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Dan Pfeiffer Talks 2020 Turkey | President Obama's former senior advisor and communications director brings his roadshow to Cal.

As the Democrats battle it out to see who will challenge President Trump in their quest to regain the White House next year, those who want to see that happen could learn a thing or two from Obama's former senior advisor and communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Now officially in pundit mode with credentials such as CNN political contributor, a book, Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump, and as co-host of a the popular podcast Pod Save America under his belt, Pfeiffer has been making the rounds lately telling the deep below the beltway tales of how Obama succeeded in spite of Twitter trolls and the enmity of Fox News. Apparently, Pfeiffer even knows why everyone got 2016 wrong. And, like any seasoned political vet, he isn't shy about offering up his ideas on how his party can turn things around in 2020. Since he's bringing his roadshow to Cal this month, I was able wrangle a little phone time with the Pfeiffenator recently to get his take on the Dems internal battle and what lies ahead.

Paul Kilduff: Is the Democratic Party going to be nominating a moderate or a progressive candidate in 2020? Can you look into your crystal ball and predict that?

Dan Pfeiffer: Yeah, if I had a crystal ball. I don't know the answer. I don't think anyone knows. At this point in 2007, Hillary Clinton was beating Obama by like 30 points. And so I think there's a lot of the turns of the wheel coming. I do believe that voters do not look at this through the same ideological frame that a lot of media and political types do. And they're really trying to assess two questions that are very related. One is who's the most likely person to beat Trump and who would be a very good president if they did. And I think that is not ideological as much as it is a more nuanced assessment of the attributes of the candidate.

PK: Like the Republicans always do, will the Dems fall in line and vote for their candidate?

DP: I think so. I think the history of it is suggests that they will, particularly now that people did not get in line last time. That had a lot to do with the nature of that primary, the circumstances around Hillary Clinton's candidacy, and the fact that people thought Trump was going to lose. Democrats had a real third party problem in 2000 when Bush beat Gore, and then in 2004, it was a question of not winning enough independent swing voters. so I think the party will be united behind our nominee, whoever that is.

PK: What are the key battleground states the Democrats need to win to take back the White House?

DP: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Democratic candidate's going to have to win those states and reach out to the voters in those states. The path to winning is a combination of improving on turnout among the Democratic base and persuading some number of voters who voted either for a third party candidate or for Trump in 2016. That is not an easy thing to do, but the raw numbers of voters you need to persuade are not so very large. Trump won those three states, and, therefore. the presidency by about 70,000 total votes. In Wisconsin, the number of people who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein is larger than the margin Trump won the state by. So all of this is going to be won in the margins and is very doable, but it's going to take a good candidate running a very good campaign to do that.

PK: Will the nominee have to make promises about bringing back high-paying factory jobs?

DP: You can't offer people false hope, because Trump did that and is suffering for it in Wisconsin and Michigan, promising that these plants wouldn't close, that these jobs wouldn't be shipped overseas, and that still happened. But you have to lay out an agenda of how you're going to improve the lives of the people in those states and convince them that you will fight for them once you get to the White House. And that is a challenge because people are naturally skeptical of politicians.

PK: Do you see any cracks in the GOP majority Senate that could lead to that body voting for impeachment?

DP: No.

PK: So is having only the House impeach him and not removing him from office just a symbolic gesture?

DP: It would make Trump the third president in American history who was impeached. He'd be running for re-election as somebody who had been impeached, but it is very unlikely to lead to his removal from office.

PK: Do you see why people may ask why bother?

DP: Yeah. I think people will ask that question. The answer is if a president commits high crimes, Congress has a Constitutional obligation to do something about it. Because Trump has refused to cooperate with Congress and essentially denied their Constitutional authority to do oversight, the only way that they're able to compel these Trump officials to testify and provide documents is via the impeachment process, so that's the other reason for it.

PK: I'd like you to finish this sentence for me: Andrew Yang is ...

DP: ... the greatest single-issue candidate in American political history.

PK: Wow. I'm extremely impressed by him. He's talking about stuff no one else is. Was he on anybody's radar screen?

DP: I was out on my book tour last year doing lots of events, and people kept bringing him up to me in the Q&A sessions. And he is incredibly impressive, but the most impressive part is bringing attention to the idea of universal basic income. Because of his candidacy, there was a five- to 10-minute discussion about it on national television in front of millions of people at the debate the other night.

PK: But unfortunately, he probably has no chance whatsoever. Right?

DP: I think it's certainly a long shot, but so do a lot of other candidates with more traditional backgrounds. But, he's in the game, and that's not something that a lot of people would have predicted a year ago.

PK: No one's going to be protesting your appearance at Cal, at least not yet — maybe after this interview comes out. But some ultra conservative people can't even speak at Cal for fear of violent protests. How do you feel about college campuses squelching conservative viewpoints?

DP: My general view is that a lot of the fears about conservative viewpoints being shut down are greatly exaggerated by folks on the right who are looking for grievances. But I'd say a couple things. One, I think it's good for students to hear from a wide array of viewpoints across the ideological spectrum. I think it's perfectly appropriate if there's a controversial speaker for students to peacefully protest outside. I do understand when there are figures who hold completely abhorrent views on race or LGBTQ rights, et cetera, students not wanting their tuition money spent on those speakers, right? So if a Steve Bannon, for instance, were invited — someone who has supported and embraced white supremacy — I think that it is fair for students to believe it's inappropriate for their very expensive tuition to be spent on bringing that voice to school. I don't have a problem with peaceful protest. But I think more than just protest, it's just as good to go inside and engage in the debate about the ideas on the substance.


Got an idea for The Kilduff File? E-mail Paul Kilduff at

Photo by Dan Pfeiffer.

Dan Pfeiffer Vital Stats

Age: 43

Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware

What's your sign, bruh? Capricorn

Fave sando? Philly cheesesteak

Motto: "My 2020 political motto is worry about everything. Panic about nothing."

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