Remember, Democrats, it only takes a plurality

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/12/2019 9:57:44 PM
Modified: 6/12/2019 9:57:35 PM

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is returning to the familiar territory of the Upper Valley this weekend for two days of campaigning.

The New York Democrat, a 1988 Asian studies major and squash player at Dartmouth College, is making her seventh trip to New Hampshire as part of her presidential campaign. She’ll start with meet-and-greets in Franklin and Plymouth earlier in the day on Friday, then hold a “Lebanon Coffee with Kirsten” at 3 p.m. at Lucky’s Coffee Garage in downtown Lebanon.

Following that, Gillibrand and her buddy from college, Nashville star Connie Britton, will headline a fundraiser for New Hampshire Young Democrats starting at 4:30 pm. at Murphy’s on the Green in Hanover at $15 a head.

Then on Saturday, Gillibrand will participate in a “rural OBGYN roundtable” at New London Hospital, where she’ll highlight her proposed “family bill of rights,” which includes paid family leave and affordable child care and early education.

After that, the 52-year-old former corporate lawyer will tour some New London businesses, then stop by the Rural Pride celebration in Claremont early Saturday afternoon.

With some two dozen candidates in the race, it’s a jumble out there, but a little clarity may soon be coming. The Democratic National Committee is sponsoring its first round of televised debates on June 26 and 27, with 10 candidates expected in each forum. That means a few candidates won’t make the cut at all, and others will likely be winnowed from the field after the first scrimmage.

A key point to remember is that with a large field, whoever wins the Democratic nomination is likely to only need a plurality of votes, not a majority, to capture key states and enough delegates.

That means former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in various Real Clear Politics polling averages, including with 28 percent support in New Hampshire, to 15 percent for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a big advantage. That’s a point that longtime Democratic activist Ken Dean, of Montpelier, pointed out 17 months ago, and reiterated this week.

“The ‘traditional, conventional, establishment type Democratic voter’ comprise at least 25% to 30% of any given state in Democratic primaries — and sometimes higher. They will go to a more traditional, more conventional, more establishment-type candidate, because that is their home,” Dean said via email. Voters in places like Claremont and Berlin, N.H., Dean said, will be especially comfortable with Biden.

“Joe Biden is their candidate because he has been around for 47 years, they think they know him, like him, and he was a good vice president, and he is beating Trump by 13% in recent polls. And culturally, there is a blend there,” Dean said.

Sanders speak up

Biden may be leading in polls, but it’s worth remembering that Hillary Clinton held a huge early lead in the New Hampshire polls in 2016, only to lose badly here to Sanders.

Sanders on Wednesday delivered a forceful defense of his political philosophy in a speech at George Washington University, calling on the country to “take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion.” He listed the right to a clean environment, the right to a decent job that pays a living wage, and the right to quality health care, among other priorities.

“At the end of the day, the 1% may have enormous wealth and power, but they are just the 1%. When the 99 percent stand together, we can transform society,” Sanders said near the end of his speech. “These are my values, and that is why I call myself a Democratic Socialist.”

On the other side of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote a letter to the Louisville Courier Journal this week in which he cast himself as the voice of “middle America” and derided the Green New Deal, suggested efforts by some Democrats to bring statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico were simply efforts to add four Democrats to the Senate, and said a “government takeover of health care” would be a job-killer.

“These are dangerous ideas,” McConnell wrote. “They would raise your taxes and give the federal government vast control over your life. That’s why President Trump and I are fighting hard to stop them. As long as I’m Senate majority leader, these socialist schemes will never become law.”

On service

Speaking of Trump, he raised some eyebrows around the 75th anniversary of D-Day when he tried to explain why he didn’t serve in the military during the Vietnam War, thanks to four student deferments and a bone spur in his heel.

“I was never a fan of that war, I’ll be honest with you,” Trump said. “I thought it was a terrible war; I thought it was very far away. You’re talking about Vietnam at that time — nobody ever heard of the country.”

His comments stood in marked contrast to the story former Dartmouth President Jim Wright recounted last week at a ceremony honoring three graduating Dartmouth seniors who are joining the military. Wright, a history professor who served in the Marines, spoke of a Vietnam veteran whose parents had been opposed to his enlisting. “They asked why he would ever do such a thing when there were clearly options for him to be exempted or at least deferred,” Wright said, according to an account on the Dartmouth website.

“He told his parents that they had brought him up to always step up to his responsibilities, to never shirk duty, and to try to make a difference. At that point his parents embraced him — and his decision,” Wright said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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