2020 Vision: Republicans becoming ever more a party of white men

Dylan Stableford and Christopher Wilson
·Senior Staff
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in March. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. (Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 185 days until the Iowa caucuses and 459 days until the 2020 presidential election.

[Who’s running for president? Click here for Yahoo News’ 2020 tracker]

When Republican Rep. Will Hurd announced his retirement Thursday night, it sent a shock through Washington and the state of Texas. The relatively young, charismatic African-American congressman, 41, won a competitive 2018 reelection race for his district, which stretches along the Mexico border. Republicans were expecting a tough rematch with Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, but his announcement was still a surprise. Hurd is the only African-American Republican congressman in the House and was one of just four House Republicans to vote to condemn President Trump over his “go back to your country” tweets about four Democratic congresswomen of color.

As presently constituted, after Hurd’s retirement the next Congress will have exactly one black Republican: Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. There are no African-American Republican governors.

But it’s not just Hurd. Since the start of summer, seven Republican House members have announced they were retiring at the end of 2020, including Reps. Martha Roby of Alabama and Susan Brooks of Indiana. Roby and Brooks are two of just 13 Republican women in the House, leaving 11 incumbents remaining who will run in 2020. As Politico noted this morning, there are now more House Republicans named Jim running for reelection in 2020 than House Republicans who are women. July was also marked by the departure of the Republican caucus’s only Arab-American, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched his affiliation to independent after calling for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives for a group photo with the House Democratic women members of the 116th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in January. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the House Democratic women members of the 116th Congress. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

It’s a stark contrast to the Democratic caucus, which saw its most diverse freshman class ever join the House in January. Eighty-nine of 235 Democrats in the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are women. Almost half of those, 42, are women of color; just one Republican woman is a member of a minority — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, who is of Mexican descent.

But Democrats are also confronting issues of diversity, as this week saw a shakeup in staffing at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee amid concerns about the absence of minorities among senior aides to the chair, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois.

Republicans count eight women senators in their caucus, all of them white, compared with 17 women Democrats, four of them minority members, including presidential candidate Kamala Harris. In January, Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa were appointed to the Judiciary Committee, marking the first time a Republican woman had a seat on that key committee in its 200-plus-year history.

Heading into 2020, Republicans face headwinds from a recent poll that found 51 percent of Americans believe Trump is racist, even as he holds a strong approval rating among Republican voters. Amid his attacks on prominent and well-respected black Democrats such as Rep. Elijah Cummings, Trump is increasingly reliant on showcasing marginal figures such as the video bloggers Diamond and Silk. With Hurd’s retirement and the dearth of serious minority voices in the party, it’s becoming harder for the GOP to make the case that it’s a party for all Americans.

Democratic candidates are introduced before a Democratic debate in Detroit on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic candidates at the debate in Detroit on Wednesday. (Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP)

The next debate

Campaigns are already looking ahead to the next round of debates, which will be hosted by ABC News, taking place in Houston on Sept. 12 (and, if necessary, Sept. 13). After the Democratic National Committee set relatively low bars for the first two rounds of debates, qualifications are about to get a lot tougher, as candidates will need to reach 130,000 individual donors while earning 2 percent or more in four polls. Seven candidates had already locked up spots prior to this week’s debates: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders and Warren.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign announced Friday morning that it had hit the donor mark, meaning she will be joining the stage. Who else might make it? Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and entrepreneur John Yang are close, needing to hit 2 percent in one more poll each. Billionaire Tom Steyer has to qualify in a few more polls and hit the donor mark, something he’s trying to do by dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into Facebook. (If there are 10 or fewer qualified candidates, the debate will be on just one night. However, if more than 10 hit the thresholds, it will run on two consecutive nights again.) Any of the other candidates could theoretically make it with a big month, but it’s likely voters have already seen most of them on a presidential debate stage for the last time in 2019.

Where the fundraising is happening

The New York Times published graphic maps Friday showing the geographical spread of the candidates’ donor bases. The maps show Sanders’s appeal among small-dollar donors spread across the country, with other candidates’ donor bases strongest in their home states — although Warren, second in individual donors, registers as a speck in Massachusetts when compared with Sanders.

The map also shows a struggle for most candidates to gain traction nationally as they rush to meet the 130,000-donor mark required for a spot in the September debate. Biden, the current frontrunner in almost all polls, has qualified for that debate but lags far behind Sanders and Warren in the number of individual donors.

— Casey Darnell

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks during the Democratic in Detroit on Wednesday. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at the Democratic debate in Detroit on Wednesday. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone gets their 15 minutes, eventually

Virtually all the Democratic candidates have complained that the debates, at least in their current format, favor rehearsed one-liners over longer, nuanced discussions about policy. But with 10 candidates on stage each night, the focus on soundbites is somewhat unavoidable. And some have taken advantage. Here are those who have had their breakout moments during the first two rounds, and those who haven't yet.

• Sen. Kamala Harris, when she attacked former Vice President Joe Biden over his record on race at the first debate in Miami.

• Sen. Bernie Sanders, at the second debate in Detroit, when he shut down attacks on his signature Medicare for All as ill informed because he “wrote the damn bill.”

• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, when she went after Harris's record as a prosecutor during the second debate.

Marianne Williamson , when she called reparations for slavery a “debt that is owed” at the second date and said presidential candidates are ignoring the “dark psychic force” that is President Trump.

• South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at the second debate, when he told Republicans that history will judge them harshly if they don't find the courage to stand up to Trump.

• Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, at the second debate, when he made a passionate appeal for action on climate change, just as the hottest month in human history was ending.

• Sen. Cory Booker, at the second debate, when he told Biden he was “dipping into the Kool-Aid” by trying to evade responsibility for his role in crafting the controversial 1994 crime bill.

• Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, at the first debate, when he said the photo of Oscar and Valeria Martinez, two migrants who died crossing into the United States, “should piss us all off.”

• Castro had another at the second debate, when he suggested Biden had not “learned the lessons of the past” when it comes to mass deportations.

• Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, when he argued that plans by progressives to decriminalize migrant border crossings are “playing into Donald Trump’s hands.”

• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, at the second debate, when she said the first thing she’d do as president would be to “Clorox the Oval Office.”

Andrew Yang, in his closing statement at the second debate, when he said that instead of debating important issues, “we’re up here with makeup on our faces and our rehearsed attack lines, playing roles in this reality TV show.”

The candidates still waiting for their signature moments on the aforementioned “reality show” include Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tim Ryan and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who despite his ability to speak Spanish has yet to break through.

President Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Cincinnati on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
President Trump at a campaign rally in Cincinnati on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


“The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically.”

— President Trump, at his rally in Cincinnati Thursday, on this week’s debates

“You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and dodge it when it’s not.”

— Sen. Cory Booker to Joe Biden at Wednesday’s Democratic debate

“I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack.”

— Biden, speaking to reporters on Thursday, on rivals attacking his former boss over his administration’s record on deportation

“It was nice to see Democrats finally go after Obama’s failed policies very aggressively. Wish they would have done that years ago.”

— Donald Trump Jr. in a tweet after the debate

“There is little to be gained — for you or the party — by attacking a very successful and still popular Democratic President.”

— Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, in a tweet addressed to 2020 Democratic candidates

“He ain’t perfect — nobody’s ever pulled that off, and I’m sure if Barack Obama was sitting here ... he would tell you, ‘I made some mistakes.’”

— Booker to CNN on Thursday

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