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As next debate nears, trailing candidates soldier on in obscurity

Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Klobuchar's long-held reputation as a workmanlike problem solver has been battered by presidential politics. Thanks to national media scrutiny, voters now associate her with allegations of serial mistreatment of underlings.

Others, though, have little to lose. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg rocketed from unknown to national celebrity with a campaign promising youth, diversity (Buttigieg is gay), pragmatism, and intellectual appeal. He is vacuuming in enough campaign cash to launch television ads and open new offices throughout early voting states. He easily qualified for this week's debate.

Buttigieg may never break into the top tier. But he has clearly raised his national profile, which is important for a Democrat stuck in an increasingly Republican state.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who fell short of earning a spot at this week's debate, but might yet qualify for October, is building another kind of momentum. The campaign has enabled the combat veteran to build a swelling movement of anti-interventionist, anti-establishment activists.

"People who have supported Bernie Sanders in the past are coming to my campaign now," Gabbard said in an interview, just before Harvard professor and progressive activist Lawrence Lessig hosted her at a well-attended "Democracy Town Hall" in Dover.

"So long as this foreign policy establishment retains its power and the status quo is continued, we will never have the resources we need to serve those urgent needs of people here at home," she added.

De Blasio is aiming to spark his own movement with robots. One glaring roadblock: Another candidate got there first. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has been talking about robots from Day One, and he's been successful, building a campaign that is more popular and durable than those of several veteran politicians.


The odds of de Blasio taking the reins as the robot-apocalypse candidate are long. Yang qualified to be on the stage Thursday night.

De Blasio didn't come close.

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