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The magic eight ball casts an eye on 2020

Robert J. McCarthy

Once more the Politics Column retrieves its trusty magic eight ball, replenished by toy expert Scott Eberle following the mysterious disappearance of Santa’s 1965 original. The Oracle Orb now looks forward to 2020:

Who will emerge as the Democratic challenger to President Trump?

Reply hazy, try again.

Even the magic eight ball lacks all the answers. A crowded Democratic field now works the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for the official front-runner title. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are scoring well in early polls, but just a month remains before Iowa. Lots can happen.

Former Vice President Joe Biden hangs in there, topping all in national surveys. He may have to rely on the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary, however, where he is expected to do well among African American Dems.

[Hey, if the Politics Column knew the answer to this one we’d be laying bets in Vegas instead of offering hazy predictions.]

Will New York State play a role in this year’s primary process?

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Ask again later.

In 2016, the state lined up firmly behind its favorite daughter – Hillary Clinton – though Sanders did well. Now New York’s Democratic establishment may be all over the place.

Take the Rath County Office Building’s 16th floor. County Executive Mark Poloncarz last week pledged his support to Warren. But down the hall, Chief of Staff Jen Hibit is a Biden backer.

Sanders has a ready-to-go organization in Erie County and across the state. Andrew Yang boasts a local group of supporters, and Assemblyman Pat Burke has climbed aboard the Warren bandwagon.

Though he says nice things about Biden, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to weigh in. When he finally bestows his blessing, the state’s Democratic hierarchy will follow. But top Dems like Poloncarz are already on their own, leading to a most unclear situation.

And who knows? It may be all over by New York’s April 28 primary.

The Evasive Ebony punts again.

Will Mayor Byron Brown follow Cuomo’s lead in a presidential endorsement?

Signs point to yes.

Aha, the Billiard Bloviator finally takes a stand, even while (cowardly) leaving wiggle room. Brown stands at Cuomo’s side during every Buffalo appearance, and loyally ran the governor’s Democratic State Committee for almost three years.

Maybe the eight ball wavers since Brown once joined Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, and the former mayor will prove a factor in New York State.

But Mattel hasn’t manufactured this political plaything since 1950 for nothing. It still figures Brown will remain with Cuomo.

Will President Trump be a major issue in the GOP contest to succeed Chris Collins in the 27th Congressional District?

It is decidedly so.

It doesn’t take a magic eight ball to figure out this one. As many as six Republicans are eyeing the seat left vacant by Collins’ Sept. 30 resignation. Each now trips over the other in supporting the embattled president, who remains extremely popular in New York’s most Republican district.

The Spherical Seer predicts all the congressional hopefuls will pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honors as “always-Trumpers” when seeking the nomination of the eight party leaders for a special election anticipated on April 28. “Never-Trumpers” need not apply.

Will Western New York witness a significant makeover of its state legislative delegation?

You may rely on it.

Democrat Robin Schimminger will retire from the Assembly after 44 years, Republican Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer bows out, Sen. Chris Jacobs runs for Congress and Republican Sen. Rob Ortt will leave Albany should he win the congressional nomination.

An easy one for the Poolball Predictor: Will 2020 provide all kinds of Politics Column fodder?

It is certain.

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