Make no mistake, President Trump’s State of the Union address was the kickoff for his 2020 re-election campaign, and 𝒔𝒐 𝒇𝒂𝒓 𝑰’𝒗𝒆 𝒚𝒆𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒆𝒆 𝒂 𝑫𝒆𝒎𝒐𝒄𝒓𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒐 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒕 𝒉𝒊𝒎.
During the partial government shutdown over whether to fund Trump’s wall on the southern border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that the president deliver the annual address alone, from the Oval Office.
I can see why.
Alone, Trump is a frump. In front of a crowd, he’s electric.
No matter what you think of Trump’s message, his delivery was impressive. He stayed on script and kept referring to everyday heroes in the gallery, thus forcing the Democrats to stand and cheer.
It was populist theater, where presence and impression trump content.
And the overnight polling after the speech showed that once again, he connected with voters, at least enough voters to make him a 2020 favorite.
You can’t say the same for the Democratic contenders. They all have impressive credentials, winning personalities and positive messages, but none displays the “people personality” that our media-savvy president has mastered.
Nearly four years ago, when Trump announced his candidacy for president, I said he had a winning hand. He still does.
So we Democrats really have our work cut out for us.
If he carefully picks his fights, Trump can turn the light back on Democrats and force us to defend our progressive wing’s “socialist” positions like health care for all, housing for all and guaranteed income.
Our candidates will have to pull further and further to the left to satisfy the party’s activist constituency, much like Republicans did in response to the rise of the Tea Party, and probably with the same results.
Our congressional efforts in 2018 benefited from Republican candidates’ inability to defend their relationship with Trump. But Trump can defend his relationship with himself very effectively.
Let’s just hope Democrats can figure out that we need to go beyond the left and motivate voters across the board, just as midterm congressional campaigns did under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.
We know we can win California and New York. The question is: Can we win the states we lost in 2016, or do we preach to the choir in an empty church?