Democrats’ choice is fight Trump or keep cool

The Day - - OPINION - By ED ROGERS Ed Rogers is a vet­eran of the Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush White Houses and sev­eral na­tional cam­paigns.

With Sen. El­iz­abeth War­ren, D-Mass., en­ter­ing the race for pres­i­dent by an­nounc­ing she was start­ing an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee, a key as­pect of the de­ci­sion that Democrats will have to make about their nom­i­nee in 2020 is be­com­ing more clear.

Col­lec­tively, the Democrats have to choose whether they want a fighter who will take on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in a brawl or a can­di­date who is a more low-key anti-Trump per­sona. A fighter would try to em­body and har­ness the out­rage that ex­cites the hard­core Trump re­sis­tance. The cooler anti-Trump can­di­date would present them­selves as of­fer­ing a plea for peace and a re­turn to nor­malcy in Amer­ica's pol­i­tics.

If the Democrats nom­i­nate an ag­gres­sive, hot per­son­al­ity, they will be ask­ing vot­ers to choose be­tween two well-de­fined can­di­dates. If they pick a can­di­date who is stylis­ti­cally the op­po­site of Trump and who can avoid di­rect en­gage­ment with the pres­i­dent, then the elec­tion will be about whether vot­ers want more Trump or less Trump.

War­ren is more of a fighter. She has been an out­spo­ken critic of all things Trump. She and the pres­i­dent have fa­mously fought about her Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage or lack thereof. She is a more ag­gres­sive and more lib­eral politi­cian than Hillary Clin­ton. And, in my opin­ion, War­ren will en­er­gize the Demo­cratic Party's core vot­ers more than Clin­ton did in 2016. A can­di­date with a calmer de­meanor and a more sub­tle ap­proach may leave Democrats cool, lack­ing en­thu­si­asm and sup­press­ing their voter turnout.

That said, I am re­minded of the 1994 New York gover­nor's race, when Ge­orge Pataki beat the three­term in­cum­bent Mario Cuomo. Cuomo was wildly un­pop­u­lar; Pataki was a lit­tle-known state se­na­tor. He was as anony­mous as a can­di­date for gover­nor could be. He never let him­self be­come the is­sue, and he could never be char­ac­ter­ized as an ex­trem­ist. Pataki won be­cause he was the per­son on the bal­lot who was not Cuomo.

So, in 2020, Democrats need to ask them­selves if they will be bet­ter off hav­ing vot­ers choose be­tween two brawling can­di­dates or if they want to try to let Trump beat him­self. With Trump as un­pop­u­lar as he is, it seems plau­si­ble that the Democrats' nom­i­nee could prac­ti­cally go into hid­ing im­me­di­ately after the July 2020 con­ven­tion and let Trump be Trump at his own peril. That may be their plan if the Democrats don't pick a hos­tile light­ning rod of a can­di­date who Trump could bait and pull into the gut­ter.

A cooler anti-Trump can­di­date would be some­one more like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and less like War­ren. Klobuchar has an earnest­ness about her and a calm de­meanor that War­ren lacks. Klobuchar rep­re­sents a class of Demo­cratic can­di­dates that would be less con­fronta­tional and more able to stay out of the way, mak­ing the elec­tion a ref­er­en­dum on Trump.

So, are the Democrats in the mood for cool and com­posed, or are they de­ter­mined to go hand-to-hand with Trump?

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