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Congressional hopeful Michael Hepburn boasts of already receiving more than 1,700 contributions

Illeana Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to not seek another term representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District has spurred six Democrats to enter the 2018 contest.

Among those Democrats is Michael A. Hepburn, a senior academic adviser for the School of Business at the University of Miami. He lost a 2014 primary election against Daphne Campbell for the state House.

Hepburn announced Monday that he has already received 1,780 contributions from more than 1,580 donors, though he did not announce his fundraising numbers.

“More people have contributed to our campaign in less than two months, than both of my opponents last political campaigns combined,” Hepburn said in reference to two of his opponents in the race, Miami Dade state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

Rosen Gonzalez and Miami City commissioner Ken Russell both have raised more than $100,000 in the relatively nascent campaign, set in motion when Ros-Lehtinen announced in late April that after 29 years in office, she will not run for ree-lection in 2018.

Russell has not formally filed to run in the race. He tells the Miami Herald that he filed an exploratory committee to gauge interest. He began fundraising about four weeks ago.

State Rep. David Richardson and Mark Anthony Person fill out the Democratic field.

“I agree with the voters that I have met,” says Hepburn.”We simply do not need more millionaires or career politicians running to represent us. We also do not need more elected officials running for Congress, who choose not to honor their current commitments to the voters that have elected them.”

Republicans in the race include Miami-Dade County commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate and school board member Raquel Regalado and Maria Peiro.

Big get: Scott Fuhrman backing David Richardson in CD 27

Scott Furhman, the South Florida Democrat who ran in 2016 against Illena Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District and considered running again this cycle, is endorsing state Representative David Richardson in next year’s contest.

“David is the kind of Democratic standard-bearer we need in this race right now,” Furhman said Thursday in a statement issued out by the Richardson campaign. “I know that we can count on him to fight for progressive and responsible solutions to the problems we face as a nation, as well as to stand up to the Trump administration’s harmful policies and alarming rhetoric. In Tallahassee, David has been on the right side of everything from equal rights to prison reform to gun safety to the environment. I’m excited to see him take a courageous stand for single-payer health care on day one. David gets thing done.”

Richardson, who has been representing Miami Beach and downtown Miami in the Florida House since 2012, recently announced a bid for the congressional seat that has been held by Ros-Lehtinen since 1988. She announced earlier this year she would not run for re-election next year.

The district tilts heavily Democratic, as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 20 points last November.

“Scott’s belief in my ability to continue carrying that flag means the world to me and I am honored to have his support,” said Richardson.

Other Democrats who have entered the race include Miami state Senator José Javier Rodríguez; Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez; University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person.

Maria Peiro is the lone Republican to enter the race.

Ben Albritton rolls out Charlotte County endorsements for SD 26 bid

Republican Rep. Ben Albritton announced endorsements from several Charlotte County officials for his campaign to take over for Senate District 26 Republican Denise Grimsley, who is running for Ag Commissioner in 2018.

Among the endorsements was a nod from Florida House colleague Mike Grant, and former Rep. Ken Roberson, whose time in the Legislature overlapped with Albritton’s for three 2-year terms.

“I have worked with Ben and know his integrity and commitment to doing public service the right way,” Grant said. “With Ben in the Florida Senate, his constituents can be confident they have someone in Tallahassee who will always put their best interest first.”

Roberson added that he was “convinced we can count on him in the Florida Senate.”

The HD 56 Republican also picked up support from Charlotte County Commissioners Ken Doherty, Joe Tiseo and Bill Truex, as well as Punta Gorda Mayor Rachel Keesling.

“Ben Albritton’s proven track record of thoughtful, conservative leadership makes him the clear choice for District 26 in the Florida Senate,” Truex said in a statement. “We know we can count on him to continue to treat his constituents with respect and make decisions that will benefit the people of Charlotte County.”

