lesser-known Dems

Just before heading off to dreamland late Monday night, I had a flashing light-bulb inspiration for my next column in The Athens NEWS. I’d write a “quick takes” review of all 23 of the current Democratic candidates for U.S. president.

Why do I do these things to myself (and you)? I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, I went ahead and started the project on Tuesday morning, and what was expected to be about 900 words ended up well over 3,000 (!!!).

Despite the length, this isn’t intended as an exhaustive or comprehensive look at the full Democratic field, but rather a snapshot in time of a more or less average, non-active Democrat’s outlook on the race as is stands now. And FYI, I haven’t made any firm decisions yet on whom I prefer, but haven’t ruled anyone out either.

Candidate: MICHAEL BENET, 54, a U.S. senator from Colorado.

Quick take: Seems like a smart guy but I know little about him. 

Ideological appeal: A moderate Democrat who can work across the aisle to get things done, assuming there’s anybody across the aisle who’s interested in doing that. Probably will turn off progressives, though if they’re smart and care about results, they’ll vote for and support any Democrat who runs against Trump. Hopefully, centrist Democrats will do the same if a more progressive Democrat wins the nomination.

Notable issues: Immigration, infrastructure, economic modernization.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? It depends, of course, but he looks like he could appeal to independents and fence-sitters. The ability to raise campaign money is also an important factor, and who knows at this point?

Would I vote for him? I’d vote for a rotting turnip over Trump.

Candidate: JOE BIDEN, 76, former vice-president and senator from Delaware.

Quick take: He’s a known quantity, and will be somewhat stable in character and policy, in other words the opposite of Trump.  

Ideological appeal: A moderate Democrat who progressives incorrectly paint as “Republican light.” Granted, Biden has some isolated and not insignificant dark spots on his long resume (e.g., Iraq war and Anita Hill), but Joe's stand on any number of issues – from climate change to immigration – would be night and day from Trump's. His character also will be a big improvement over the incumbent, though you can say that about any of the Democrats running.

Notable issues: Making America great again in the eyes of the world; more attention to economic needs of working-class people.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: Everybody knows Joe. 10 on a scale of 10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Definitely. Plus, he knows what buttons to push in order to goad the president into being a bigger jerk than he usually is. That’s more fun to watch than flying, fire-breathing dragons.

Would I vote for him? I’d vote for a Court Street brick over Trump.

Candidate: CORY BOOKER, 50, U.S. senator from New Jersey, former mayor of Newark.

Quick take: Will run with inspirational calls for unity. But despite being on the national stage for a good while now, not many voters know much about him.

Ideological appeal: I'm not sure.

Notable issues: Criminal justice reform and....

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 6 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? It depends, of course, but he looks like he could appeal to independents and fence-sitters. I like what I've seen and heard of him.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a bowl of licorice Jello over Trump.

Candidate: STEVE BULLOCK, 53, governor of Montana, former AG of that state.

Quick take: Gotta have something going for himself in order to succeed politically as a  Dem in uber-Red State Montana.

Ideological appeal: A populist who supports programs that will reduce economic inequality, but a pragmatist as well (otherwise he couldn’t run and win in Montana). If he gets financial backing, and rises in the ranks (unlikely), he could pull the rug out from under Trump among Middle Americans.

Notable issues: He’s a crusader for campaign-finance reform (a good thing) and supported an assault-weapons ban in Montana (which takes no small amount of guts).

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 1 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? It’s too early to tell, and if anybody pretends like they know, tell them to get a fortune-gelling job in the circus. 

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a pencil eraser over Trump.

Candidate: PETE BUTTIGIEG, 37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Quick take: Smart, sharp, and knows how to get under Trump’s skin (sorry for that visual).

Ideological appeal: With his youth and focus on climate change and economic equality, he’ll appeal to the left wing of the Democratic Party without alienating many in the middle.

Notable issues: See above.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 6 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? I think we need to wait until more Trump scandals get rolled out. The Southern District of New York still has to have its say, and the courts have yet to rule on any number of disputes with Democrats in Congress (though the last few days have been encouraging).

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a shot glass over Trump.

Candidate: JULIÁN CASTRO, 44, former mayor of San Antonio, Texas; former U.S. housing secretary.

Quick take: Very long-shot candidate, with not much name recognition. Seems kind of vague on the issues.

Ideological appeal: With support for Medicare-for-all, he’ll be good with his party’s progressive wing.

Notable issues: Has ideas about immigration reform, and seems to know what he’s talking about.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Too much history has to happen before we can say whether these hardly known candidates have a shot.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a rabid squirrel over Trump.

Candidate: BILL DE BLASIO, 58, mayor of New York City.

Quick take: From what I’ve heard, he’s not very popular in the city he presides over but what do I know?

