Attorney Michael Avenatti, of Stormy Daniels fame, says it will take a unique candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2020 – but how unique?
What about the lawyer himself?
When the race for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 begins in earnest early next year, the field of candidates will be wide open — more so than at any time since 1976, with no clear front-runner established.
There have been more than three dozen Democrats whose names have surfaced early on as potential opponents to Donald Trump, but some analysts have questioned whether a “conventional” Democrat can defeat perhaps the most unconventional president in our lifetime?
The 47-year-old Southern California based attorney who is defending adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Trump has become one of the most popular critics of the president since becoming a ubiquitous presence on cable news.
He’s not only defending his client but aggressively challenging the president. And he’s flirting with the idea of running for president.
“I think that this is a very unique opponent,” Avenatti said of Trump.
“And I think it’s going to take a very unique individual to beat him in the 2020 election. I don’t know yet if I’m that person or not, but what I do know is that I think there’s going to be a very small subset of individuals that can actually beat him in 2020, and even saying that, it’s going to be a very, very difficult election.”
Avenatti spoke with reporters this weekend at the downtown Hilton hotel in Tampa, hours before he was to address a record crowd of more than 700 local Democrats attending the Hillsborough County Democratic Party’s Kennedy King dinner, an annual fundraiser.
Avenatti said he was honored to come to Florida on Saturday to help raise money for the local party. He then jetted off to New Hampshire on Sunday for some more politicking, which follows his appearance last weekend in Iowa, all major places for potential presidential candidates to appear in.
Avenatti says the eventual Democratic nominee needs someone who is aggressive and willing to “take the fight” to Trump; a candidate who is media savvy, charismatic and smart.
And he also says that an unconventional candidate has the potential to become nominated by a major party because of the changing political and media landscape.
“Look at social media,” he says. “This has changed human behavior and we’re not going to turn back the hands of time and go back to running campaigns like we did in 1980 or 1992. I mean, this is a new day and age, and the sooner the Democratic Party realizes this, the better off we’ll be.”
Though he hasn’t run for office previously, Avenatti does have extensive political experience, having worked on over 120 campaigns in more than 30 states. He did opposition research for a political consulting firm then run by Rahm Emanuel, who was a White House chief of staff and now Chicago’s mayor.
Avenatti describes himself as a centrist Democrat who has “adapted” certain progressive ideals, such as a Medicare-for-all philosophy on health care that more and more Democrats running for Congress this year are supporting.
While a solid Hillary Clinton supporter in 2016, he says the party must reach out to the younger voters who flocked to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. “I don’t think they (younger voters) can or should be ignored,” he said. Avenatti added that he’s not on board with Sanders’ full progressive agenda.
Avenatti’s public policy agenda – or parts of it, anyway went public last week on Twitter. It includes some tough talk on trade that echoes the verbiage espoused by the president as well as Ohio U.S. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
“I do think that we need to be more aggressive on trade,” he says. “I think we’ve been taken advantage of for a number of years by other countries. I don’t think we’ve negotiated from a position of strength, when we should have, but at the same time we can’t be irresponsible in the way we go about changing that process.”
Avenatti says he doesn’t have a specific timetable about whether he’ll commit fully to a run for 2020, saying that he wants to see what shakes out of the midterm elections, and what the Democratic field will look like towards the end of the year.
If Avenatti does get into the race, he’ll likely have to talk much more about some of the issues at his law practice. The Los Angeles Times reports that his firm emerged from bankruptcy protection in March, but has defaulted on more than $880,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest owed to the U.S. government.
“I’m not overly concerned about that,” he replied. “Show me anybody that’s had great success and I’m going to show you somebody who’s had great challenges or disputes. And if you show me somebody who hasn’t had challenges or disputes, I’m going to show you somebody who really hasn’t been that successful.”