Albritton, a Wauchula resident, doesn’t currently represent Charlotte County, which is one of the more populous tracts in SD 26. His current seat covers DeSoto and Hardee counties as well as part of Polk, while SD 26 includes those areas, plus all of Highlands, Okeechobee and Glades counties as well as the Charlotte east of Interstate 75.

Albritton is currently the only candidate in the race and has been able to raise $46,700 for his campaign since filing for the seat in February. He has about $25,000 of that money on hand.

SD 26 is reliably Republican and would have voted 60-40 in favor of Mitt Romney back in 2012. President Donald Trump bested Hillary Clinton in the district by a 2-to-1 margin last year, while Grimsley went unopposed.

Analysis: Donald Trump remains unpredictable force among U.S. allies

On President Donald Trump’s second trip abroad, there were fewer of the bull-in-a-diplomatic-china-shop moments that had solidified European leaders’ skepticism during his maiden overseas tour. Less public berating of allies, no pushing to the front of photo opportunities.

But Trump still departed Europe on Saturday in the same position as he started: an unpredictable force on the world stage and an outlier among longtime American partners.

For the president’s backers, his posture is the fulfillment of his campaign promise to bring more opaqueness to American foreign policy and challenge long-standing global agreements, even with the nation’s closest allies. But his detractors say he keeps sending the world dangerously mixed messages.

“Our partners and our allies are all looking for meaning and intention in those words and will read into it what they want to, which may or may not be what Trump meant,” said Laura Rosenberger, a former foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton and a senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund.

Trump’s message on Russia remains the most convoluted, despite his advisers’ efforts to put to rest questions about his views on Moscow’s election meddling. The president refused to publicly give the kind of condemnation that his staff said he delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a private meeting Friday. He let a challenge from Putin, who said Trump accepted his denial of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, go largely unanswered, tweeting Sunday morning that he’d “already given my opinion” on the matter.

Trump’s posture toward Putin has left allies both baffled and anxious, particularly against the backdrop of the investigations into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during last year’s election. But increasingly, it’s Trump’s positions on climate and trade that have catapulted to the top of their list of concerns.

The divide over climate was particularly glaring as the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, drew to a close. The U.S. was the only member country that did not sign a statement reaffirming the alliance’s support for international efforts to fight global warming. The statement called the Paris climate accord, which Trump withdrew from last month, an “irreversible” global agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Trump’s refusal to sign on to the statement was “regrettable.” French President Emmanuel Macron, who will host Trump on a quick trip to Paris this week declared: “There are major differences, growing differences between major powers. There is the emergence of authoritarian regimes and even within the Western world there are major divisions, uncertainties, instabilities, that didn’t exist just a few short years ago.”

But Trump and his allies appear to relish his volatility and isolation. Nile Gardiner, a foreign-policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, which has close ties to the Trump White House, praised the president as “the most outspoken and unconventional U.S. president of modern time” and said he is still managing to articulate a “coherent doctrine and vision.”

Conservatives in the U.S. were indeed buoyed by Trump’s speech in Warsaw, Poland, which marked perhaps his most comprehensive articulation of how he views America’s role in the world. He praised Polish resilience and called upon Western nations to jointly combat forces that threaten “to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

The conservative editorial page at The Wall Street Journal called the address “Trump’s defining speech.”

Yet even as his Warsaw speech portrayed the world in stark terms, he offered an uneven message on Russia. In a news conference in Poland, the president acknowledged that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, but he repeated his assertion that “other countries” may have done the same, a reference that appeared to let Putin off the hook.

Hours before his meeting with Putin, he tweeted that “everyone” at the G-20 was talking about why John Podesta, a top adviser to Clinton, had “refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!” Intelligence agencies concluded that both the Democratic National Committee and Podesta’s emails were hacked by Russians last year.

Trump has argued that Democrats are hyping Russia’s involvement in order to create an excuse for Clinton’s loss. His tweet about Podesta prompted the former top White House aide, who was driving with his wife on a cross-country trip, to respond that the president was a “whack job.”