Ideological appeal: Appears to be strong on fighting crime and promoting more liberal programs such as universal pre-kindergarten and local restrictions to fight climate change. While he might have broad appeal based on these things, he’s got a lot of negative baggage.

Notable issues: See above.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 4 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Who knows, but it would be fun to watch these two longtime New Yorkers in the cage fight that this race would become.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a rancid pumpkin seed over Trump.

Candidate: JOHN DELANEY, 56, former member of Congress from Maryland, businessman.

Quick take: Never heard of him.

Ideological appeal: Calls himself a “pragmatic idealist,” which means, um, I don’t know.

Notable issues: Running more on his approach to issues (bipartisan, pragmatic problem-solver) than specific policies. Has endorsed some form of universal health care.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 0.2 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? It’s hard to envision any situation in which he’d be running against Trump, but who knows? 

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a impolite bed bug over Trump.

Candidate: TULSI GABBARD, 38, member of Congress from Hawaii, veteran of the Army National Guard.

Quick take: A well-spoken candidate with too much baggage based on past positions and remarks that just make you scratch your head.

Ideological appeal: She appears to transcend the easy definitions, but is likely to alienate a lot of folks all up and down the ideological spectrum.

Notable issues: Mainly known for opposition to military adventures overseas.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 4 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody is better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? Hard to say, but all of her negatives certainly would provide him with lots of opportunities for attack.

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for third-place ribbon-winning county fair eggplant over Trump.

Candidate: KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, 52, U.S. senator from New York, formerly a member of Congress.

Quick take: Sharp and smart, with well-defined issues. But I tend to get her confused with some of the other sharp and smart Democratic presidential candidates. That phrase is all over this epic.

Ideological appeal: Formerly a center-right member of Congress; now firmly in the progressive wing.

Notable issues: Women’s rights, economic equality, better opportunity for working-class citizens.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 4 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? Just as good a chance as any of the other top and middle-tier Democrats.

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for a deer tick over Trump.

Candidate: KAMALA HARRIS, 54, U.S. senator from California, former AG of that state and district attorney in San Francisco.

Quick take: Very smart and effective, and I love how she challenges witnesses in congressional hearings, including that craven Trump defender AG William Barr.

Ideological appeal: Seems like she could appeal to both center and left, by virtue of her effective opposition to Trump administration.

Notable issues: Calls for better leadership and national unity; has proposed middle-class tax relief and liberal approach to civil-rights.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 7 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? She comes off as “presidential” in public, and seems very much in control of how she’s perceived. So hell yes!

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for a cartoon character over Trump.

Candidate: JOHN HICKENLOOPER, 67, former governor of Colorado, former Denver mayor.

Quick take: Another Western governor whose political success in a Rocky Mountain purple state might translate well in a race against Trump. On the other hand, these Western guys running for president seem sort of interchangeable.

Ideological appeal: He bills himself as a consensus builder, which probably won’t play well with the no-compromise (self-defeating) wing of the Democratic Party.

Notable issues: Supports expanding Medicare and working within others to find consensus on hot-button issues such as gun control and gay rights (good luck with that). 

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? One would hope that anyone could, but until Republican Party grows some round, golf-ball-sized appendages, no one can say for sure. OK, mini-golf balls.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a bro' country star over Trump.

Candidate: JAY INSLEE, 68, governor of the state of Washington, former member of Congress.

Quick take: All about fighting climate change; comes off well in TV interviews.

Ideological appeal: Probably mainly on the left, though his aggressive approach to addressing climate-change has broad appeal in the Democratic Party and among independents.

Notable issues: Climate change, and how it affects a number of other issues. Green jobs.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 4 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? As stated, a lot of muddy water has to flow under the bridge till we can view the 2020 electoral landscape. But I’d put his chances as better than most of the Democratic field.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a broken heart over Trump.

Candidate: AMY KLOBUCHAR, 58, U.S. senator from Minnesota.

Quick take: Centrist with gravitas who will be challenged to widen her appeal to the party’s left.

Ideological appeal: See above.

Notable issues: Among many others, aggressive approach to combating opioid crisis and drug addiction; reforming how prescription drugs are priced and marketed.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 6 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? Too early to say.

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for a Triple A battery over Trump.

Candidate: WAYNE MESSAM, 44, mayor of some small town in Florida, former college football star.

Quick take: This is literally the first time I’ve heard of him.

Ideological appeal: Progressive, apparently.

Notable issues: According to New York Times’ profile, has taken “progressive stands on guns, immigration and environmental issues.” He’s also proposed cancelling the $1.5 trillion-plus in student-loan debt held by many millions of Americans. (He’d get my support on this.)

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: Negative-3 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Probably not, though if Trump continues to unravel mentally while his legal issues mount, who knows?

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a hockey puck over Trump.

Candidate: SETH MOULTON, 40, a member of Congress from Massachusetts, veteran of Iraq war.

