Via the Free Beacon, lots of oohing and ahhing among the chatterati over this answer from last night’s CNN event. It’s “on brand,” if nothing else. Klobuchar’s betting that (a) the leftist vote will split half a dozen ways, (b) Biden either will choose not to run or get sunk by leftist grievances against him when he gets in, leaving the center to her, and (c) her regional appeal will help her to a surprisingly strong finish in Iowa, elevating her into the top tier. This question and answer were a perfect opportunity for her to establish her centrist identity on a big stage. It does seem bold at a moment when Democrats are being pulled towards socialism to opine aloud, as a presidential candidate, that perhaps a country that’s $22 trillion in debt can’t pay for every last bit of free sh*t that its most left-wing citizens propose.
This tweet sums up the conventional wisdom, but be sure to click through and read the replies to it. Not everyone is as enamored of the idea that there might be a conceptual limit to the federal credit card as the center-left media/establishment political class is.
Klobuchar seems willing to say one word that often goes unspoken by presidential candidates: No. From Medicare for all to the Green New Deal to free college, she's resisted the urge to pander as she tests the balance between pragmatism and purity. #KlobucharTownHall
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) February 19, 2019
If I had to bet on whether this answer hurts her more than it helps or vice versa, I know which way I’d bet. Which is not to say she’s wrong, either substantively or tactically: Running to the center is the only chance she has at the nomination realistically. She’s not going to suddenly out-progressive Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren and she had the good sense not to try to mount a weird, gimmicky campaign like Kirsten Gillibrand’s feminist candidacy. (A smart friend wondered last night how much stronger Gillibrand might have been if she had tried competing for the wide-open centrist lane by, say, reverting to some mild hawkishness about the border instead of continuing to play pretend leftist.) But she’s making a straight-up wager here that there are more centrists in the Democratic primary — if only centrists of convenience, who value “electability” over ideological purity — than there are dogmatic liberals. It’s not a crazy wager. But I’m skeptical.
And I’m especially skeptical with respect to this issue. A Reuters poll last year asked people what they thought of Sanders’s plan to provide free college to all students from families that make $125,000 or less a year, with the money to come from a tax on speculative trading. Nearly 80 percent of Democrats supported it. Klobuchar’s trying to walk a line, not just on this topic but on matters like Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, in which she’s enthusiastic about the broader goal to please the left but skeptical about feasibility (at least in the near-term) to please the center. The left’s been coping with that attitude from Democratic nominees for a long time, most recently and famously with ObamaCare and insurance reform. If they can’t stop a bland centrist like Klobuchar from the nomination next year, when all of the ideological momentum is in their favor, they might as well quit.
The look on the kid’s face when Klobuchar tells him no is fun, though.