2019年11月4日 星期一

On Politics With Lisa Lerer: Enter the Arena

Smoke machines! Spotlights! Thundersticks! And a very different presidential race.
Author Headshot

By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I'm Lisa Lerer, your host, bringing you a dispatch from my weekend reporting trip to Iowa.

Photo Illustration by Sasha Portis; left, Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times; Eric Thayer/Reuters

Democrats put on quite a show Friday night in Des Moines at their Liberty & Justice Celebration, a 13-candidate event considered the start of the final, three-month sprint to the Iowa caucuses.

There were smoke machines! Spotlights! A runway! And, of course, thundersticks!

Is this W.W.E.? No, it's the Iowa Democratic Party's annual dinner.

Somehow, amid the shouts of the booming announcer and the migraine-inducing glare of thousands of glow sticks, it became clear to me that the race has entered a new phase.

There has been no defining moment. No devastating gaffe. But over the past few weeks, the race in Iowa has begun to take a very different form than it had when the candidates sweated through the state fair just three months ago.

For months, this was a contest between two of the biggest boldface names in Democratic politics — former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Now, the number of leading contenders has essentially doubled, creating a four-way race with Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, yes, but also with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. A New York Times/Siena College poll of likely caucusgoers taken last week showed those four candidates knotted at the top of the field.


As I wrote with my colleague Reid Epstein over the weekend, the energy seems to be with the two fresher faces, who used the dinner as a display of organizational force.

Mr. Buttigieg, helped by a cheering section of around 1,000 superfans who flew in from across the country to attend the dinner, cast himself as the heir to President Barack Obama's political legacy in his remarks — a direct shot at one of Mr. Biden's central arguments.

Ms. Warren used her speech to debut a new line of attack against Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and her other centrist rivals. "Anyone who comes on this stage and tells you to dream small and give up early is not going to lead our party to victory," she said.

The attack underscored how questions about her "Medicare for all" plan have become central to this race. The Friday release of Ms. Warren's long-awaited, $20.5 trillion proposal explaining how she would fund the program prompted a new series of attacks over the weekend about the plan's specifics and whether she is being honest about the price tag.


Her campaign plans to release a proposal detailing how she would manage the transition from private health insurance plans to universal government-run health coverage. But the questions are likely to trail her for the foreseeable future.

Also worth noting from this weekend: The supersized field has finally begun shrinking to merely pleasantly plump. Former Representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas dropped out on Friday night, and rumors abound of other exits that could be coming soon.

Of course, not everything has changed. As has been the case since the start of this crowded contest, most of the field has found it all but impossible to break out of the single digits in polling.

At the dinner, Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota delivered strong performances — to a half-empty room. (Both had the unlucky draw of speaking toward the end of the five-hour program.)


And they had it far better than some of the candidates who followed. Former Representative John Delaney of Maryland was introduced with photos of Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana on the screens. And Mr. Bullock delivered the final address of the event — after being announced as Mr. Booker.

Warren rattles Wall Street

Want more about Ms. Warren? Check out this story I wrote for the paper today with the ace business reporter Kate Kelly.

We dive into the fury that her rise in the polls has ignited on Wall Street, where money mangers, investors and bankers are contemplating voting for President Trump, threatening to leave the country and loudly predicting a double-digit dive in the market if Ms. Warren is elected.

Ms. Warren and her campaign see their rage as more beneficial than any monetary contribution. The joke making the rounds among Democrats on Wall Street is that every time a banker complains, Ms. Warren gets another thousand votes in Iowa.

Drop us a line!

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We'll try to answer it. Have a comment? We're all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Tomorrow is Election Day. Here's a key state to watch.

A get-out-the-vote message in Midlothian, Va.Emma Howells for The New York Times

As several states go to the polls, we'll have live results on NYTimes.com and in the NYTimes app on Tuesday night. Here's a cheat sheet from our colleague Trip Gabriel:

Three states have particularly consequential elections on Tuesday. Kentucky and Mississippi are choosing governors in unexpectedly competitive races. But perhaps the biggest attraction is in Virginia, where control of the state legislature is up for grabs. Two years ago, the majority in the state's House of Delegates turned on a random drawing to settle a tied race.

If Democrats reverse the slim majorities that Republicans hold in both chambers — as polling and a court-ordered new map of key districts suggest is likely — it will cap off a decade-long evolution of a Southern state, the former seat of the Confederacy, into a progressive bastion.

With a sitting Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, new Democratic majorities in the legislature would be expected to advance liberal priorities on gun restrictions, the minimum wage, health care and civil rights protections for women and L.G.B.T. people. Perhaps most important to Democrats, unified control of state government would put the party in charge of mapping new voting districts in 2021.

Virginia, which holds elections every year, has been at the forefront of a national revolt against President Trump among suburban voters since 2017.

Tuesday night's returns are certain to be interpreted as a report card on Mr. Trump ahead of 2020. But Virginia is not an ideal presidential bellwether. Republicans have not won a statewide election there since 2009.

These elections, like local elections everywhere now, are a kind of referendum on the president; but the simple toting up of W's and L's will not be especially meaningful. More telling will be the intensity of both parties' voters. Look for the margins of victory or loss, and the overall turnout, which nonpartisan analysts think will be in the mid-40s.

… Seriously

The founder of the politics website Iowa Starting Line predicts Giant Bailey's sad future.

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