Jason Kander, Missouri Secretary of State, may be making moves to run for higher office. Is the Democratic Party ready for him? There is disagreement about that.
We’re only seven months into Donald Trump’s (first?) term in office, so if there’s one thing that political prognosticators should be doing, it’s obviously trying to game out the 2020 Democratic primary, in which it looks like only about 600 candidates will ultimately be running.
One straight out of left field that might actually be doing more than just trying to raise his name ID for some future statewide race or Cabinet appointment is former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.
Obamaworld consultants like him because he’s a progressive, but with military and legal credentials. In their view, he overperformed relative to other Democratic candidates when running against Sen. Roy Blunt last year.
But other Democrats are privately dubbing him overrated and lacking in good gut instincts about to how to build his brand ahead of 2020.
Kander registers highly enough on Obama Democrats’ radar that the famously well-informed Mike Allen went ahead and pegged him as a potential 2020 entrant noting the raves he generates in Obamaworld. He’s already been giving big speeches in Iowa geared towards the Democratic Party base there, about the “way forward for Democrats.” He campaigned for John Ossoff in Georgia. He inspires a lot of “he’s running” jokes on Twitter.
But some boosters of Kander in his ill-fated 2016 run have privately expressed worries that by focusing on the semi-obscure and intricate issue of protecting voting rights, he’s missing the boat on issues more motivating to a broad swath of potential Democratic voters.
One member of Kander’s orbit actually complained to us about Kander’s current focus and what he sees as its inutility. To paraphrase: Voting rights does tie in with Kander’s former job, so in that way it’s natural. It’s also a core issue of concern for former President Obama’s black-brown coalition that feels that voting rights for people of color are under siege by the Trump administration, his “illegal voting” commission, and Republican legislators around the country. And as Hillary Clinton learned, without strong turnout from that black-brown coalition, Democrats have tougher roads to the White House.
But per this Kanderite, the focus doesn’t seem to do much to tap into the Bernie Sanders-esque base rage that proved so powerful in giving Hillary Clinton an honest-to-God run for her money (and which also seemed to exist among diehard Trumpers heading into last November). Within the Democratic Party, at least for now, Elizabeth Warren occupies that lane, and no one seems to be plausibly making a play to get on that turf.
Moreover, Kander is a Midwestern white guy, who simply may not get the credit or mileage out of talking about protecting voting rights that a candidate like one of the Castro brothers, Deval Patrick, or even former VP Joe Biden might.
This individual’s comments hint that they think Kander could do better to focus on veteran’s issues, where Democrats are perceived as weak following a number of VA scandals under President Obama, and where he could emphasize a part of his resume not typical of Democratic candidates and where he comes out looking far better than, for example, John Kerry.
It’s worth keeping in mind that some of the reason Obamaworld may rate Kander so highly is Obama took special care to treat Missouri as a priority in 2008. Weird as it may seem now, he nearly won there.
As this is RedState, we’ll refrain from offering Kander any advice, and just note that despite his supposed Grade A credentials as a candidate, he lost by the same exact amount that many of Roy Blunt’s most in-the-loop advisers expected him to when all the chatter heading into Election Day was that he was about to dust Blunt. So Kander may not, in fact, be what anyone in the Democratic Party tends to think of him at first glance. Even if he is running.