Buttigieg Says 'It's Gonna be Me,' Harris Says 'Just Wait and See' and Booker Says His Campaign's So Good He Shouldn't Have to Run for Free: 2020 Presidential Black Power Rankings, Week 17

Graphic: Jim Cooke (G/O Media), Photo: Getty Images

When am I going to get my invitation?

Elie [Mystal] got to do it and I haven’t yet? 

Which week can I do it?

I’d like to pretend that these are typical texts, tweets and messages we get from politicos interested in being the special guest analyst for The Root 2020 Presidential Black Power Rankings each week. But nope, these are all pretty much from (2019 Root 100 honoree) Tiffany D. Cross. You might know Miss Cross as co-founder and managing editor of the political tip sheet The Beat DC, as a guest on Rev. Al Sharpton’s show on SIRIUS XM or for her various appearances on MSNBC and CNN (never Fox). You might have even called the police on her after witnessing her viral verbal murder of conservative Noah Rothman on MSNBC earlier this year.

Regardless of how you’ve heard of her, Tiffany was gracious enough to volunteer as guest analyst this week (and by gracious, I mean I’m not sure I had much of a choice), and it comes at a crucial time in the 2020 campaign.

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This week we had cheaters, liars, pollsters, apologies, endorsements, misogyny, homophobia, agoraphobia, arachnophobia and every other kind of -ism you could think of in the campaign—and that was just by Tuesday. The committee thought there might be a short truce after Beto O’Rourke quit the campaign (Pour out some Beto Beer for The Root’s woke white friend!), but the campaigns have been steadily taking shots for days and everybody is catching strays. Biden called Warren “elitist” and “angry”; Bernie called former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (who is preparing to enter the race) a trojan horse for billionaires; Castro says Mayor Pete couldn’t find MLK Avenue with a kente cloth-colored GPS; and Mayor Pete’s got enough smoke for everybody. This week, Tiffany D. Cross will help us decide if all this campaign clapback actually amounts to anything for black voters. The committee stands behind her. #SheReady.

This week’s big riser is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who finally realized that money can’t buy you love on #BlackTwitter. This week’s biggest drop is Andrew Yang, who got reminded that all the right-wing and celebrity endorsements in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t have black women backing your campaign.

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How do you rank a campaign’s Black Power? Well, we have our “FLEX” rating, aka:

  • Finances: Are you paying black staff, advertisers, consultants?
  • Legislation: What legislation are you pushing or have passed for black people?
  • External Polling: No matter how good you are for black people, if your poll numbers are terrible we can’t rank you that high!
  • X-Factor: What’s your rhetoric like? How do you handle a crisis or the kinds of events and scandals that directly impact black lives?
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#1: Sen. Kamala Harris

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Harris was the unanimous No. 1 from the entire committee this week (which I think is a first!) for her policies, polling and media blitz. Her plan correlating the school day and the workday is the kind of brilliant common-sense policy that helps thousands of black folks across the nation who struggle with child-care costs, not to mention teachers who will see an increase in pay. Harris actually went up in some polls this week and has settled into a solid fourth place among black voters nationally behind Biden, Warren and Sanders. As for how her campaign handled swiper Tom Steyer’s campaign...allow Tiffany Cross to be our anger translator:

So let me get this straight. She’s out here grinding, working a 9 to 5 and a 6 to 10. And then the white man comes along and tries to steal her work? If that ain’t some black sh*t, some black woman sh*t, and some black woman in (insert any industry here) sh*t—I don’t know what is. The Tom Steyer staffer who tried to steal Harris’ volunteer data—which was clearly labeled “Harris” on the files—has resigned. Yeah. Fall back, Slim—and we don’t just mean the time change. Next? Harris has got two messages for the media. 1) What y’all not about to do is lay Pete’s shortcomings at the foot of all black people with that homophobia trope. Right, KDH? Thank you! 2) Dismiss the Harris campaign at your own peril. We outchea. Just ask Higher Heights, (who endorsed Harris this week), an organization with a reach of over 100,000 black women—you know? One of the most important voting blocs in the Democratic Party? And she’s still discounted by the media?? If that ain’t some black sh*t, some black woman sh*t and some bla…. well. You get the point.

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#2: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg told former Mayor Julian Castro to come see him in the mean streets of South Bend, Ind., to find out how well he rolled with black voters.

Castro’s response?

“You can’t just yell pull up when you got priors, Pete.

Castro’s been pulling receipts on Mayor Pete’s poor record with black folks like he’s the lunchtime cashier at Popeye’s. The committee approves of Castro pointing out that Pete’s got less black support than runny pantyhose after Sunday service. Someone needs to remind Democrats that black voters aren’t a side piece but the main dish to electoral success, a point Castro made passionately at an NAACP forum in Iowa this week. Castro also moves up this week because he’s now polling at 5 percent nationally with black voters and because of his clapbacks on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, where he didn’t back off speaking about black issues just because he had a mainstream audience. Of course, it’s not all bread and roses, as Tiffany points out:

But sadly, the Castro campaign is laying off staff in South Carolina—essentially known as “the black primary state.” Tough call since he’s barely making it financially. He’s also laying off staff in New Hampshire—a state with very few Wakanda passports (it’s population is 93 percent white).

