In a comment that’s caused a stir online and inspired coverage by numerous outlets — including Mediaite, who predicted it’s going to just be more fodder for “aggrieved White Men” prone to “yelling about the horrors of ‘identity politics”‘ — CNN analyst Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight suggested during his “2020 Power Rankings for Potential Dem Contenders” on CNN Thursday that it was probably not the best time for Democrats to nominate a white male candidate.
Asked by host John Berman to present FiveThirtyEight’s top ten Democrat contenders for the 2020 election, Enten opted for the Casey Kasem approach and counted down from ten. Holding the not-so-coveted tenth spot is New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, who Enten said “has a number of things going for her,” including New York’s powerful media market, “the most anti-Trump record of any United States senator,” and being a woman.
“Keep in mind that women won in record numbers in 2018 Democratic primaries,” he noted. “That being said, she has a number of flaws. For instance, she came out first against Al Franken, which a lot of progressives hold against her.”
Ninth on Enten’s list is former HUD chief Julian Castro. “Look, he’s a Latino. He was in the Obama administration. He ran HUD,” said Enten. “He’s an interesting character but, you know, I think in the year of the woman I’m a little suspect of having too many men in the upper tier.”
Eighth on the list is Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who might help Democrats win the Midwest, but has two major factors working against him: he’s not just male, he’s also as white as Elizabeth Warren.
“So if Democrats want to play, this is an interesting state for — an interesting guy for them,” he said, referencing Ohio. “I will point out, though, another white male. I’m very suspect of that this year going into a Democratic primary with women doing well and the African- American base of the Democratic Party. I’m not sure it’s the time to nominate a white man.”
Seventh is Minnesota’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another Midwesterner and another woman, though “a little bit boring perhaps” and without the progressive bonafides. Sixth is Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is “a very old guy” (and also very white). Fifth is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who Enten notes has “dipped in our rankings” due to her DNA test, which “didn’t exactly go the way I think she thought it would.” Fourth is Sen. Cory “Spartacus” Booker, who’s “had a pretty anti-Trump record,” “gets his name out in the press pretty well” and is “very personable.”
Enten’s top three will probably sound familiar, though two of the three have that one problematic description Brown and Bernie both share: they’re white dudes.
“Joe Biden, number three,” said Enten. “Look, he’s led in all of these polls. He’s led in all of them. … [H]e’s also the…former vice president to the most popular politician in the Democratic Party, but another old white man…”
Second is also white and male: “Beto O’Rourke, who was at number 10, has come all the way up to number two,” said Enten.
First on the list is Sen. Kamala Harris, who successfully checks all of the Democrats’ progressive and identity politics priorities: “Kamala Harris remains our number one,” he said. “Look, she’s in California. She has the big media market. She had — she could appeal to African- American voters. She has a very progressive record. And she sort of checks off two boxes, African-Americans and women who were nominated in record numbers in 2020.”
Though Mediaite casts Enten’s assertion as an “aggrieved White Men”-triggering moment, the reality is that Enten’s comments simply reflect in an unequivocal way something we’ve all known for a long time: identity politics play an increasingly prominent role in the modern Democratic Party, a point that many conservative commentators have made in response to the segment.
Video and transcript below via RCP:
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: It is almost certain that Democrats will field the largest list of presidential contenders that Democrats ever have. And that’s all going to begin now. 2020 is now. So who is best position to challenge President Trump. CNN’s Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten, they have their new 2020 power rankings. They’ve gone through and they’ve ranked them. We couldn’t book Cillizza, but we do have Harry Enten.
HARRY ENTEN, POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Chris couldn’t get up this early. BERMAN: We do have Harry here.
So, Harry, let’s get “The Forecast” here. Give us your top ten list. This is based on polling and money and also reporting, political activity behind the scenes.
ENTEN: Sure. Right. We’re still a very long ways away from the Iowa Caucus. Well, not that long away. So we’re not that statistically inclined yet. But there’s a secret sauce that we’re using, maybe put on some (INAUDIBLE) marinara sauce. And our secret sauce suggests that we’re going to count it down like Casey Kasem used to do in the good olden days.
Now, at number 10, Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s obviously the junior senator from the state of New York. She has a number of things going for her. She has the large New York media market. She has the most anti-Trump record of any United States senator. She’s a woman. And, keep in mind that women won in record numbers in 2018 Democratic primaries. That being said, she has a number of flaws. For instance, she came out first against Al Franken, which a lot of progressives hold against her.
Keep on moving. We’ll talk about a man who’s in the race, Julian Castro, who comes in at number nine. Look, he’s the first in, so we know he’s running, so that is a reason to have him on the list if nothing else.
BERMAN: Exploratory committee.
ENTEN: He has an exploratory committee, sure. And I’m exploring going to get lunch later today. I’m definitely eating lunch. What I’m eating, I don’t know. But, yes, he’s definitely jumping in. Look, he’s a Latino. He was in the Obama administration. He ran HUD. He’s an interesting character but, you know, I think in the year of the woman I’m a little suspect of having too many men in the upper tier. And, more than that, who is he? I think a lot of people might get him confused with his brother, Joaquin. And if you watched his introductory video, I think it left a little to be desired.
