If Trump actually does become the 45th President of the United States (and I hope not, AuditTheVote), then he’ll become the least popular incoming President in history. His approval numbers are now more unfavorable than favorable, a rarity for a first-term president who hasn’t even taken office yet.
The race for The White House will begin the minute Trump takes office, and it’s never too early to look at all the potential challengers for 2020…[In order of most talked about, but not necessarily best as the grades will reflect.]
Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden: it’s very, very doubtful either of them would run for elected office again, but I’m sure Joe is kicking himself for not getting in this time. Grade: N/A
Bernie Sanders…Forgetting my personal feelings that he’s a big part of the reason we have “President Trump” in the first damn place, I still don’t think he’s a strong candidate. Nobody in the Democratic Party likes him for a reason, and it’s not because they’re all “sell-outs” it’s because they actually know him. I just don’t think it’s a great idea to follow-up the worst Republican President in history with the worst Democratic one since the Civil War-era. Plus, the obvious drawbacks of being 79 years old and already not looking like you’re in great health. [If age was a factor in Joe Biden—who looks much healthier than Bernie—not running, then would Bernie have to die on the campaign trail to prove this point?] Grade: C
Elizabeth Warren…I won’t be supporting her for several reasons, but the three biggest are: 1. Look at pictures of Hillary and Warren campaigning together and you can imagine the “low information voter” wondering if Hillary’s twin sister has been put up to running as a prank. If “Bubba’s First Lady” couldn’t win over middle-America, I’m not sure how her less well-known dopple-ganger could do any better. 2. Warren is a star in the progressive wing of the party, but it’s hard to know how her message plays outside of a solid-blue state like Massachusetts. My guess is “not well enough.” Plus, politicians who govern from Massachussets (Romney, Kerry, Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, this year’s Libertarian VP candidate Bill Weld) are on a decades-long losing streak for federal office. 3. As somebody who’s watched Warren closely in interviews, debates, and campaigning, she has a tendency to choke or make mistakes when the heat is really on, and she can sometimes come off as inauthentic when preaching to the non-converted (sound like an oft-repeated criticism of Hillary?) Grade: C-
Tim Kaine…I personally don’t like Tim Kaine, and that might be clouding my judgment but it’s historically very, very rare that the losing party’s VP candidate goes on to become President in the next cycle, and that’s even when the VP is somebody really notable. Tim Kaine just isn’t, and Hillary’s surprisingly thin margin-of-victory in Virginia makes him even less impressive when you consider that the Democrats are going to be more focused on winning back the Rust Belt than the sole “Southern” state they managed to carry this time. And Tim Kaine isn’t a fighter really. He just barely held his own in a VP debate with Mike Pence. Donald Trump would make him cry. Grade: C-
Corey Booker…A better pick than the first three, but Booker may be a little too soon and similar after Obama, but lacking in one key area: he doesn’t have a “Michelle.” There has only been one bachelor President in U.S. history, and James Buchanan is often seen as the worst President of all time. Not saying that would rule Corey out completely, but there have been sexuality rumors about him for years that might overshadow an election. And to me, he sometimes comes off as naggingly inauthentic and scripted. When you really do compare him to Obama, Booker is usually found lacking. Grade: C+
Kamala Harris…I love her, and would vote for her in two seconds, but she might just be too-new to the senate to take the top spot. People would say that it didn’t hurt Obama, and Harris actually has a better pre-senate record of accomplishment than he did, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching Bill Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump ascend to the White House, it’s that it’s very hard to capture lightening in a bottle twice. Grade: B
Amy Klobuchar…She would probably be okay, but I guess if I’m honest, I’ve got my heart set on another senator from Minnesota…Grade: B (few people outside Minnesota even know who she is, and it kind-of seems like she doesn’t really have “it” when you watch her closely).
Al Franken…Now to be fair, nobody is really talking about him aside from me, but this is who Hillary should’ve picked for running-mate this time out. He would absolutely help Democrats regain Rust Belt losses, and I’ve learned that the best thing you can do is go for the unexpected. None of the last four Presidents have anything in common really, and recent elections are just dominated by whichever candidate can be the most different from the one before it or from what people have grown to expect from that person’s party. The Republicans were growing fussy and statesmen-like nationally (H.W. Bush and Bob Dole)? Nominate George W. Bush! The Democrats have grown into a party for Southern men nationally (Clinton, Carter, Gore, LBJ)? Nominate Obama! The Republicans have nominated moderates who aren’t insane (Romney, McCain)? Nominate Trump! And now we’re in a moment when people think the Democrats have pretty much abadoned Middle-America and have a hard time speaking to the white working class. Franken could change that. Plus, it might take an entertainer (Franken is a former comedian) to beat an entertainer, and he’s popular with both the progressive and working-class wings of the party, something only a handful of people can say. Grade: B+
And his running-mate should absolutely be Tammy Duckworth who has built a career out of beating the biggest assholes in politics (Joe Walsh, Mark Kirk) and we’ll need someone who’s 2-0 against a-holes to beat the biggest of them all: Donald J. Trump.