Over the past month or so, I have been fortunate to meet several Democratic presidential candidates. One of my professors, Don Fowler, chaired the Democratic National Convention from 1995-1997 and is often asked to host candidates as they pass through South Carolina. My class is only fifteen people and whenever there is a meet and greet, we are invited to attend.
Through these opportunities with my professor, and USC too, I have been able to meet Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and was able to hear Beto O'Rourke speak at the school's student union.
The opportunity to listen to the candidates respond to questions from the public and see how they responded live with not only their words, but their composure is something I am fortunate to have experienced. While they are all undoubtedly qualified, there is a great degree of variance in their current support, and the support I predict they will have as the campaign continues.
The first candidate I met was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Something I really appreciated is that she took the time to actually answer questions and not steer the conversation in a way that only addressed what she wanted to, which I know politicians often do. I think it's interesting how great of support she has in NY considering she's a Democrat and was elected in what is a 2-to-1 Republican district. She acknowledged this is because while she is fundamentally a Democrat, her policies are designed to find the middle ground between the parties which is why she has had so much success and this is definitely something that is important to find in a candidate considering how polarized our country is right now.
I didn't know a whole lot about her background before meeting her but thought her healthcare views were interesting because she's the first to back one of Sen. Sanders' healthcare proposals and I actually took some time after meeting her to go through her website and read up on the healthcare bill she's proposing and some of her other views.
She was extremely well articulated and when asked by Don Fowler how she thinks she's going to handle going against so many other fellow Democrats for the nomination, she said that they are all friends of hers and respects them and because of that, she plans to lift them up and that trying to bash them for certain views wasn't productive. I think that in of itself spoke volumes about her character. However, as great as she was, she didn't exude the confidence/have a strong presence that I think is necessary for this election to oust Trump.
Me and Sen. Gillibrand
The next candidate I met, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, attracted a much larger crowd and definitely held up the expectation of bringing a strong presence, she even stood on a chair. I appreciated her strong familiarity with the topics she was talking about because she was able to make jokes and make the speech with ease. She was also able to have success in largely Republican areas, which she believes could reflect her future success because of her wide appeal. While I am not entirely confident in her ability to beat out other strong candidates such as Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, I would not be surprised if she did end up receiving traction as the campaign continues.
Me and Sen. Klobuchar
The most recent candidate I was able to hear speak was Beto O'Rourke, who was undoubtedly the best speaker of the three. I can understand why he gained so much traction in his last campaign in Texas. My only issue with him is that he did not seem to bring any original solutions to the problems he preached about and focused more on spouting historical facts that got a reaction from the crowd of students rather than establish his platform.
Additionally, he did what most politicians do and did not always directly answer the questions asked of him. This being said, I saw how well informed he is and how his views have matured over time following questions about his previous views. I think, of the three, he will have the most success, though I do not see him as the nominee.
You can see O'Rourke in the back
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet some of the candidates and am extremely interested to see how the campaign season plays out!