A surplus of capable hopefuls

Kathy and I went on the road last week to attend rallies for three presidential candidates. At the end of the jaunts we decided the nation has a surplus of capable hopefuls for the presidency. The difficulty will be to pick the best of the bunch.

Not very many of the candidates in either party have held town meetings in Greene County this year. That fact continues the trend for presidential races in the 21st century, with candidates relying more on media advertising and rallies in major population centers, and less on “retail” town-to-town politics in smaller communities. 

So we drove to Perry to hear Cory Booker on New Year’s Day, to Johnston to hear Amy Klobuchar on Jan. 2, and to Marshalltown on Jan. 5 to hear Tom Steyer. We had planned to hear Steyer at Fort Dodge on Jan. 3 to make it three candidates on three successive days, but icy roads that day scared us off, so we waited for his Marshalltown appearance two days later.

None of the three is among the leaders right now in Iowa Democratic polls, with less than a month left before the Feb. 3 caucuses. And that’s evidence of the tough decision Iowa Democrats face. We were impressed with all three candidates we heard, and as of now they’re all trailing the four poll leaders. 

The embarrassment of riches for Iowa Democrats helps to explain why so many of them say that while they lean toward one candidate or another, they could yet change their minds before Iowa Caucus Night.

Taking the ones we heard one at a time:



Booker gave a warm, folksy presentation in Perry, centered on urging Americans to come together for the good of the nation. 

He described his career in his hometown of Newark, N.J., working as mayor to raise living standards of blighted neighborhoods and clean up corrupt government.

From there he rose to his present position as one of New Jersey’s U.S. senators. 

He spoke strongly against unwarranted detention of immigrants, lax gun control laws, the number of uninsured and underinsured Americans in connection with health care, and the high cost of pharmaceuticals, among other issues.



Klobuchar spoke confidently and with humor while evidencing a firm grasp of current issues and events. 

She emphasized her Midwestern pragmatism, urging those present to keep in mind what can actually be accomplished in Washington, rather than advocating desirable but unrealistic goals.

She said she’s always tried to work with lawmakers of various ideological stripes, a goal that shows up in her moderate positions on several hot button issues. 

At the top of Klobuchar’s priority list is infrastructure. She’s a strong advocate for farmers. She does not favor Medicare for all, but insists on universal health care coverage.



Steyer has made tax reform a mainstay of his campaign, calling for closing loopholes enjoyed by wealthy individuals and corporations. He decries the number of Fortune 500 corporations that pay no income tax. 

A wealthy self-made man, in 2012 he and his wife took the Giving Pledge founded two years earlier by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, through which they will give away half of their fortune during their lifetime. Steyer has successfully led political reform movements in California for several years.

He is a champion of humane immigration policies, women’s health choices, lower health care costs, and especially fighting climate change. 

Steyer’s political philosophy emphasizes turning out the vote among Americans who don’t usually engage in elections.


These thumbnail sketches are not meant to downplay the worth of other candidates, including those who happen to be leading the polls at present, nor are they intended to compare or contrast them with the incumbent president or any of his GOP opponents. 

They’re rather to point out that America in 2020 is blessed with one of its strongest fields in years — men and women fully capable of leading the nation with dedication and judgment.

We voters will eventually sort it all out in both parties, and then will choose among the finalists, as they have for over 200 years. We occasionally develop buyer’s remorse, for which the Founders wisely provided remedies. 

The key is to convince Americans to exercise that gift every four years. 

The higher the turnout of voters, the more likely it is they will make the best choice. There’s no shortage of good options this year.

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