The lobby bar of the Miami Hilton is a hotbed of Democratic action today, ahead of the first primary debate. Beto O’Rourke was spied posing for selfies with adoring fans (well, two of them), defeated Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum relaxed with a staffer clad in one of those ‘boy, bye’ t-shirts, Tim Ryan chowed down on a salad bowl, fitting with his young staff by sporting gray Nike sneakers, jeans and a backwards baseball cap from a yoga studio.
The most intriguing meet-up Cockburn clocked, however, involves a candidate who doesn’t even debate until tomorrow: entrepreneur Andrew Yang sat down for a five-minute chat with David Oks and Henry Williams, aka the teen geniuses behind Sen. Mike Gravel’s campaign (and Twitter account).
The tête-à-tête was far from clandestine – it was in the bustling lobby of a hotel for goodness’ sake – but it could be enough to set tongues wagging. Gravel and Yang have both earned hardcore fans among the Extremely Online. With the 89-year-old senator missing the cut for this first debate, could a team-up be on the cards?
Meeting Yang was ‘remarkable’, Williams told Cockburn. ‘I think we’re both very online, and I think he appreciated that we’re very much of the younger generation. He’s excited by the fact that he made it this far, his base support is primarily young, and I think he sees that this online, very engaged, very future-brand of politics…we share it in common. I think that’s why he liked us. I didn’t think he’d be quite so supportive but he really likes the campaign and what it’s doing. He gave us some books of his.’
‘We like what he’s doing’, added Oks. ‘We have points of disagreement, but I think that fundamentally our campaigns are coming from the same place. On that level I’m excited by what he’s doing because it was a proof of concept that if you run a campaign online, you get a small base of super-dedicated supporters and then you have a real presidential campaign.’
‘We were really trying to follow in Yang’s footsteps,’ said Williams. ‘Sadly we are two 18-year-olds with an 89-year-old candidate, and I don’t think we’ve spent more than $5,000 so far. But we have one of our three necessarily DNC qualifying polls now, we have another three weeks to get the next two. The other thing we’ve seen is, a lot of these weak candidates, Eric Swalwell types, they’re not hitting 65,000 donors. Bill de Blasio is not going to hit 65,000-
‘Let me say on record,’ cuts in Oks. ‘Bill de Blasio is pathetic, he’s a punk, and he should not be running.’
‘We have the chance of getting all the way there,’ said Williams. ‘Whether we do is not really in our control because of the polls. But we’ve spent a couple of thousand dollars and are at solidly one percent in our polling average. John Delaney, $6 million? Less than one percent in the polls. Dollar-per-poll result, we are I think the best of any campaign.’
Cockburn can’t help but hope that a campaign this streamlined can deliver its candidate to the Detroit debate. Who wouldn’t want to see Beto in a Gravel-Yang sandwich?