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#3: Sen. Elizabeth Warren

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A few weeks ago, when the Power Rankings pointed out that Warren was gaining momentum among black women, we were called haters and crazy by some corners of political social media. Now?

 Twitter, what’s good?

Warren moves up this week after scoring an endorsement from Black Womxn, a group of 100 activists that reads like the guest list to Oprah’s women’s empowerment lunch. Plus, we got some inside information on Warren’s plans on criminal justice and how to specifically campaign to African-American men. Even our most cynical committee members *raises hand* were impressed. Warren’s biggest move this week? We leave that to Miss Cross:

Ain’t nobody fresher than her clique—at least not as long as Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is on the team. Warren picked up an endorsement from the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress and the sole member of The Squad to not back Bernie. This is Warren’s biggest endorsement yet and it’s from one of the most gangsta, hardest working, blackest, coolest, smartest, dopest, wokest members in the House.

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#4: Sen. Cory Booker

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“I’m the only person in this race who has demonstrated time and time again, with only my own name on the ballot, an ability to turn out the vote and win in a heavily black electorate,” Booker said in an op-ed for Essence this week.

Say it with your chest, Cory! The problem is, the latest YouGov poll (pdf) shows that 39 percent of black voters still have no opinion of the Brick City senator, which is a “Sorry to this man” level of anonymity. Also, rumors are floating around of more financial issues in the Booker campaign, and is it just me or does Booker think his campaign’s so good he can keep doing it for free?

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Speaking of Drizzy, Booker campaigned at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and shared his #DrivingWhileBlack experiences. While he didn’t go full “Marvin’s Room,” Booker did take a slight shot at Mayor Pete, pointing out that surging in Iowa doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t carry the black and Latino vote as a Democratic nominee. Also this week, Booker introduced the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act in the Senate, which prohibits the use of facial recognition and other biometric identification technology in public housing units, since we know that, regardless of what Andrew Yang says, computers are racist!

#5: Mayor Pete Buttigieg

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Someone needs to remind Mayor Pete that Campaign Zero is an organization to fight police brutality, not a description of his black outreach program. While the mayor continues to struggle with black voters (he did move up to 1 percent in a recent poll, still trailing behind Beto, who dropped out), he moves up this week in large part because of his black staff. After his communication director Lis Smith got a little out of pocket with MSNBC and SIRIUS XM’s Zerlina Maxwell on the “black people don’t support Mayor Pete because he’s gay” narrative…

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...Mayor Pete empowered a black woman on his staff to actually handle business. Grab the mic and let ‘em know, Tiffany:

Shoutout to Mayor Pete Buttigieg for having a black woman on the team try to bring the false narrative of “black people don’t like Pete because he’s gay” to a screeching halt. Nina Smith, his traveling press secretary, tweeted Monday that “Anyone who says we were blaming black homophobia didn’t read [an internal campaign memo that was alleged to have suggested the narrative] or is cherry picking points for their own arguments sake.” Thank you, Nina! I mean…for Pete’s sake, let’s not blame black people for some of the mayor’s shortcomings with all voters.

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The Buttigieg campaign also brought on Abe Jenkins and Garrett McDaniel as directors of his South Carolina primary campaign in the last month, which the committee appreciates as better late than never.

#6: Former Vice President Joe Biden

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The Joe Biden campaign is like a soul food restaurant in a gentrifying neighborhood. Yeah, they’ve got collard greens on the menu and a Black Lives Matter poster in the window, but the head chef is Karen, all the meals are “inspired” by her childhood housekeeper, “Cora,” and your one friend who always wants to eat there is the Toni Childs of the crew. Biden moves up this week because the committee is duty-bound to acknowledge black moves, even if they’re suspect. Symone Sanders did well this week defending Biden on CNN, and pointing out that he’s right (like Booker and Castro have said) that the Democratic nominee has to have enthusiastic black support.

Biden has increased his lead in Nevada, where, quiet as it’s kept, over 10 percent of caucus participants will be black; he also scored an endorsement from Marc Veasey (D-Texas), and got a glowing piece by Jason L. Riley about his black support in the Wall Street Journal. However, the committee universally pointed out that Biden’s black outreach was lacking this week; he’s dropped to fourth in Iowa; and given thst Riley is basically a cast extra from Key and Peele’s black Republican sketch, not to mention he and his wife have a history of trash racist hot takes, we give immense side-eye to anything “positive” he writes about Biden in the WSJ.

