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Could Mike Gravel make the Detroit debate?

The 89-year-old former senator is within 2,500 donors

July 12, 2019

1:48 PM

12 July 2019

1:48 PM

How could the Detroit Democratic debates in two weeks’ time possibly improve on the glitz of Miami? Perhaps by tossing 89-year-old anti-interventionist Sen. Mike Gravel into the mix.

The former Alaska senator and veteran missed out on the June debates by failing to meet the criteria of 65,000 individual donors or achieving one percent in three reputable polls. But with under five days to go before the qualifying cut-off, Gravel is less than 2,500 donations away from making the stage.

Gravel’s campaign is unique, in that it’s run by two 18-year-olds and largely consists of scything down the other candidates on Twitter. It is also very streamlined: when Cockburn spoke to the Gravel teens in Miami last month, they pointed out how they’d spent only $5,000 so far, compared to former Maryland congressman John Delaney, who was polling behind them after paying out around $6 million.

The first DNC clash was intriguing in many places: Kamala Harris attacking Biden on busing (before quietly walking her position back), Julián Castro bopping Beto on immigration and everything Marianne Williamson did was fascinating. Cockburn thinks Gravel would liven things up further in the Midwest on July 30 or 31. Fellow anti-war candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had a strong moment when she clashed with Tim Ryan about the need to pull troops out of Afghanistan. But Gabbard in 2019 offered a more tranquil presence than Gravel displayed during his 2008 run, where he challenged Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton on their foreign policy records.

Indeed Gravel released a campaign ad criticizing Biden for voting in favor of the Iraq War yesterday, as the front-runner launched his foreign affairs platform in the cafeteria of the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan yesterday. Cockburn watched as Biden droned on for 45 minutes at around 150 students and academics about America having ‘the strongest military in the world’, Trump corroding ‘our country’s credibility’ and America’s ‘deepestly held values’. It was a limply received address, with only two lines receiving applause from the room…and Biden didn’t mention Iraq. Needless to say, Gravel would take the opportunity to hold Uncle Joe’s feet to the fire in Michigan – which would be far from a snooze fest. Bring on the Gravelanche, Cockburn says.

Update 7/12 7 p.m. ET: The Gravel campaign have reached 65,000 donors. There are 20 spaces on the Detroit debate stage. Polling, the other criteria by which a candidate could qualify, will therefore likely determine which 20 contenders appear.

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