Politipress: And then there were fifteen

In the latest installment of Politipress, WSPNs Atharva Weling takes a look at what went wrong for the candidates that have dropped out of or are struggling in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Credit: WSPN Staff

In the latest installment of Politipress, WSPN’s Atharva Weling takes a look at what went wrong for the candidates that have dropped out of or are struggling in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Atharva Weling

To the average voter on the left of the aisle, the fear of another four years with Trump as our commander-in-chief often materializes whenever the subject of the 2020 election comes up. The presidential candidates themselves are no exception. The number one goal of Democrats in 2020 is to take Trump, his cabinet and his policies out of American politics – but if they are successful, what comes next?

This is where most of the similarities between the Democratic hopefuls for 2020 come to an end. With such a diverse pool of politicians, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and self-help authors running for the presidency this year, it seems like everyone has a figure to root for as the debates and caucuses roll on.

However, not every candidate has managed to get themself the support from voters and donors required to sustain their presidential aspirations. With Wayne Messam announcing his withdrawal from the race on Friday, a total of 10 contenders have taken their names out of the hat, and several more have campaigns that are beginning to dissipate. Candidates still in the race, pay attention: There is a lot to be learned from your less successful counterparts. Here are some tips on what to do if you want to have a chance at the presidency in 2020.

Beto O’Rourke: Stay organized

Beto seemed to have it all. Democrats across the nation were filled with hope looking at his success in a state as traditionally conservative as Texas. Just a year ago, he was polling third among the hopefuls, and the first day of his campaign saw him raise over $6 million. The problem for Beto was how he would decide to spend that money, namely, not on his campaign staff. Beto did not even have a campaign manager when he announced his candidacy, and cracks started to show when lawmakers, influential donors and key officials from his 2018 Senate run began to abandon him, frustrated by his lack of planning skills.

This mismanagement spilled into his media appearances. Reporters were left in the dark over his schedule, and national attention was swept up by newcomers like Pete Buttigieg. All of this came to a head at the first debate when a clearly unprepared Beto was torn into by Julián Castro for his lack of action regarding section 1325, the law which makes crossing the US border without permission illegal. Beto’s funding began to fall sharply, and in only a few short months, his presidential dream was over with just a fraction of the splendor it had begun with.

Kristin Gillibrand: Be popular

While Gillibrand was never a frontrunner, she appeared to have a legitimate base at first. Her feminist message made her popular in an America plagued by issues of wage inequality and restrictive abortion laws. But unfortunately for her, a bevy of issues resulted in growing criticism of her campaign, and this ultimately led to her never being able to really grab much attention in the national view. Her conservative tendencies while a member of the House and her failed attempt to attack Joe Biden for having an anti-feminist agenda in the July debate were both factors that contributed to her dismissal. Possibly most damaging, although undeservingly so, was that she was one of the most vocal politicians calling for Al Franken’s resignation after the allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him in 2017, a move which alienated many Democratic donors.

Ultimately, Gillibrand’s story is just one of many. Several candidates such as Jay Inslee or Seth Moulton failed because they just couldn’t manage to grab the public’s attention. The fact of the matter is that without a solid message to create a motivated base, low-polling candidates will remain low-polling. Without polls, a runner cannot reach the masses in the debates, and if you cannot let America know what you stand for, then America won’t let you stand at all.

Cory Booker: Remember the goal

Unlike Beto and Gillibrand, Cory remains in the race – for now. Things aren’t looking good for his campaign as he struggles to meet the 2% of national support mark required for him to appear in December’s debate. The reason lies in the task at hand: beating Donald Trump. Voters jump at the thought of Trump being reelected, and Cory’s campaign, which focuses more on “national healing” rather than policy issues, doesn’t seem like a winning platform to many of them. Cory wants to appeal to the urban black voters, whom he has advocated for through welfare programs and drug legislation reform, but his support among that demographic remains low.

Whether voters worry about his lack of concrete policies weighing him down or discriminatingly reject his African-American background, Cory’s target audience just cannot seem to get behind him. It serves as a warning to the other hopefuls consistently falling back in the polls; regardless of how storied your background is or how charismatic you are, you have to be able to convince people that you can win more than just the nomination.

Kamala Harris: Keep people happy

Of all the candidates who have dropped out of the race so far, Harris’ exit was by far the most surprising. She began her campaign as a clear frontrunner, with strong support following her passionate criticism of Joe Biden’s opposition to school desegregation during the June debate. Unfortunately for her, she threw away this strong base by upsetting both them and the people required to keep them supportive. Harris lacked clearly defined opinions on vital issues like healthcare, failing several times during the debates to articulate whether or not she wanted to eliminate private insurance or supported single-payer programs. Candidates like Tulsi Gabbard also criticized her for her spotty record as a prosecutor in California, alienating many voters.

However, it was ultimately Harris’ decision to split her campaign team into groups that clashed frequently that led to her losing out on key strategists and turning off voters in vital blue states like California. Harris began to slip in the polls and her funding shriveled up, ultimately forcing her to call it quits last Tuesday. Even candidates with stronger chances have to keep in mind the same rule as the little guys: without the infrastructure for a solid base, you have no chance.

With all of this talk about failing candidates losing their support and dropping out of the race, people may be starting to get the feeling that the pool is finally starting to slim down and the real contenders are starting to emerge. But surprisingly, this may not be the case. In just the last week, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have announced their campaigns. Moreover, the rise of previously dismissed runners like South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg proves that low-polling candidates that can put together a convincing message can have a formidable shot at taking down the previous favorites. Hold on to your seats, people, because this race is just getting started.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.