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#7: Sen. Bernie Sanders

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Sanders is polling at 68 percent approval with black voters nationally, which, on the black approval scale, puts him up there with half-price happy hours, a short wait at the barber and the black security guard who lets you in with a head nod when you forget your badge at work. Sanders tweeted about marijuana decriminalization, his new immigration plan is fire and he did a decent job of empowering black surrogates on the campaign trail this week, including Briahna Joy Gray on Politics Nation with Rev. Al Sharpton.

Tiffany Cross went one step further:

Bernie participated in the Weather Channel climate change discussion this week, which explored the impact on communities of color. And his black surrogates were out making a case to black voters—namely campaign co-chair Nina Turner. She was joined by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar at a rally in Minnesota where Prince’s longtime band, the New Power Generation, performed. So. That’s what I got. That’s the blackest thing that I could find that happened in Sandersland. And this also feels like a good time to offer a warning to the Bernie stans who tend to act a fool on social media anytime anyone doesn’t worship their candidate—don’t. You will get muted, blocked or slapped (with words). I actually have no beef with Bernie. But some y’all sycophants are weird AF. Get a life. A lot of beautiful things happen when you get the eff of Twitter. Love youuuuuuuu, thanks.

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#8: Businessman Andrew Yang

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Yang has actually dropped with black voters in polls this week, despite spending more money and expanding his staff. According to some pundits out there, that must mean he’s suddenly a part of the LGBTQIA community. Speaking of intolerance, the committee thinks the poll drop is because Yang started bragging about an endorsement from Jenni’s Ice Cream, which is not a good look when over 60 percent of black folks are lactose intolerant. (Seriously though, Jenni’s makes the best ice cream sandwiches; mix some Lactaid with Robitussin and you’ll be all good)

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However, his drop in our polls is mostly because of his new stance against active shooter drills in schools. We get it, these drills traumatize kids, and as Dave Chappelle pointed out in his last Netflix special, shooting drills basically give the next maniac kid a treasure map on where his classmates will be hiding, but mass school shootings are rare and often a suburban problem. The fact is, black students fear gun violence more than any other group of children in America, and talking about high profile (i.e., white) mass school shootings, while important, doesn’t get at the day-to-day concerns of black kids in schools that have been wracked by violence long before the TV cameras showed up. The committee knows Yang likes math, but the numbers just aren’t adding up when it comes to nuanced black policy this week.

#9: Sen. Amy Klobuchar

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Every time the committee thinks things are starting to move with Amy Klobuchar, she goes out for a pack of cigarettes and doesn’t come back for a few weeks. When she does, she’s always standing at the front porch with one cigarette over her ear, the other in her mouth, asking why we changed the locks. Klobuchar has yet to put together consecutive weeks of serious black campaigning, which is why she keeps falling off and on the Power Rankings. This week though, with no major polling changes, our guest analyst found some things that made us willing to give the senator one more chance.

She can make some people laugh…but can she survive the Apollo? Amy Klouchar may have gotten in some good one-liners lately, most recently her appearance on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. But speaking specifically to black audiences is something I’d like to see her try more, which she did this past weekend at an issue forum hosted by the Des Moines, Iowa branch of the NAACP. There she said she supports restoring voting rights for people who leave prison and “ban the box” policies, which make it easier for people with criminal records to apply for jobs.

But she also spends a lot of time talking about her ability to win in red states. Pssss—you’re running as a Democrat. Talk to me about how you’re going to win some blue states. Also, black voters—like most voters—value authenticity. And we’re not really buying the “Minnesota” nice act. If the accounts of how she treats her staff are true—that’s not being “tough,” that’s being abusive. And while so many people are focused on Kamala Harris’ record as a prosecutor—remember Klobuchar’s sketchy past as a prosecutor in heavily white Minnesota when she routinely declined to go after police involved in fatal encounters with black men. Her response to that at the NAACP forum? “I think that everyone has to come to grips with when they’re part of a system that isn’t right.” So yeah, the one-liners work for some audiences. But on the Apollo stage? I hear the sounds of the Sandman.

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#10: Problematic White Candidates

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Mike “Stop and Frisk” Bloomberg is jumping into the presidential race and wants to start at the Alabama primary, where 54 percent of the voters are black? A black staffer on Tom Steyer’s campaign stole from Kamala Harris and then Steyer tried to whitesplain his way out it before apologizing? Republican Mark Sanford—who literally wouldn’t criticize Trump if the man shot HIM in the face on 5th Avenue—and Joe Walsh—who’s got more racist hits than a Kid Rock mixtape—show up at a Weather Channel forum on climate change yet stand firmly behind the racist policies that would have kept a black man like Byron Allen from ever acquiring that network? As terrible as all of these candidates are, the scary part is that one of them, maybe more, might actually be a contender one day, because wealthy white Democratic donors in New York care more about bottom lines than black lives and pay more attention to Succession than voter suppression yet always think black voters will come to the rescue.

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