The Democratic Field For President Has Gotten Quite Crowded
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, there are now about a dozen candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and we're still - what? - nearly a year away from the first primary. Lot of questions here. How do candidates stand out in such a crowded field? And do any of the candidates have a plan to connect with the voters who turned away from the party and voted for President Trump in crucial states in 2016?
Karine Jean-Pierre is a Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns. She's currently the chief public affairs officer for the progressive group MoveOn. She's in our studios this morning. Welcome.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, David. Good to talk to you again.
GREENE: Good to talk to you as well. I'm sure we'll be talking a lot in the coming months.
JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughter) Yes.
GREENE: So at this point, how do candidates distinguish themselves, with so many of them?
JEAN-PIERRE: That's a - such a great question. But I think that candidates are going to have many opportunities to distinguish themselves by giving compelling speeches. There's going to be debates starting pretty soon in June.
JEAN-PIERRE: Which is amazing, so different than what we saw three years ago, I guess, by now. And so they'll have plenty of opportunities - like I said, compelling speeches, debates, bold ideas, policies that they're going to be putting forth. I'm sure all of them will be doing that.
And also, there's also social media. Social media is going to play a big role as well as how they're going to be able to break out, and also fundraising, grassroots fundraising right now, as we saw from even Bernie Sanders yesterday, who raised $4 million in one day. That's going to be another way that - for them to break out and to see who's competitive, who's out there and how are people going to be able to distinguish themselves.
GREENE: So should we be paying any attention at all at this point to these polls that show, like, this candidate has, like, 9 percent, this candidate has 10 percent?
GREENE: Or is it more about raising money and getting to those early states and building kind of a network there?
JEAN-PIERRE: It's such a great question, David. So I teach a campaign management class at Columbia. And I tell my students that polls are a snapshot in time, and it is just what we see right now. Three months from now, six months from now, everything's going to look very different. And, look, you know, the polls that we're seeing now, we see, you know, Biden, who hasn't jumped in, who's doing well. Bernie, who clearly jumped in yesterday, is doing well.
And that - a lot of that is name ID, which, you know, we should - it's a little bit overrated. But, yes, it's important as well because you start off with people knowing who you are, and then it depends on what you do with that. But we have so many candidates that are going to be competitive, and so we shouldn't just focus on where the polls are now because we have to see how the rest of the candidates do, how they go out there. They're going to be going to all these early states, and that'll be key and important as well.
Like Kamala Harris, she came out really with an amazing launch. We could say she did not have a high name ID before she jumped in. But 20,000 people showed up at her opening rally, and I think that says a lot. She raised herself $1.5 million in 24 hours. So I think we just have to sit back and see how folks do.
GREENE: I want to play a little tape for you. There is this voice that I keep coming back to. I met this guy - his name is Jim Davis - in 2016. He's the Democratic Party chair in Fayette County, Pa., right outside Pittsburgh. And after he saw Trump win his state, he told me this.
JIM DAVIS: I think the first thing we have to do is reinvent what we stand for. We have to start appealing to working-class people that live here and work here and not worry about the social issues that seem to be what we keep talking about in the national media.
GREENE: Does that not speak to the big challenge for the party? I mean, social issues that the candidates talk about on the national stage, important, obviously, but figuring out how to appeal to working-class people in counties like that that the Democratic Party lost - who is doing that right now? Who has a plan?
JEAN-PIERRE: So I - that's a really good question. I think economic equality is clearly important. That deals with the issue that gentleman just talked about. For - so for example, I think the best person that I can talk about right now who has put out something pretty bold is Elizabeth Warren. She talked about a wealth tax.
And basically, what it is is that the richest of the rich pay their fair share. And what that means is if you have more than $50 million in asset, you should be able to pay a little bit more in taxes. And I think that's clearly important. And...
GREENE: Do you think she'd do well in a place like outside Pittsburgh right now against Donald Trump?
JEAN-PIERRE: I actually do. I - we have to remember she's from Oklahoma. She's been talking about these issues for a long time. That's been her career. And I think we're going to see a lot of those types of bold ideas from many other candidates, not just her.
GREENE: OK. Karine Jean-Pierre's a Democratic Party strategist. We'll be talking a lot more as this campaign goes forward. Thanks so much for coming in.
JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, David. Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.