Tuesday's mid-term elections have crystallized the choice of Democrats when they turn to the 2020 presidential race: do they rank with passion or pragmatism?
Within the party, an energetic group saw in the results the need of Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, or a candidate like him, capable of inspiring large crowds with genuine and optimistic advocacy. who reprimands President Trump, while rarely mentioning him.
Others have evoked victories in the Upper Midwest that suggested a totally different formula, which would rely on candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden or Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio for to bring together the coalition of working-class voters who, for decades, allowed Democrats to settle down. in the White House.
"I think we know what the ingredients are," said Rebecca Kirszner Katz, Democratic strategist. "And I think we are trying to determine if this person exists."
Party candidates and strategists have been working on the mid-term results in the last few days, looking for clues as to what might be of interest to voters, according to interviews with nearly two dozen candidates, aides and strategists.
Some are discouraged by Trump's strength and resilience, even in a difficult mid-term election, suggesting that overthrowing him is harder than many realize.
"It was not a historic reprimand," said a Democratic strategist working for a future 2020 candidate, expressing the condition of anonymity in order to offer a candid assessment. "He got his base twice. . . . I do not think anyone should trust. How many times do you have to trust Trump before you go wrong? People felt that 2016 was a stroke of luck. And people still underestimate him.
Others are optimistic about what they perceive as a loosening of Trump's hold on the working-class voters who have abandoned the Democrats for him in 2016.
What the mid-term results did not do is select a field that could be bigger and heavier than any other recent memory. Almost anyone who thinks about an offer can find a result that gives them a reason to run or just as quickly find a reason to take a pass.
"The fact that the" blue wall "has recovered has again allowed some of the 2020 candidates to explain it by saying," I have the ability to appeal to the voters of Rust Belt, and that Is the way to victory. And I think they're going to be successful. a fair hearing about it, "said Brian Fallon, a Democratic consultant who was Hillary Clinton's press attaché in 2016." But I tend to think that Iowa activists will go always where their heart will lead them and will not necessarily make a kind of pragmatic decision on who can appeal to Obama-Trump voters. They are more likely to attract the candidate who inspires them the most. "
The debate between these options, which has played quietly over the past two years since Trump shocked the party and sent it in free fall, will be settled over the next year, while 39, a large number of candidates will start openly arguing to occupy various slices of the primary electorate. Candidates are already recruiting staff members and identifying financial teams to help with the first of many tests – fundraising.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Has aggressively established a national fundraising and political network, while Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) Will follow up on several recent trips to Primary states with a high-level reading tour. . Former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, will travel to South Carolina on Friday, while Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) said she was now considering a presidential candidacy after the weekend. to have simply excluded.
Until now, one of the fundamental questions about the upcoming presidential campaign was whether the Democrats would insist that a candidate engage with Trump in a pretentious style that incites the supporters on both sides, or for someone who is trying a more positive and positive approach. unifying message. Many party successes Tuesday turned to the latter.
"The best way to beat Trump is not to look like him," said David Axelrod, Democratic consultant and former senior strategist of President Barack Obama. "There is this kind of debate on the theme" Do you campaign with a clenched fist or an open hand? "The winning candidates did not win as a tool of destruction for Donald Trump, they ran for another constructive and positive vision and addressed the daily concerns of people."
Candidates like O'Rourke – as well as gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia – sparked the passion of the country's Democrats. They managed to raise huge sums of money from everyday donors and create viral moments that propelled their candidacy to statehood in national praise.
"It was a model," said Axelrod. "What distinguished Beto O'Rourke was not a problem in particular. It was his fundamental call to character, his fundamental calling to the community. I think there is a great lesson to be learned from this. We tend to be very tactical and discerning in our thinking about these things. But something is happening there. I think the country is hungry for that.
But O 'Rourke did not focus on Trump. And as the Democratic primary gets under way, there are still thirsty appeals for a more aggressive stance against the president.
