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Forget about the race for president — some 2020 Democratic candidates are already picking their running mates.
Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, asked if they’d pick a woman, were quick to vow that they would. Joseph R. Biden Jr., before he has even entered the race, is scoping out Stacey Abrams (who’s considering her own presidential bid), as well as Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke (who are currently running for president).
All that chatter prompted former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado to wonder at a CNN town hall last night why the female candidates aren’t being asked if they’d pick a man as their vice president.
Well, thanks for asking, governor! We actually posed that very question to Elizabeth Warren on Sunday night, after an event in Memphis, Tenn. Here’s what she had to say:
“I want somebody who’s going to get out there and fight on behalf of working people. That’s what matters most.”
That response, though extremely on message, is very different from the ones offered by some of her male opponents.
“No matter what — I’m looking you in the eye and saying this — there will be a woman on the ticket,” said. Mr. Booker. “I don’t know if it’s in the vice president’s position or the president’s position, but if I have my way, there will be a woman on the ticket.”
There’s definitely something bizarre about so many candidates publicly mulling their vice-presidential picks, given that we’re still nearly a year away from the first votes being cast. Typically, this kind of discussion happens behind closed doors, and not for another year or so.
But this strange little side narrative tells us two notable things about the primary race:
1. Women have power. The question is how much.
In 2018, women powered Democratic gains — as candidates, volunteers and voters — and it seems like the party is going into this contest with a sense that they could do the same next spring. The running mate remarks show that the campaigns believe they need a woman on a ticket; the men are just hoping that it doesn’t have to be at the top.
Now, does that mean you should bet on a female candidate becoming the nominee? Uh, definitely not. The double standard that female candidates face is real and still hard to overcome, particularly in a presidential contest.
2. Everyone is a pundit.
The Democratic obsession with beating President Trump has turned everyone into a talking head. When asked, it’s not surprising for average voters to deliver their own detailed assessment of which candidate has the best chance of winning over the Midwest, liberals or black voters.
There’s a ton of strategic thinking going on in the minds of the Democratic primary electorate. This kind of vice-presidential chatter seems squarely aimed at a party of punditocracy.
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Ending the Electoral College
At a CNN town hall this week, Elizabeth Warren’s biggest line wasn’t about Medicare for all, the Green New Deal or taxing the ultrarich. It was about the Electoral College.
“My view is that every vote matters,” she said. “And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”
The system the country has used to pick presidents since 1789 is decidedly out of fashion with Democrats.
Beto O’Rourke said on Tuesday that “there’s a lot of wisdom” in scrapping it. Kamala Harris is “open” to the idea. Pete Buttigieg says it’s “got to go.” And polling shows three-quarters of Democratic voters support a national popular vote.
But abolishing it would require amending the Constitution, which is, by design, an arduous process that only lets through the most bipartisan of ideas.
Enter the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
It’s an agreement between states to award their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. The pact would only take effect if the states involved were worth at least 270 electoral votes, the number it takes to win the Electoral College. (Of course, you can bet that if the proposal actually hit 270 there would be plenty of lawsuits challenging it.)
This week, Colorado became the 12th state to sign on to the agreement, bringing the total to 181 electoral votes.
It’s clear why Democrats would want to change the system. They have won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections, but lost two of those — George W. Bush in 2000 and President Trump in 2016 — because of the Electoral College.
And the party fears those kinds of losses could become more frequent in coming elections, because of a demographic shift that has emerged as a serious threat for them: Democrats simply have more voters in fewer states.
But the issue hasn’t always belonged to the left. Both parties have embraced the idea that the system, as Mr. Trump famously put it, is “rigged.” The president, it’s worth noting, has railed against the Electoral College since 2012.
“I would rather have the popular vote, but for me it’s much easier to win the popular vote,” he said on “Fox and Friends” last April. “It’s what the Democrats use to make an excuse for their loss of an election.”
His views changed some after the Democratic push this week.
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