Tuesday's midterm elections crystallized among Democrats as they look to the 2020 presidential contest: Do they side with passion or pragmatism?
An energized segment in the results a candidate for Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke of Texas, or a candidate like him, who can inspire large crowds with an authentic and optimistic plea that President Trump, while only rarely mentioning him.
There is a lot of different things to do in the upper Midwest that suggest a wholly different formula, one that would not exist on former Joe Biden or Sen. Sherrod Brown or Ohio to stitch together the coalition of working-class voters that helped Democrats into the White House.
"I think we know what the ingredients are," said Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a Democratic strategist. "And I think we're trying to figure out if that person exists."
Candidates and party strategists in recent days have been working through the midterm results, looking forward to interviews with nearly two boxes of candidates, aides and strategists.
Some are daunted by Trump's strength and resilience in a rough midterm election, suggesting the feat of unseating him is more difficult than many realize.
"This was not a historic rebuke," said a Democratic strategist working for a prospective candidate, a candid assessment. "He's gotten his base to turn out twice. . . . I just do not think anybody should have any confidence. How many times do you have to be confident about Trump and then being proved wrong? People felt like 2016 was a fluke. And people are underestimating him again. "
Others are optimistic about what they see as loosening or Trump's grip on working-class voters who abandoned Democrats for him in 2016.
What the midterm results did not cull a field that could be bigger and more unwieldy than any time in recent memory. Almost anyone could find a pass.
"The fact that the blue wall" reasserted itself again yielded some of the 2020 proposals to say, "I have the ability to appeal to Rust Belt voters, and that's the path to victory." And I think they'll get "That's what we're talking about," said Brian Fallon, a Democratic consultant who served as Hillary Clinton's press secretary in 2016. "But I still think that activists in Iowa will some sort of pragmatic decision about who can appeal to Obama-Trump voters. They are more likely to gravitate to the candidate that most inspires them. "
The debate between those options, which has been played out quietly in the two years since Trump is the leader of the leader, will be settled over the next year as a large field opens openly competing for various slices of the primary electorate. Already, candidates are recruiting staff members and identifying finance teams to help them in the first of many tests – raising money.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Has been aggressively building a national fundraising and political network, while Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) Will follow up several recent trips to primary states with a high-profile book tour. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is heading back to South Carolina on Friday, while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Said she's now considering a presidential bid after all but ruling it out.
Before now, one of the fundamental questions about the coming presidential campaign is whether Democrats would like to join forces with Trump in a smash-mouth style. uniting message. Many of the party's successes Tuesday leaned toward the latter.
"The way to beat Trump is not to be like him," said David Axelrod, a Democratic consultant and former senior strategist for President Barack Obama. "There is this sort of debate or," Do you campaign with a clinched fist or open hand? "The candidates who did not know how to destroy Donald Trump. They were constructive and positive and spoke to the day-to-day groups of people. "
Candidates like O'Rourke – as well as gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia – ignited passion among Democrats across the country. They managed to raise huge amounts of money from everyday donors and created viral moments that propped their state-based candidacies into national acclaim.
"It was a template," Axelrod said. "The thing that distinguished Beto O'Rourke was not any one issue. It was his fundamental call to character, his fundamental call to community. I think there's a big lesson in that. We tend to be very tactical and parochial in how we think about these things. But there's something happening out there. I think the country is hungry for that. "
But O'Rourke did not focus on Trump. And as the Democratic primary gets underway, there remains thirsty calls for a more aggressive posture against the president.
"You're not going to talk about puppies and daisies," said lawyer Michael Avenatti. "You have to inspire people, but you can not inspire people to win against Trump. Not in 2020. It's not going to happen. You have to get into the gutter with this guy and take shots. You have a lot of punishment and give a lot of punishment. He's going to roll over a nominee who seeks to be cheerleader. "
Avenatti gained national attention representing Stormy Daniels, who has claimed she and Trump had a dalliance. He has said he is considering a presidential pray on the basis that he is uniquely positioned to engage with Trump.
"It's not who among the Democrats can make the best president. If the Democrats answer that question they're going to lose the election in 2020, "Avenatti said. "The question is: Who matches this particular individual at this point in time?"
Warren may be like someone who can not do anything in the Midwest, but that's what you can do in the Midwest.
Distinguishing herself from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Who occupied similar political space in the 2016 campaign and may attempt to run again, is also hoping to tap into the new energy and female candidates and activists.
"Two years ago, millions of women watched in horror as Donald Trump was elected president," she said in her victory speech Tuesday. "They did not like it. But they did not whimper. They did not whine. They fought back. . . . And that is how real change begins. "
There are quieter candidates, too, hoping to burst onto the national scene. Some have pointed toward Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, as having raw political talent and a record of speaking forcefully against racism. Outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is campaigning for candidates during the midterms, is planning to spend the coming months evaluating whether to run on a platform or bipartisan governance.
"Across the Midwest we saw good pragmatic candidates who really wanted to get things done. They were not looking for a soapbox and their ideas, "Hickenlooper said. "It's almost the opposite of Trump; it's the antidote to Trump, where neither side ends up ecstatic or thrilled with the compromise. But everyone realizes this is progress. That's the way politics used to be in this country. "
But his candidacy would test the question of whether there is space for that child or politics.
"That's the $ 62,000 question," he said. "Because it does not create media."
Heading into the midterm elections, many Democrats were hoping their flashy new stars – especially O'Rourke, Gillum and Abrams – would win decisive victories, proving definitively that unabashedly liberal, young and dynamic were not just rapidly diversifying country.
"People for us to chase this unicorn, the Obama-Trump voters," said Bakari Sellers, a political commentator and former South Carolina state representative. "We need to focus on the energy in our party. We just do not have the same thing we have been doing. "
But none of the three won Tuesday – O'Rourke was defeated, and Gillum 's and Abrams' s races remain up in the air. Some suggest that the limits of the passion candidates, who tend to rile up both sides. Democrats running as more pragmatic messengers to working-class voters in states Trump won at least claim success.
Brown, who won reelection in Ohio and is known for his rumpled suits and raspy voice, raised eyebrows with an election night speech that imploded Democrats to follow his path – if not him specifically.
"Populists are not racists. Populists are not anti-Semitic, "he said. "We do not appeal to others by pushing down others. We do not lie. We do not engage in hate speech. And we do not rip babies from their families at the border. "
"We will show America how we would like to work in all the workers in Dayton, the office worker in Toledo, the nurse in Columbus, the mineworker in Coshocton," he continued. "That is the message coming out of Ohio in 2018, and that is the blueprint for our nation in 2020."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar shares that lane after winning an easy reelection in Minnesota. Biden, who has a career of calling himself "middle-class Joe," is also a beneficiary of strategy that goes through the Midwest.
Without a candidate there, some Democrats argue, Trump has won the presidency. Even amid Democratic wins in the Midwest on Tuesday, there were signs Trump had improved his standing.
In Michigan, where Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the governorship, exit polls had Trump's approval rating at 44 percent. When Trump won the state in 2016, his favorability rating in exit polls was 39 percent.
"The path for the Democrats runs through the Rust Belt. I do not think there's any getting away from it, "said Larry Rasky, a long-time Biden confidant and campaign strategist. "That's where Trump won. It's where he turned the tables, and it's where he ends Tuesday night. "
"If you just do the math in 2020 it's hard to see Democrats that does not start in Pennsylvania and end in Minnesota," Rasky said. "That formula was proved again Tuesday night. It's not that there are other ways to get there, but if we're going to rely on Texas and Florida to win in 2020, let's just find a pair of aces for a full house. "