We may end up with someone who lost his last election as the Democrats’ presidential nominee (although I doubt it) and now we’re getting someone who lost her last election as their SOTU rebuttal spokesman.
Says the Examiner’s Grant Addison, “Was Jon Ossoff not available?”
There’s a lot going on with this pick:
Chuck Schumer confirms the reporting from @chrislhayes: He asked Stacey Abrams three weeks ago to deliver the State of the Union response. She agreed, Schumer says.
"She has led the charge for voting rights, which is at the root of just about everything else." Via ABC pic.twitter.com/kvD9dqhy8m
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 29, 2019
Why Abrams instead of Kyrsten Sinema? Or Jacky Rosen, who unseated an incumbent GOP senator in a battleground? Or Beto O’Rourke, who broke fundraising records and galvanized massive Democratic turnout in conservative America’s most famous stronghold?
Wellllll, Rosen’s a no-name, without any national profile. She’d be the most generic possible choice. And Beto’s a nonstarter because of his presidential aspirations, same as Kamala Harris. Normally either would be a top pick, but give a big spot on national TV to him/her and it looks like you’re playing favorites with the 2020 field. Can’t have that. Sinema is a much more compelling possibility: She ran and won as a centrist despite her progressive roots. She’s a woman and among the youngest members of the Senate. In a midterm defined by Democrats falling short, sometimes barely short, in statewide races, she actually pulled off the big upset. Wouldn’t surprise me if she was Schumer’s and Pelosi’s second choice, particularly as a potential moderate counterweight to all the buzz radicals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been getting from the media.
And no, AOC was never going to be the pick. Imagine Democrats trying to counter Trump’s border-hawk message before a national audience with someone who wants to abolish ICE. Ocasio-Cortez gets more than enough press already to suit Schumer and Pelosi.
Why Abrams, then? Various reasons.
1. Unlike Rosen, she does have a national profile. Her almost-but-not-quite-victory in deep red Georgia this past November (she lost by a point and a half) would have been the story of the midterms if not for Beto! And like Beto!, she ran as a progressive despite her home state’s conservative bent. Lefties noticed and have made her a rising star despite her narrow defeat. She’s even being talked about as a surprise presidential candidate.
2. Demographics, obviously. Democrats rely heavily on women and minority voters. Many Dems believe, probably correctly, that winning back Trump’s white working-class base will be hard in 2020 and that they’re better off trying to mobilize their own base to out-vote the right. It worked in the midterms, it can work again. Choosing Abrams, the first black woman nominated by a major party for governor and someone who looks more like the base than Kyrsten Sinema does, is an early way to signal to women and minorities that Democrats are counting on them next year.
3. Sinema’s a victim of her own success in this case inasmuch as there’s no higher office she’s eyeing in the near term. She has her Senate seat, she’ll be there until 2024. She can always deliver the SOTU rebuttal down the road. Abrams is different: She’s clearly planning to run for something again and soon, the most obvious possibility being a challenge to David Perdue for his Senate seat in Georgia in 2020. Handing her the SOTU slot and presenting her as a foil to Trump is a … bold choice given that her home state remains red on balance, but Democrats presumably figure that Georgia is close enough to purple that it won’t hurt. It might even help her if Trump’s political fortunes head down the toilet over the next 12 months.
4. Not only did Abrams lose a close race for governor, she spent weeks afterwards alleging voting irregularities as the cause. As such, she’s now become probably the party’s most prominent spokesman on voting rights. Having her in the anti-Trump role on TV is an easy way for Democrats to present him as a voter-suppression villain and hope that that translates into more minority voters registering in 2020.
5. Abrams might be a useful surrogate on the campaign trail for the Democratic nominee in 2020. If she had won her race in Georgia I’d say that she was a strong VP contender, particularly to balance the ticket with an older white male nominee like Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders. That won’t happen now, but by raising her national profile Democrats can build a little name recognition for her early in hopes of having her rallying minority voters against Trump nationally in 2020.
Gonna go on record now and predict that Sinema’s the pick next year, though.