NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Biden camp tries courting Klobuchar’s in final days before the Iowa Democratic caucuses

A report pub­lished by The New York Times on Tues­day claims that for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s team has made over­tures to the cam­paign of Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar, sug­gest­ing an elec­toral pact dur­ing next week’s Iowa cau­cus.

Accord­ing to sources famil­iar with a meet­ing between senior aides for both cam­paigns, the Biden aides argued that the two cam­paigns should encour­age their sup­port­ers to cau­cus for the oth­er can­di­date in precincts where one of them does not have enough sup­port to win del­e­gates.

As a U.S. senator from a neighboring state, Klobuchar has staked her hopes on Iowa.

As a U.S. sen­a­tor from a neigh­bor­ing state, Klobuchar has staked her hopes on Iowa. (Pho­to: Phil Roed­er, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

DNC rules stip­u­late that if a can­di­date does not win 15% in a precinct, their sup­port­ers must choose a dif­fer­ent can­di­date in the sec­ond round of vot­ing.

Sim­i­lar cau­cus alliances have been forged before, most notably in 2004 between Democ­rats John Edwards and Den­nis Kucinich.

How­ev­er, they have not met with much suc­cess his­tor­i­cal­ly; the 2004 Iowa cau­cuses were won con­vinc­ing­ly by John Ker­ry, who went on to win the nom­i­na­tion.

Klobuchar’s team was not hav­ing any of it.

The plan was shot down in flames with­in hours, with acer­bic com­ments from high-rank­ing mem­bers of the cam­paign. Klobuchar’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor said “We’ve nev­er made cau­cus deals with oth­er cam­paigns and we don’t intend to,” while Pete Gian­gre­co (the strate­gist to whom the Biden team reached out) told CNN, “this was not a seri­ous con­ver­sa­tion and was dis­missed.”

The harsh reac­tion was moti­vat­ed by the Biden team’s dis­mis­sive treat­ment of Klobuchar in recent days. Biden’s allies have put sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on Klobuchar, argu­ing that since the two share sim­i­lar neolib­er­al (or in their words, “prag­mat­ic”) pol­i­tics, she should get out of Viden’s way in order to deny the nom­i­na­tion to Sen­a­tors Bernie Sanders or Eliz­a­beth War­ren.

Biden’s team have jus­ti­fied this argu­ment by say­ing that he has the best chance of beat­ing Don­ald Trump in the gen­er­al elec­tion.

To add insult to, well, insult, Iowa’s for­mer gov­er­nor, Tom Vil­sack (a promi­nent Biden sup­port­er), has hint­ed that Klobuchar could be reward­ed for coop­er­at­ing with Biden by gain­ing a bet­ter chance to be Biden’s run­ning mate. Such a sug­ges­tion was almost guar­an­teed to get Klobuchar’s hack­les up, giv­en the clum­sy, enti­tled way that Biden has treat­ed poten­tial run­ning mates so far in this elec­tion cycle.

In March of last year, Biden allies sug­gest­ed that Georgia’s pop­u­lar for­mer guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Stacey Abrams could be picked as his run­ning mate from ear­ly on in the cam­paign. Abrams, who was then mulling her own elec­toral future, dis­missed Biden’s over­tures say­ing, “You don’t run for sec­ond place.

Many of her polit­i­cal allies saw Biden’s attempt to get a young, pro­gres­sive, black woman on his team as bla­tant tokenism and denounced it as “exploita­tive.”

Biden, seem­ing­ly unable to learn his les­son, next tried that trick with Kamala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia; senior Democ­rats argued through­out May that the two would be a “dream tick­et.” Har­ris bat­ted these expec­ta­tions aside, jok­ing that per­haps Biden would like to be her run­ning mate: “As Vice Pres­i­dent, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job.” Staff mem­bers on her cam­paign team were pri­vate­ly “infu­ri­at­ed” by anoth­er dis­play of tokenism by the Biden cam­paign.

The Biden campaign’s attempts to get a female run­ning mate look tact­less, par­tic­u­lar­ly in com­par­i­son to his main rival Bernie Sanders’ search for a vice pres­i­dent. Many pro­gres­sives have long argued that Sanders and War­ren should run togeth­er to unite the Democ­rats’ left-lean­ing base, and a recent inves­ti­ga­tion by The Inter­cept has revealed that the Sanders team has con­sid­ered that idea.

How­ev­er, unlike Biden’s gen­der-based tokenism, the Sanders team report­ed­ly researched whether War­ren could hold the roles of vice pres­i­dent and trea­sury sec­re­tary at the same time – a clear indi­ca­tion that Sanders wants his Sen­ate col­league on his team for her polit­i­cal and finan­cial acu­men, not sim­ply her gen­der.

Sanders has a long-held respect for War­ren.

In 2015, he helped the Draft War­ren move­ment, which aimed to per­suade her to run against Hillary Clin­ton (which she even­tu­al­ly decid­ed against doing).

By con­trast, Biden’s clum­sy efforts came on the back of a long his­to­ry of inabil­i­ty to under­stand fem­i­nist com­plaints against him. His so-called apolo­gies for his han­dling of the Ani­ta Hill hear­ings in 1991 and for inap­pro­pri­ate­ly touch­ing a female law­mak­er in 2014 simul­ta­ne­ous­ly deflect­ed respon­si­bil­i­ty away from him and showed that he failed to under­stand the crux of the com­plaints.

It should be lit­tle sur­prise that Klobuchar – who has been an out­spo­ken fem­i­nist dur­ing the cam­paign – would balk at Biden’s clum­sy over­tures.

Klobuchar’s fem­i­nist streak also rais­es the ques­tion of whether her sup­port­ers would even vote for Biden if she failed to make the cut in Iowa.

Many of her biggest moments in the cam­paign so far have come from her tak­ing on male enti­tle­ment: say­ing that women are “held to a high­er stan­dard”; point­ing to Pete Buttigieg’s inex­pe­ri­ence as an exam­ple of male priv­i­lege; and com­ing along­side Eliz­a­beth War­ren in the most recent debate to tear down the aura of “elec­tabil­i­ty” sur­round­ing their male rivals, who col­lec­tive­ly have lost ten elec­tions where­as the two women have lost none.

If Klobuchar does fail to reach 15% in some precincts in Iowa, it seems more like­ly that many of her sup­port­ers could flock towards Eliz­a­beth War­ren, who, as men­tioned, is also an expe­ri­enced female sen­a­tor. War­ren has recent­ly made efforts to reach vot­ers out­side of the Democ­ratic Party’s fer­vent pro­gres­sive base.

Polls indi­cate that the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es will be high­ly com­pet­i­tive.

Four can­di­dates – Biden, Sanders, War­ren and Buttigieg – are cred­i­bly vying for first place, with a large num­ber of poten­tial cau­cus goers still unde­cid­ed.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for mon­ey.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion