance, they backed Hillary Clinton by around 20 percentage points — the challenge has always been getting them to the polls. But when they do mobilize, younger voters can have a profound impact on the election. The blue wave of 2018, for example, was powered in part by Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X voters, who cast more votes than Baby Boomers and people from older generations, according to the Pew Research Center.”

So, this story is far from over, it is really a key narrative of the 2020 election, maybe THE KEY NARRATIVE, but I thought I’d leave you with this today to chew on just a bit. Check out the last link in the show notes, and Doherty makes a nuanced case for both sides here.

I think, in the end, we all want someone who happens to align with us on policy AND can get elected. Right? That’s the ideal. The primary is largely about figuring out who all these people are, and how they match—or don’t—with our own beliefs. This year, it’s also about giving them a good look to see how they might match up against the opposition. So, let us continue to look and listen.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Yesterday’s adventure in tree stump removal was a reasonable start, but also, in a word, fruitless. I’m gonna need a bigger drill. Like, seriously, just more power, an auger bit, all that hardware store stuff. But if you follow along on Instagram—there is a link to my account in the show notes near the top—you may see some more hot tree stump removal pics this weekend, assuming it’s not a total scorcher. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.