"You're not going to beat that guy by talking about puppies and daisies," said lawyer Michael Avenatti. "You have to inspire people, but you can not get them to win against Trump, not in 2020. It's not going to happen, you have to go into the gutter with this guy and take pictures, you have to take a lot of punishment and give a lot of punishment, he will replace a candidate who wants to be a cheerleader. "
Avenatti drew national attention representing Stormy Daniels, who claimed that Trump and she had a sense of allegiance. He said he was considering a presidential candidacy on the grounds that he is particularly well placed to dialogue with Trump.
"It's not who among the Democrats can make the best president. If the Democrats answer this question, they are likely to lose the elections in 2020, "said Avenatti. "The question is: who is facing this person right now?"
Warren may try to pretend to be someone who can unite the different desires within the party – as the author of a populist message that might well play in the Midwest, but who also the gift of capitalizing on passionate and viral moments.
In contrast to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Who occupied a similar political space during the 2016 campaign and could try to represent herself, she also hopes to tap into the new, huge energy of the candidates.
"Two years ago, on a very dark election night, millions of women watched with horror Donald Trump's election to the presidency," she said Tuesday in her speech. victory. "They did not like. But they do not moan. They did not groan. They fought back. . . . And that's how real change begins.
There are also quieter candidates who hope to make their debut on the national scene. Some have indicated that Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, had unblemished political talent and that he had the habit of speaking forcefully against racism. The outgoing Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, who helped campaign for the mid-term candidates, plans to spend the next few months assessing whether it's appropriate to show up on a bipartisan governance platform.
"Across the Midwest, we met good, pragmatic candidates who really wanted to get things done. They were not looking for a soapbox or a place to express their ideas, "said Hickenlooper. "It's almost the opposite of Trump; it's Trump's antidote, where neither is ecstatic or happy with compromise. But everyone realizes that it's a progress. That's the way politics has been in this country. "
But his candidacy would test the question of whether there is room for this kind of policy.
"That's the $ 62,000 question," he said. "Because he does not create media."
In the run-up to the midterm elections, many Democrats were hoping their bright new stars – particularly O. Rourke, Gillum and Abrams – would win decisive victories, proving steadily liberal, young and dynamic were the future not only of the party but also of a future. country in full diversification.
"People want us to hunt this unicorn, Obama-Trump voters," said Bakari Sellers, political commentator and former representative of the state of South Carolina. "We need to focus on the energy of our party. We simply can not do the same thing we did. "
But none of the three won on Tuesday – O'Rourke was beaten and the Gillum and Abrams races remain in the air. Some suggest that this highlights the limits of the candidates' passion, which tend to raise both sides. Democrats posing as more pragmatic messengers for working-class voters in Trump-winning states could at least claim success.
Brown, who was re-elected in Ohio and is renowned for his crumpled costumes and his hoarse voice, frowned at a speech on the night of the election that implored Democrats to follow his path , if not more precisely.
"The populists are not racists. The populists are not anti-Semites, "he said. "We do not appeal to one by pushing others down. We do not lie. We do not engage in hate speech. And we do not tear the babies of their families at the border. "
"We will show America how we celebrate unions and all workers – the waitress in Dayton, the office worker in Toledo, the nurse in Columbus, the mining worker in Coshocton", has he continued. "This is the message coming out of Ohio in 2018 and this is the project of our country in 2020".
Senator Amy Klobuchar shares this track after winning an easy reelection in Minnesota. Biden, who has been called "Joe of the Middle Class," is also a beneficiary of a strategy that crosses the Midwest.
Some Democrats say that without a candidate able to communicate with voters, Mr. Trump has a chance to get back to the very places where he won the presidency. Even amidst Democratic victories in the Midwest on Tuesday, there were signs that Trump had improved his reputation.
In Michigan, where Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor, the ballot was voted 44 percent by Trump. When Trump won the state in 2016, his favorability index in polls at polling station exit was 39%.
"The path for the Democrats goes through the rust belt. I do not think we escape, "said Larry Rasky, Biden's longtime confidante and campaign strategist. This is where Trump won. This is where he reversed the situation and where he lost Tuesday night. "
"If you just do the math in 2020, it's hard to see a path for Democrats that does not start in Pennsylvania and ends in Minnesota," Rasky said. "This formula was proven again on Tuesday night. It's not that there are no other ways to do it, but if we're counting on Texas and Florida to win in 2020, just find a pair of aces for a full house. "