WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Democratic Party’s future in American politics is currently in such dire straits that the party has begun rallying around a failed Senate candidate as its potential future face.
With no deep bench ahead of the 2018 midterm elections–and the ever-important looming 2020 presidential campaign, in which President Donald Trump will stand for reelection against a member of the Democratic Party–the Democrats have shifted their efforts to building up a literal loser from Missouri.
Despite Hillary Clinton’s 19-point loss to Trump in Missouri last November, 36-year-old Jason Kander — a former intelligence officer in Afghanistan who is the president of the Let America Vote PAC and now former Secretary of State of Missouri — lost to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) by just a few points. Politico points out that Kander “drew a slightly bigger crowd than Bernie Sanders had at the same event two years earlier” and that “he’s kept doing presidential-ish travel and generating presidential-ish buzz, though the highest office he’s ever held is secretary of state—of Missouri.”
The fact that Democrats are seriously considering rallying behind someone who could not even hit 47 percent in a U.S. Senate race–Kander only managed to get 46.4 percent of the vote in the general election–highlights the gravity of the predicament the party has slumped into since Clinton’s devastating loss in November.
With a scarcity of national stars–Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Liz Warren (D-MA) really represent the only national Democrats with any profile at all–and a weak, aging bench, the Democrats are doing the unthinkable: They’re looking to champion statewide candidates who lost last time, but got close to winning.
A newly-released poll by Morning Consult shows former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic base’s favorite candidate, with a 74 percent favorability rating; followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who had a 51 percent favorability rating.
Clocking in at third and fourth places were Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), at 45 percent; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); and Hillary Clinton’s former vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)–tied at 37 percent. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got 35 percent, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) got 28 percent.
Harris, a freshman U.S. Senator from California who has used the Russia hearings as a platform to fight with Trump administration officials, comes in next at 27 percent, while her colleague Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) places next after that with 23 percent.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe got 22 percent, and Starbucks executive Howard Schultz and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock each tied with 21 percent. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) got 20 percent, and then at 19 percent were a number of potential candidates including Kander.
Kander was tied in 12th place with a 19 percent favorability rating. He was tied along with Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D-CA), and Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Most of those Democrats are older. Franken is 66=years-old. Kaine is 59, Biden is 74, Warren is 67, Hickenlooper is 65, and Iger is 66. Cuomo is 59. Gillibrand is 50. Harris is 52. McAuliffe is 60. Schultz is 63. Bullock is 51. Klobuchar is 57.
Out of the list of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who received 19 percent or higher approval rating on the Morning Consult poll, only three other than Kander–Murphy, Booker and Garcetti–are younger than 50. Murphy is 43, Booker is 48, and Garcetti is 46. Kander is the only under age 40.
That is a distinctly different position from that of Republicans in recent years throughout the Obama administration, when several young Republicans were elected into senior positions throughout the country. From Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL)–among others–to even House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republicans found themselves with a deep bench walking into 2016. Trump, who just turned 71, ended up winning, however. But thanks to their deep bench, Republicans still control most levers of government at the state and national levels throughout the United States.
Newly-selected Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez, and his appointed vice chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), are charged with rebuilding the party’s crumbling infrastructure as Republicans dominate both chambers of the U.S. Congress, a majority of governors’ mansions, a majority of statehouses, and now the White House. But in the absence of a true star, they have turned to last year’s crop of flops to find young, fresh blood–and the party’s top figures are rallying behind Kander as their guy.
“He’s clearly a star and everybody knows it,” Franken told Politico of Kander. Politico also wrote that Kander has “been embraced by the insular Obama orbit and all but adopted by Joe Biden, who sees in Kander a little of his late son Beau, another earnest young Army veteran.”
Interestingly, Politico’s point that Kander’s ability to draw bigger crowds than the aging Sanders does not necessarily translate into electoral success. Sanders also drew larger crowds that Clinton did, and he couldn’t beat her. But Kander’s appeal for the Democratic Party is tied as much to his age as how much better he did than Clinton in Missouri. In other words, he lost by less than she did.
During an interview on Politico‘s Off Message podcast, Kander said, “All I can tell you is what people say when they invite us. They say that they want me to come talk about the future of the party, how we were able to run 16 points ahead [of Clinton].”
But there is no evidence yet that Kander can somehow translate his young energy into electoral success in a serious national election.
“The Democrats’ bench has been so depleted that their candidates are now forced to share the stage with political losers like Jason Kander,” Missouri Rising Communications Director Jeremy Adler says. “Newsflash to the former Missouri Secretary of State: you have to actually win high-profile races if you want to become a national figure.”
Speaking of which, Kander appeared in Georgia on Monday to rally for Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running against former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in the 6th congressional district for Dr. Tom Price’s seat. Price was appointed by President Donald Trump as Secretary of Health and Human Services earlier this year. Ossoff has run his campaign on Bernie Sanders ideas and received the Independent, progressive Vermont senator’s endorsement earlier this year.
As American Rising put it:
Kander’s appearance in Georgia today is great evidence for the problem Democrats are facing in a nutshell. Because their party’s bench is so depleted, their candidates are now forced to campaign with political no-names that carry no weight and are more famous for their losses than anything else. For the sake of his own presidential ambitions, Kander better hope he doesn’t transfer the losing gene to Ossoff before Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Monday, Handel said, “There has definitely been a significant bias from the local media like nothing I have ever experienced. But I intend to have the last laugh when I win tomorrow.”
Democrats are not expected to have a chance at retaking the U.S. Senate in the 2018 midterm elections, further complicating the party’s long-term prospects. And Democrats will face an uphill battle in their fight to retake the House of Representatives, something that is by no means a guaranteed proposition walking into the all-important fight next year.