With all the reporting on the New Hampshire Primary, we heard that Bernie won with 28%, followed by Mayor Pete at 26%, Klobuchar at 20%, Warren at 9%, Biden at 8%, and Yang at 3%. But there was no talk about Tulsi Gabbard. One site listed the above and didn’t mention that Tulsi also got 3% in New Hampshire.
Camping out in New Hampshire
New Hampshire was supposed to be Tulsi’s one-and-only, make-or-break State, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
The congresswoman spent more time campaigning here than any other 2020 Democratic candidate.
She moved to the Granite State in December and logged nearly 100 days on the ground. In addition to town halls and meet and greets, she hosted events in which she skied with supporters and surfed the frigid waters of the Atlantic.
Gabbard invested more than just time here. According to Advertising Analytics data compiled by The New York Times, Gabbard spent more than $870,000 on television ads in New Hampshire.
She also spent big on billboards and other signs that she used to paper some of the state’s busiest intersections and thoroughfares.
Dropping out of primaries?
Yet, she says there’s not even talk about dropping out of the race, according to South Carolina’s Post and Courier.
That would be surprising from any other candidate since she focused all her attention (and money) on New Hampshire and came up dead last.
To be a Fox host?
The paper also reports that Former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers guesses that Tulsi is staying in the race to build a “national” image, so she can become a (nominally) Democratic commentator for Fox. That would make sense, following in the shoes of Sarah Palin. It is also reasonable since she has been on Fox more than anyone but Trump.
In fact, the day before the New Hampshire Primary, Tulsi was on Fox with Hannity, saying she has no problem with Trump’s retribution against people who testified in the impeachment investigation.
There has been talk of a third-party run by Gabbard since she announced that she would not seek re-election to her current seat.
In fact, Republican Gary Johnson, who ran as the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2016, says he would like to run on a third-party ticket with her.
Avoiding being defeated?
However, there may be a different reason for Gabbard’s decision: She might lose. OpenSecrets reported that Gabbard faced a serious challenge for her current seat.
Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele, a Democrat, has raised $345,616 from Hawaii donors in his bid to unseat Gabbard. That’s more than Gabbard’s presidential campaign has raised from donors in the Aloha State — $221,501 — over the same time period through September.
So, maybe Gabbard’s decision not to seek re-election might have been to escape being defeated.
OK, so she’s not running for re-election, says she doesn’t want to be a Fox host, and she claims not to want to run third-party. What will she do?
While Gabbard claims to go on Fox to “reach out to a wider audience,” most of the things she has said there has been to defend Trump, not to say why he should be replaced. Her praise of Trump is a sharp contrast with her criticism of Obama when she went on Fox.
She also decried the impeachment and was the lone “Democrat” to vote a neutral “present” in that effort.
Liked by Republicans and Russians
Gabbard is, in fact, a favorite of Russian propaganda machines.. . .Gabbard has routinely expressed sympathy for a key Russian ally, Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad, whom she met with in 2017, even to the point of being openly skeptical of expert reports that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own civilians in Syria.
Trump likes Tulsi
In our own pages, Republicans have consistently praised Gabbard, and not because she would be easy to beat. They just like her style. Who also likes her style? Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump’s campaign is enjoying the dynamic too, perhaps recognizing Gabbard’s potential to provoke fractures in the Democratic Party. Trump’s “War Room” Twitter account is putting Gabbard’s attacks on her own party in front of its nearly 400,000 followers. . .
Some Democrats have been freaking out since they remember “spoilers” Jill Stein in 2016 and Ralph Nader in 2000. But is that a genuine danger for them? As noted above, a lot of Republicans like Gabbard.
Ed Privé cannot vote for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard in New Hampshire’s primary on February 11th. A registered Republican, [said] “Honestly, I disagreed with Trump, but I voted for him,” Privé said. “I’m here now because she makes sense. The rest of them don’t. . . . And if she were to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, I would have a very difficult time voting for Trump,” Privé added.
FiveThirtyEight notes that Gabbard’s base overlaps with Trump’s.
So what do we know about Gabbard’s base? For one thing, it’s overwhelmingly male —according to The Economist’s polling with YouGov, her support among men is in the mid-single digits, while her support among women is practically nonexistent. . .
Gabbard’s supporters are also likely to fall outside of traditional Democratic circles. Her supporters, for instance, are more likely to have backed President Trump in 2016, hold conservative views or identify as Republican compared to voters backing the other candidates. . .
And a University of New Hampshire/CNN survey in late October found Gabbard actually ahead of Biden among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire who identified as Republican, at 28 percent to Biden’s 18 percent.
Take votes away from Trump?
The point is that if Gabbard ran as a third-party candidate, she would more likely take votes from the candidate she most admires: Donald Trump.
her strategy has included running an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and going on Fox News programs. At that rate, she’s more likely to appeal to Republicans than to Democrats — and it’s not impossible that she could wind up taking more votes away from Trump than from his opponent.
She doesn’t want Trump to lose, so what else could she do? Run with him! It’s been clear that Trump needed Mike Pence to counteract his own character issues and appeal to religious fundamentalists. He doesn’t need that, anymore. He’s become the religious right’s darling. What he needs is a way to appeal to women—in a way that will not offend white men. As we’ve seen above, white men are smitten with Gabbard, so she’s a rational choice.
The idea of picking a nominal “Democrat” has been considered before. In fact, John McCain says that he wishes he would have won the battle to partner with Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman, not because he didn’t like Sarah Palin, but because it would have increased the range of people in his “tent.” Trump has had fanatical support—but only from about a third of the public. How can he increase that?
Being Trump’s running-mate makes sense. It was proposed by Jonathan Last, formerly of the conservative Weekly Standard.
In this scenario, Trump could see Gabbard as a way to try to break out of his box with hard-core supporters and get to the sort of Ron Paul-ish Democrats on the far left who are maybe reluctant Dem voters or maybe the kinds of people who don’t normally show up to vote. Maybe Gabbard even helps him get a point or two back with women.
The point is: If the race is essentially static and locked in to where it’s been since the spring of 2020, Trump will need to destabilize it in the hopes that some chaos allows him to improve his position. Trump-Tulsi would destabilize the race. . .
And Gabbard looks great on television, which has, historically, been a big selling point for this president.
I’m not saying that Trump-Tulsi is going to happen.
But I am saying that Tulsi Gabbard voting “present” on impeachment was a necessary precondition for it to potentially happen.
Stranger things have happened, and it’s consistent with Tulsi’s trajectory.[EDITOR’S NOTE: As a reader pointed out, Jonathan Last apparently meant to write the “spring of 2019,” not 2020. Thanks for the note.]