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Choices, choices, choices

Democratic presidential candidates outnumber paczkis at annual Fat Tuesday party.


Someone named “Hickenlooper” hopped into the 2020 Democratic presidential sweepstakes. In case you missed it.

CNN now lists 12 announced candidates, two more on the verge of announcing and another dozen who are thinking about it. Familiar names like Joe Biden, John Kerry and Beto O’Rourke are on that list.

The Truscott Rossman public relations group didn’t have that many varieties of paczkis carved up for Fat Tuesday revelers at its annual feeding fest at Troppo. Raspberry. Vanilla cream. Lemon. Whipped chocolate. Apricot. Is it possible to try them all?

Overwhelming, isn’t it? The people tasting these powdered pastries thought so, too. Oh, I’m back talking about the Dem presidential wannabes, by the way. “There’s no one person,” said veteran journalist and PR professional Sharon Emery. “It’s almost the opposite. At first, you need to eliminate certain people, and that’s the way it’s going to get thinned out.”

She wants a steady personality with progressive social ideas. Someone focused on the common good. She said she’d rather have a fresh face. Bernie Sanders had his chance. Elizabeth Warren missed hers.

If it’s not an old, white male billionaire, Emery’s Truscott Rossman colleague, Josh Hovey, is willing to give them a listen. Whoever emerges from the Democratic primary can’t resemble the current office holder.

That doesn’t exactly narrow the field much unless you’re counting Howard Schultz, which CNN didn’t.

Putting on his political analyst hat, Hovey says the name of the game right now is “Name ID, name ID, name ID.” Folks like Cory Booker with new ideas like legalizing marijuana can stand out from the pack.

“We’ve only known the Clinton name and the Obama name for the past 30 years in presidential politics. There’s a real opportunity for people to come out and make a name for themselves,” he said.

Speaking of Clinton, former state Rep. Lee Gonzales was a Clinton delegate in 2008. Since then, he’s seen his Democratic Party “lurch to the left” and he’s not convinced that’s a winning formula for 2020.

Joe Biden is someone who can appeal to Democrats, “soft Republicans” and independents, he said. The confessed moderate said “there’s a big danger” of Sanders or someone of his ideological ilk repelling your average, center-of-the-road person.

Biden can appeal to labor groups, educators — all of the major Dem influence groups. Voters need to say of the Dem nominee, “I may not agree with all of those ideas, but at least that person is on our side.”

Rep. Donna Lasinski is the head of the Michigan House Democrats’ reelection efforts. It’s too early to pick a favorite, as far as she’s concerned.

She wants someone who does what Gretchen Whitmer did in 2018 — someone Democrats can layer quality candidates underneath on the ballot. If voters are excited about the Democratic presidential pick, they can be excited about the state House nominee, whoever it is.

In her experience, successful General Election candidates are ones who rise above seeing policy ideas as being “too left” or “too right.” They are the candidates who “listen and find solutions.” Someone attached to his or her community.

So who is her favorite? “It’s too early,” Lasinski said. “They are trying to get out to define their personal narrative rather than put out a solution.”

From the Republican perspective, Andrea Bitely isn’t excited about any Democrat. Not Kamala Harris, whom The Washington Post ranked as its top Democratic candidate at this point. Not Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a favorite among some working-class Michiganders.

Pushed to name a candidate she’s most worried about Trump facing in 2020, Bitely settled on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York. She’s “relatively normal.” She comes across rational. She’s also a good foil to Trump in that she’s from New York, Bitely said.

But this is what Bitely wants to know. Where does the middle-of-road Democrat land in this “cattle call,” which range the political spectrum from liberal Bernie Sanders to more moderate Amy Klobuchar?

Do the Dems stay hard left or do they try to pick off educated women who “held their noses” and voted for Trump in 2014 because they hated Hillary Clinton THAT MUCH?

But for Bitely, picking a Dem would be like a Paczki. They may come in different flavors, but they’re still all Paczkis.

(Kyle Melinn, of the Capitol newsletter MIRS, is at melinnky@gmail.com.)


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