Quick take: I saw him interviewed on CNN. Impressive guy whose veteran status could undercut Trump’s support in the military.

Ideological appeal: Not sure about this, but he has been a critic of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I’d have considered this a plus up until this year, when Nancy’s aggressive approach against Trump has elevated her appeal among many (OK, me).

Notable issues: Mainly calling for a new and improved approach to foreign policy and national security. Must have positions on domestic issues, but I haven’t heard.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Sure, why not?

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a potted geranium over Trump.

Candidate: BETO O’ROURKE, 46, former member of Congress from Texas, a failed candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Quick take: Formerly appealing candidate (when compared to Ted Cruz) who increasingly seems out of his depth. But too soon to write him off.

Ideological appeal: Having run and served in Texas, for whatever reason (personal choice or political expediency) he’s taken center-right stances on some issues. So he might struggle to appeal to progressives. Some of that might be countered by his demonstrated appeal to young voters.

Notable issues: Big on immigration reform and weed legalization, as well as important local issues such as the state of rural hospitals.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Despite his national recognition, there’s still plenty to learn about Beto. So maybe yes.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a circus clown over Trump.

Candidate: TIM RYAN, 45, a member of Congress from Ohio.

Quick take: Veteran congressman from the Rust-Belt who can make inroads against Trump in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, etc.

Ideological appeal: He’ll appeal to Blue-Dog Dems and many progressives due to his past opposition to House Speaker Pelosi, protectionist inclinations, and messaging on working-class issues.

Notable issues: Trade protectionism, union rights, and retaining jobs. If Ryan runs, free traders won’t have anybody to vote for, at least not on that issue.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 7 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Definitely, providing no huge unforeseen circumstance arise (and of course they will, so not so “definitely”).

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for any other avowed trade protectionist (or free trader) over avowed trade protectionist Trump.

Candidate: BERNIE SANDERS, 77, U.S. senator from Vermont, former member of Congress.

Quick take: Strong, hardworking and sincere progressive candidate with a crotchety (ageism alert!) streak.

Ideological appeal: Definitely the progressives’ darling, though his obvious strengths in campaigning and success in taking on Trump raise his appeal among Democratic centrists and moderates.

Notable issues: Medicare for all, free college tuition, campaign-finance reform, you name it. Not big on explaining how all this stuff gets paid for.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 10 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? By all means.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a bowl of salsa over Trump.

Candidate: ERIC SWALWELL, 38, a member of Congress from California.

Quick take: Looks like a teenager but does a good job of taking on Trump in frequent cable news interviews. In the early going, I got him confused, appearance-wise, with Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan of Ohio. I’m not sure the English language has sufficient profanities to describe Jordan, one of Trump's top stooges in Congress. So good on Eric that he's not Jim.

Ideological appeal: Seems center-left.

Notable issues: Aggressive approach to investigating Trump administration, supporter of assault-weapon ban, and well, other stuff.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 5 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Comes off as too young, but maybe that’s just me. He might have a chance, but probably needs another several years of seasoning.

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a free body-wax job over Trump.

Candidate: ELIZABETH WARREN, 69, U.S. senator from Massachusetts, previously a Harvard professor.

Quick take: Smart with well-defined positions on the issues. Still recovering from gaffs over her (lack of) Native-American heritage.

Ideological appeal: The same as Sen. Sanders, more or less. In other words, solidly progressive.

Notable issues: A crusader against economic injustice and inequality, hopes to reduce power and influence of big business and money in politics.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? She’s an impressive speaker, and doesn’t take second place to anyone where policy and preparation are concerned. I’m guessing there’s not much mileage left in Trump’s juvenile/racist “Pocahontas” digs against Warren.

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for an aggressive yellow-jacket wasp (redundant) over Trump.

Candidate: MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, 66, self-help author, New Age seminar host.

Quick take: I don’t know her from Adam (or Eve).

Ideological appeal: Uncertain, since her main issues seem fairly narrow and “out there.”

Notable issues: Proposes $100 billion in reparations for historical slavery, with the proceeds distributed to people and programs with economic and educational needs.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: Minus-3 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can she beat Trump? That’s a good question.

Will I vote for her? I’d vote for a self-help, New Age author/speaker over Trump.

Candidate: ANDREW YANG, 44, former tech-firm exec, founder of a nonprofit focused on economic development.

Quick take: Who’s this guy?

Ideological appeal: Mainly to the left wing of the party, since his top proposal is establishment of a government-funded universal basic income.

Notable issues: See above, but also high-nerd issues such as robotics and AI.

Voter (one voter, me) recognition: Minus-5 on a scale of 1-10.

Better than Trump? Anybody’s better than Trump.

Can he beat Trump? Definitely the type of guy that comes to mind when you say, “anybody can beat Trump.”

Will I vote for him? I’d vote for a dog in heat over Trump.

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