On Thursday, the forced exit of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet from the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries became official, as the Democratic National Committee announced the 10 candidates who will go on to the next debate, to be held Sept. 12 .
The final 10 – for now – are Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and, for some reason, in addition to a former vice president, a former cabinet secretary, a mayor and six senators, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who wants to cut out the middleman and just give people money.
Bennet is not done, however. He gave an interview to The Atlantic’s Edward Isaac Dovere a week ago, knowing he would not make this cut, based on the number of individual donors and his standing in polls. Having called those rules “stupid and self-defeating” as the deadline neared, he told Dovere, defiantly, “I gotta live off the land.”
We had visions of Sherman’s march through Georgia but Bennet seems to mean something slightly different: He will keep campaigning bare-bones at least through the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in February, and hopes to qualify for a debate after September’s.
“There’s nothing subtle about the political calculation” Bennet is making, Dovere writes.
“He thinks former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is going to collapse, that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont won’t be able to expand his base of support, and that people will get scared off of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as soon as they think seriously about her going head-to-head with President Donald Trump.”
Bennet is not alone in the belief that he could be the indispensable leader by the time the voting begins. Conservative columnist George Will is in his corner. So is Trevor Noah, the late-night talk show host, who had Bennet on The Daily Show in the first week of August and said, “You’re on of my favorite people to watch on the debates for two reasons. One, you sound like Mr. Mackey (the South Park character) ... and two, your policies are progressive, you think about kids (and) you have this idea of America that is really attractive to many people.”
The meaning of the term “progressive” was hotly debated in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Surely Sanders, a socialist, was, but Hillary Clinton’s camp pushed back, saying she was just as progressive in her own way. Perhaps it suffices to say that all of the Democrats are more progressive than President Trump. Bennet is a progressive moderate who stresses he wants to get things done. In practice, he still believes bipartisanship is possible if the nation has the right leader. Like him.
James Carville, the strategist who helped secure Bill Clinton’s election, was even more effusive about Bennet. He is “as qualified to be president as anybody in the field,” Carville offered in an interview when Bennet got in the race. “I think he’s easily one of the two or three most impressive U.S. senators across the board – on politics, on policy, on persona, on everything. If they were going to go into a laboratory and bring out the perfect candidate, it’d be someone who believes in public service, who is very smart, well spoken, decent ... really cares about the country.”
That, he said, is Bennet.
We agree. We think he is formidable. He may be indispensable. By hanging on, he will give voters another chance to look him over.
We wish him and the nation luck with this.