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Moderate Dems seek one of their own to win 2020 primary, topple Trump

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — The 2020 Democratic presidential primary hung a left turn out of the gate, leaving the middle of the field wide open for … someone.

But who?

“We really, really don’t know yet,” said Matt Bennett, a vice president of the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.

He’s not panicking this early in the election cycle.

“This year will be about playing to the activists on Twitter and online donor universe. Next year will be about winning votes, and those are very different universes,” Bennett said.

In 2016, it was progressives who were left waiting, begging even, for a champion to enter the ring against the front-runner, Hillary Clinton. First, they tried to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, then they rallied around Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as the non-Clinton alternative.

This year, though, progressives have an embarrassment of riches, with Warren and perhaps Sanders back to set the pace and fresher faces like Sen. Kamala Harris of California, among others, embracing single-payer health care and other left causes with a convert’s zeal.

Now it’s moderate Democrats who are left waiting and worrying about finding a nominee who they think can beat President Donald Trump.

One potential contender for those unsatisfied with their current options is Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who announced her candidacy on Sunday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, has slammed the liberal candidates’ soak-the-rich tax plans as he weighs a bid. And ex-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who knocked the “dishonest populism” of the left in a recent op-ed, may enter the contest in March.

But everyone is living the shadow of former Vice President Joe Biden, who comfortably leads polls of the nascent Democratic field.

“That (moderate) lane would be secured if the vice president makes the decision to get in,” said Harold Schaitberger, the longtime president of the International Association of Fire Fighters and vice president of the AFL-CIO.

Members of the firefighters’ union voted narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but broke heavily for Trump in 2016, according to an internal poll conducted by the union and shared with NBC News.

If Biden doesn’t run, the 316,000-strong union will look for someone who can appeal to “pragmatic” and “middle of the road” voters, many of whom had once been reliable supporters of Democrats, Schaitberger said.

“I believe that for the Democratic nominee to win, it’s going to take a nominee that can actually reach the electorate in between the two coasts,” Schaitberger said in an interview. “We would have great difficulty considering or embracing a candidate from that far left, liberal side of the spectrum.”

That’s a sentiment shared by many of the party’s donors and other gatekeepers, who will look for someone to fill the void left by Biden if he passes on running again, as he did in 2016.

“Others are waiting to see what Biden does. He’s polling so strongly that they think if he is in, they can’t get far,” said David Brock, who runs a network of Democrat-aligned groups and just returned from a donor conference he hosted in Palm Beach, Florida. “There is definitely a space for a candidate who is solidly progressive, but more toward the center.”

Their numbers are waning, but about 35 percent of Democrats still call themselves moderates while another 13 percent identify as conservative, according to a recent Gallup survey.

At the moment, however, seven of the eight major declared candidates support Medicare for All, which has prompted some uncomfortable questions on whether they are really prepared to eliminate all private health insurance.

The pileup on the left led Trump to raise the specter of socialism in his State of the Union Address last week and make comparisons to Venezuela, while ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says there is no longer room for him in his former party, leading him to consider an independent presidential run.

When Pew asked Democratic-leaning voters last month which direction they’d like to see their party move, 54 percent said “more moderate” compared to 40 percent who said “more liberal.”

“Are any 2020 Presidential candidates paying attention to this?” asked former Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who lost re-election in Missouri last year, on Twitter.

But many mainstream Democrats think Schultz’ claim that the left has taken over the party is ludicrous. They point out that in the midterm elections in November, progressive insurgents fared poorly in swing districts in both primaries and the general election.

The most important issue on the mind of most Democrats right now, according to polls, is “electability.”

“We’re going to look for that candidate that we think can best beat Trump — period,” said Robert Wolf, the former chairman of UBS and a major Democratic donor who served as an economic adviser to President Barack Obama.

“For me, it’s going to take someone who supports progressive issues like gun reform and climate change, but must be a pro-growth Democrat to win on the economy,” Wolf added.

