Oca­sio-Cortez dan­gles en­dorse­ment: San­ders or War­ren?

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Janet Hook

WASHINGTON — Two of the best-known women in Demo­cratic politics had just recorded a video to up­braid Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven T. Mnuchin, when Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren and Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez started ban­ter­ing about the fi­nal episode of “Game of Thrones.” Their riff be­moan­ing the show’s an­tifem­i­nist fi­nale was caught on tape, slapped up on Twit­ter, and in a flash drew al­most 2 mil­lion view­ers.

Most ev­ery time War­ren and Oca­sio-Cortez have teamed up of late — for lunch, leg­isla­tive mat­ters and video mes­sag­ing — they have drawn mil­lions of eye­balls.

They have also raised eye­brows.

War­ren fans won­der whether — and hope that — Oca­sio-Cortez may even­tu­ally en­dorse the Massachuse­tts se­na­tor in her bid for the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

But the fresh­man House mem­ber, a su­per­star of the pro­gres­sive move­ment, has more his­tory with War­ren’s lead­ing ri­val for pro­gres­sive votes in the 2020 Demo­cratic pri­mary, Sen. Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont. They too have teamed up on many leg­isla­tive and po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. Many Democrats find it hard to imagine Oca­sio-Cortez will not even­tu­ally back San­ders, as she did in 2016.

The fact that a 29-year-old fresh­man House mem­ber is be­ing sought out by two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates with years of con­gres­sional se­nior­ity who are more than twice her age speaks vol­umes about the state of the Demo­cratic Party and the dy­nam­ics of its pri­mary process.

Oca­sio-Cortez em­bod­ies a younger gen­er­a­tion of Democrats led by women and peo­ple of color — a pro­gres­sive vot­ing bloc that brings in­tense pas­sion to the fight to oust Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. She also has a gift for cre­at­ing so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tions that old­school Democrats can only dream of.

“I would ar­gue that she is one of the most im­por­tant en­dorse­ments in the Demo­cratic Party right now,” said Re­becca Katz, a strate­gist who used to work for for­mer Se­nate Demo­cratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “She has a huge reach be­yond any other mem­ber of Congress. She knows how to use her voice.”

That voice could make a big dif­fer­ence in the sub rosa con­test be­tween War­ren and San­ders for dom­i­nance among the party’s most pro­gres­sive vot­ers and in the jock­ey­ing to emerge as the lead­ing left chal­lenger to Joe Bi­den, who cur­rently leads in polling. San­ders, who be­came a folk hero to pro­gres­sives in his 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid, has held a sig­nif­i­cant lead over War­ren since he en­tered the race, but the spread has nar­rowed in re­cent weeks.

Oca­sio-Cortez told CNN this spring that she did not ex­pect to make an en­dorse­ment in the crowded 2020 field “for a while,” but in dis­cussing what she was look­ing for in a nom­i­nee, she sin­gled out War­ren and San­ders.

“What I would like to see in a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is one that has a co­her­ent world­view and logic from which all these pol­icy pro­pos­als are com­ing for­ward,” Oca­sio-Cortez said. “I think Sen. San­ders has that. I also think Sen. War­ren has that.”

Asked for more specifics about when she would make an en­dorse­ment, her spokesman, Corbin Trent, said it would be early enough to have an im­pact.

“She wants to make sure her en­dorse­ment mat­ters in the race,” he said. “Tim­ing is im­por­tant.”

One can­di­date she al­most surely will not en­dorse in the early pri­maries is Bi­den.

He “does not par­tic­u­larly an­i­mate me,” she said in an in­ter­view ear­lier this spring with the Ya­hoo News pod­cast “Skull­dug­gery.”

But she was, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, pre­pared to be a party loy­al­ist in the end: “I will sup­port who­ever the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee is,” she said.

For Democrats other than War­ren and San­ders, as­so­ci­a­tion with Oca­sio-Cortez could be risky: Party cen­trists worry about her high pro­file as a demo­cratic so­cial­ist. She has be­come the poster child for Repub­li­cans’ cor­ner­stone strat­egy for 2020 — por­tray­ing the en­tire Demo­cratic Party as pur­su­ing a so­cial­ist agenda.

Repub­li­cans believe their job has been made eas­ier since sev­eral 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Bi­den, the self-styled cen­trist, have em­braced Oca­sio-Cortez’s sig­na­ture is­sue — the Green New Deal agenda for com­bat­ing cli­mate change.

“The fact that Joe Bi­den is em­brac­ing the Green New Deal shows you how far left the Demo­cratic Party has gone,” said Michael McA­dams, spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee, the po­lit­i­cal arm of the House GOP.

A March Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity poll found that more peo­ple (36%) had an un­fa­vor­able view of Oca­sio-Cortez than a fa­vor­able one (23%). But 38% didn’t know enough to have an opin­ion. Opin­ion was of course deeply split by party: 74% of Repub­li­cans viewed her un­fa­vor­ably; just 7% of Democrats did.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (D-NY) waits for the be­gin­ning of the 116th Congress on the floor of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 3.

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