HILL: Also interesting that he dipped here, you know, even after we get that news, but he’s actually dipped in your rankings.
ENTEN: He — he actually has dipped in our rankings. And part of that we’ll get to a little bit later on. But it might be a fellow Texan, which is part of this.
ENTEN: Sherrod Brown, who’s the senior senator from the state of Ohio. Look, if you want to win in the Midwest, there may not be a better man than this guy. When all the Democrats were losing statewide this year in Ohio, he won by 7 percentage points. This is a state Donald Trump ran away with in 2016. So if Democrats want to play, this is an interesting state for — an interesting guy for them. I will point out, though, another white male. I’m very suspect of that this year going into a Democratic primary with women doing well and the African- American base of the Democratic Party. I’m not sure it’s the time to nominate a white man.
Amy Klobuchar, number seven. She’s dipped a little bit. Again, we’ll get into a little bit why other people have risen recently. But another Midwestern senator. She won by 24 percentage points in 2018. She wins easily in the Midwest. And more than that, she’s right next door to Iowa. But that said, a little bit boring perhaps. And, more than that, she doesn’t have that progressive of a record.
Number six, Bernie Sanders. Same ranking as we had. Look, he’d gotten over 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2016. He has a base within the party. He has the infrastructure in place. That being said, a very old guy. And if you look at — we spoke about it I think it was last week among Iowa Democratic chairmen, they’re a little suspect of nominating an older gentleman.
BERMAN: And maybe not so much the outsider anymore, which gets us to our top five right now, which is really interesting.
ENTEN: Our top five. Right.
Number five, Elizabeth Warren, who has dipped in our rankings, but is still in the top five. Look, I think she’s had a rough few months here with the DNA test that didn’t exactly go the way I think she thought it would. She was going up against Donald Trump and it seemed like she lost that battle. More than that, she didn’t have too favorable polling numbers in her home state. Yes, she won by a wide margin in her re-election, but she came in under Hillary Clinton’s margin. I think that’s trouble going ahead.
Number four, Cory Booker. Cory Booker, I mean, if you’ve been following politics for a while, right, Cory Booker is someone — a name that you’ve known, the former mayor of Newark. His detractors perhaps would call him a dreaded neo-liberal. That’s a word, you know, and they put in quotes and it’s big and scary. But he’s actually had a pretty anti-Trump record. He gets his name out in the press pretty well. He’s very personable. More than that, in the state of New Hampshire, Ray Buckley, whose the chairman up there, said, hey, there’s no one who did more for our party in this midterm election than Cory Booker did. And New Hampshire is, of course, a very important state.
Joe Biden, number three. Look, he’s led in all of these polls. He’s led in all of them. But, again — and he’s also the vice — former vice president to the most popular politician in the Democratic Party, but another old white man, so we’re a little bit —
BERMAN: And leading in the polls has a lot to do with name recognition. Which brings us — don’t give it away yet — the top two. And this is where it gets really interesting.
ENTEN: This is where it gets really interesting. Beto O’Rourke, who was at number 10, has come all the way up to number two. I think he’s the biggest name, the biggest jump on our list. What’s going on with Beto O’Rourke? Look, they had a moveon.org poll, straw poll, that said, you know, progressives, people throughout this country, he came in at number one. He actually beat Bernie Sanders, who got, I believe, 78 percent of the vote last time around in that moveon.org poll when they endorsed him. More than that, he’s shown an ability to raise money. Nearly $80 million in his Texas Senate race. He has shown an ability to get young people very, very excited about politics.
And you were mentioning to me off air, I think that’s part of the reason why Julian Castro got in the race so early is because he is making people move, move, move.
BERMAN: I think it’s the main reason. I think Beto is driving the race. I think he’s the one who forced Castro to jump in. I think he’s the one who has the Bernie people most nervous saying things now about Beto O’Rourke. He may be driving the narrative.
ENTEN: Exactly. He is driving the narrative in the early going. It’s still early and that’s part of the reason why he’s not actually number one.
Kamala Harris remains our number one. Look, she’s in California. She has the big media market. She had — she could appeal to African- American voters. She has a very progressive record. And she sort of checks off two boxes, African-Americans and women who were nominated in record numbers in 2020.
But, of course, with such a large field, I would still bet on her not being the nominee. But if there’s one person I was forced to choose, it would be her.
HILL: All right. How about that?
BERMAN: How about that, Harry?
ENTEN: I used every bit of the five and a half minutes you given to me.
BERMAN: You certainly did, using the top ten —
HILL: You really did. You still don’t know what you’re having for lunch, though. That will be later.
ENTEN: Maybe John and I can have lunch together. Erica, you can come too.
BERMAN: I’m (INAUDIBLE).
HILL: Thank you for the invitation.
BERMAN: I’m booked for the next year, to be clear.
Harry, thank you very much.