Thursday, December 14, 2017

NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a 'serious as a heart attack' contender for president in 2020

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12:  U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (C) leaves after a news conference December 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The lawmaker held a news conference to discuss "the Stop Underrides Act of 2017," legislation designed to prevent deadly truck underride crashes, which occur when a car "slides under the body of a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Washington pundits have been breathlessly obsessing over the Democrats' lack of a national leader ever since Election Day last year. Time for them to take a break. Not only is it irrelevant to 2018—Alabama and Virginia have proven that there's enough anti-Trump sentiment to elevate good candidates with strong local messages—but we started to get a glimpse this week of a candidate with potential 2020 pedigree.

Not only did New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have the guts to lead her party on drawing a line in the sand over Sen. Al Franken's sexual misconduct, she followed that up by going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump Tuesday and getting the better of him.

Last I checked, Gillibrand had more than 126,000 retweets of her charge that Trump had brought "shame" to the Oval Office, while Trump had gotten only 20,000 retweets of his suggestion that the “Lightweight” senator would “do anything” in pursuit of fundraising.

Gillibrand replied, "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out.”

Gillibrand has taken a lot of heat over the past month for saying that Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky and even for leading the charge on the ouster of Franken, a senator who has banked a lot of good will with progressives. But whatever you might think of either of those positions, Gillibrand is boldly placing herself in the middle of a political moment despite the difficulty of doing so. In short, she is leading, not following.

As MSNBC political strategist Steve Schmidt observed on Deadline Tuesday, "Being the nominee of your party requires a certain level of toughness or ruthlessness, and Kirsten Gillibrand has showed it this month ... she is a serious as a heart attack candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020."

I personally have been waiting for a Democrat to distinguish themselves by recognizing an organic political moment and finding a way to meet it. We have seen plenty of contenders jump on the single-payer bandwagon, for instance, when Bernie Sanders announced his Medicaid-For-All bill along with a host of potential 2020 hopefuls—like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Jeff Merkley. But to date, we haven't seen anyone really set themselves apart.

Gillibrand is the first to seemingly break new ground in the midst of a Trump-era political earthquake and to demonstrate a great amount of spine while doing so. She's not riding anyone else's coattails. And she's making her mark on an issue she comes by naturally—having been an early and outspoken advocate against sexual assault both in the military and on college campuses

“There is nobody in the Democratic Party who has had a better month," observed Schmidt, "a month where they have elevated themselves more so than she has."
I agree.

I covered Kirsten Gillibrand on the Hill when she was a newly appointed senator from New York in 2009/2010. Despite being a freshman senator, she found a way to make big differences on successful bids to end "don't ask, don't tell" and secure aid for 9/11 workers in the final hours of the 111th Congress. She was crafty, scrappy and focused and she got the job done.

I am not endorsing Gillibrand over any other Democratic candidate for 2020. What I am saying is that anyone who underestimates her ability does so at their own peril.

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