When your mission is to get every presidential candidate on the record regarding the prosecution of Julian Assange, every attempt to make contact with the candidate is reduced, in effect, to a shot in the dark. Some candidates are willing to walk among commoners and answer questions, but you will always find at least one or two who are not and who never will be. Most of the time, you can anticipate if the attempt is worth your while: there is absolutely no chance at all that Joe Biden will dismantle the cordoning rope, abandon the Secret Service, and really mingle with the grubby peons in Atkinson, New Hampshire. I knew this before I went to see him, so I couldn’t be disappointed, but I was very much let down when Kamala Harris snuck out of her house party in Gilford. Maybe I’ll have a better chance the next time she travels east, now that her polling numbers are crumbling before her.
Yes, the feebler the candidate’s polling viability, the greater the opportunity for journalistic access. Such appears to be the rule of thumb, at least: when I met Andrew Yang two months ago, he was standing in the middle of a bookstore, as if it were the nineteenth century and politicians still had to stump in the public square. How surreal! Accordingly, I had no trouble at all asking him for his thoughts on Assange, and recording his take was my first real success. Ah, but that was two months ago, when he was still a minor figure: now he is preparing for the third and fourth debates, and it may be tougher to pose for a selfie. Maybe I should check out his schedule, swing by a rally, and just kind-of dare to compare, you know?
Then again, maybe that’s a really dumb idea. Currie Dobson, one of Assange’s strongest supporters and a man with a prolific Twitter following, has re-broadcast my video with Yang, and now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people on social media declaring, “Cancel Yang!” If this fire continues to build, then we might have to call in Seth Abramson to reassure us that all of Yang’s critics are only Russian ‘bots. Come to think of it, you could tie such a claim into Yang’s approach to automation, couldn’t you? “We will prevent Putin from monopolizing robotic propaganda! We will ensure that all robotic propagandists are American-made!”
Admire the yo-yo of the politics of personality: Yang rises from the basement to the living room, Harris falls from the ceiling to the den, and somehow, Tom Steyer is terrifyingly close to landing on the national stage. In the midst of this fusillade, Cory Booker’s numbers are remarkably stable: nationally, he hovers around eight percent, but in New Hampshire, he is threatening to close at less than one percent. The numbers don’t surprise me: I don’t know a single Granite Stater who plans to vote for Booker, any more than I know anyone who cheers for Steyer. I’ve never seen a billboard for Booker, I’ve never seen his sign on anybody’s lawn, and I don’t even know what his bumper sticker looks like. He is having the hardest time generating any kind of traction here, which might be why he seldom visits: he’s probably planning to punt our primary and to focus on another early state, but where? He’s polling at two percent in Iowa and Florida, and his most optimistic tracking is in South Carolina, where he stands at four percent. There’s always a chance, but I suspect he’ll be out of the race and begging for the vice-presidential position by March.