Of course, electability is a fuzzy concept after the surprise result of the 2016 election, and progressives and people of color have been challenging the conventional wisdom that appealing to the center is party’s best strategy.

It’s also unclear if moderate Democrats could coalesce around one candidate in the primary since they include a wide range of groups with cross-cutting values: religious African-Americans and Latinos with more conservative views on abortion; cosmopolitan professionals who want to fight climate change and the gun lobby but keep taxes low; and noncollege educated whites who might be OK with guns rights and soaking the rich.

So some candidates will likely be able to appeal to moderates for personal or demographic reasons, even while running on a progressive platform.

For instance, one name being floated by centrist Democrats is Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of the Senate’s most liberal members who nonetheless consistently wins re-election in an increasingly red state, which also happens to be a key presidential battleground.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland on June 13, 2016.Angelo Merendino / Getty Images file

Brown, who is currently testing the waters by touring early primary and caucus states, has made a point of refusing to join the bandwagon in support of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, the environmental plan popularized by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“His policies come from what effect it will have on a worker,” said Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, who is trying to draft Brown into the 2020 contest. “And that is very different from everybody else, where the example is some Scandinavian country. That does not relate to a nurse working over in Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio — what do they care about a Scandinavian policy?”

Ultimately, though, the party’s nominee will likely have to transcend labels.

That’s led some moderates to express interest in a candidate like Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman who defies simple ideological categorization and ran a Senate race in Texas last year on a hopeful message that allowed people to project their own values onto him.

“We don’t need a clear winner on where we are on the ideological spectrum,” said Iowa state Sen. Jeff Danielson of his state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, now a year away. “What we need is a clear winner on the message we’ll deliver to the American people of where we go together.”



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Reporter asks Mueller about his report, drawing a ‘no comment’

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By Allan Smith

Special counsel Robert Mueller has spoken — and he’s giving no comment.

Mueller was approached by MSNBC’s Mike Viqueira on Sunday as he was leaving St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., for Easter services. Viqueira asked Mueller as he and his wife, Ann Mueller, were getting into their car whether he would testify before Congress after the Thursday release of his report on President Donald Trump and Russian electoral interference.

Mueller said he would be offering “no comment.”

Viqueira then asked Mueller if he had been investigating anyone other than Trump, and the evidence was identical, would they be indicted? The reporter also asked why Mueller did not make a recommendation on possible obstruction of justice and if Attorney General William Barr accurately characterized the report in his initial summary and subsequent press conference.

Mueller did not respond as he entered his car.

“I think it’s accurate to characterize Director Mueller today as being ‘tight-lipped’ in response to my questions,” Viqueira said afterwards on MSNBC.

Mueller has remained silent during the course of his probe, which began in May 2017, refusing to engage in public discourse about the investigation. Mueller’s “no comment” was the first time he had spoken publicly to the media about the investigation since its inception.

In his 400-plus page report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and whether the president sought to obstruct justice, Mueller said he was unable to establish a Trump-Russia conspiracy and said he could not come to a traditional prosecutorial decision on obstruction.



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In online ad, Howard Schultz says ‘majority of Americans are Americans’

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By Allan Smith

A new Facebook ad from possible 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz gained attention online over a line saying “the majority of Americans are Americans.”

Schultz, who has said he may run as a centrist independent, has based his potential candidacy on a message of nonpartisanship. Schultz has taken socially liberal and fiscally conservative positions, insisting that both Republicans and Democrats are too extreme to govern. The former Starbucks chairman and billionaire businessman has made the national debt a central issue of his possible run.

In the Facebook ad, Schultz writes: “The majority of Americans aren’t Democrats or Republicans, the majority of Americans are Americans.”

The line drew mockery online from observers who thought the statement that most Americans are American was rather obvious.



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Jeremy Corbyn attacked by veterans for labelling British SAS soldiers 'LAWLESS' at rally

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JEREMY CORBYN has been heavily criticised by veterans after a video emerged of him branding British Army forces in Iraq “lawless”.

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