“Dude, get your head in the game. You’re representing the US at the G-20,” Podesta wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s advisers hoped to turn the page on the matter following the president’s first meeting with Putin. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only U.S. official who joined Trump in the meeting, said the president opened the discussion by “raising the concerns of the American people” on Russian interference in the election, describing it as a “very robust and lengthy exchange.”

Putin’s takeaway was different. He told reporters Saturday that he believed Trump accepted his denials of Russian meddling, but said it was best to ask the American president himself.

White House aides didn’t dispute the account. And the Sunday morning flurry of tweets from Trump did little to clarify.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to hold re-election fundraiser in Sarasota July 23

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine visits Florida this month for a fundraiser in support his 2018 re-election bid.

Kaine will hold a cocktail reception beginning 5 p.m. Sunday, July 23, at The Francis, a special event venue in downtown Sarasota. Tickets for the cocktail reception start at a suggested contribution of $250, going up to $5,400 for a spot as event chair.

The former Democratic National Committee chair was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 on a ticket that won Virginia by a larger margin than Barack Obama did in 2012. After Clinton’s loss, Kaine has remained a popular figure in state politics, previously serving as governor and mayor of Richmond. Since 2012, he has represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

Kaine serves on the Armed Services; Budget; Foreign Relations and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees.

Since the election, Kaine has been outspoken figure against Donald Trump, particularly on issues of education, climate change, and LGBTQ rights. He has referred to some of Trump’s antagonistic relationships with U.S. allies as “amateur hour stuff,” and decrying the president’s proposed Muslim travel ban as ineffective in easing America’s tensions with Iran and Iraq.

Last month, Kaine accused Trump of being “jealous” of former President Obama’s accomplishments, citing that as the reason he pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

“Why did Trump really walk away from #ParisAgreement? He’s surrounded by science deniers and fossil fuel junkies,” Kaine tweeted. “POTUS jealous of Obama accomplishments. But in the end, American innovative spirit is stronger than his insecurities.”

On Thursday, the Virginia Democrat was one of nearly 30 senators signing a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, urging him to reinstate resources that protect LGBTQ people from housing discrimination. Those resources, which the Trump administration recently cut, help ensure enforcement of HUD nondiscrimination policies.

While Kaine’s popularity in his home state is holding firm — with a comfortable lead in most polling — he could face any one of several possible Republican contenders, including local and national figures such as former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, former Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Last weekend, state’s divided Republican Party narrowly voted to select Kaine’s Senate challenger through a primary process, which is friendlier to centrist voters, instead of what the Richmond Times-Dispatch called “a rowdier convention driven by conservative activists.”

RSVPs for the Sarasota event are with Renzo Werner at rwerner@cornerstone-strategic.com or (305) 308-8878. The Francis is at 1269 N Palm in Sarasota.

Florida will hand over some voting information to commission

The administration of Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that it would hand over some voter information being sought by President Donald Trump‘s commission investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

But Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by the Republican governor, wrote a letter to the vice chair of the commission saying that the state will only hand over information that is already considered a public record. This would include the names of voters, as well as information on whether they had voted in recent elections.

Detzner said in his letter that Florida law prohibits the state from turning over driver license information or Social Security numbers. He also said they would not turn over the names of voters whose information is currently confidential, such as judges, prosecutors or police officers.

“We are glad to continue following Florida’s public records law by providing the requested information to you that is publicly available,” Detzner wrote to Kris Kobach, the current Secretary of State from Kansas who is on the commission.

Detzner did add, however, that “the responsibility for the accuracy and fairness of our election process in Florida lies on us, not with the federal government in Washington.”

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked election officials across the country last week for voter information, including names, political party affiliation and voter history. The request included asking for the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers and any information on voters convicted of felony crimes.

The effort has triggered pushback across the country, including lawsuits, by critics who contend that the commission was created based on false claims of fraud. Trump, who created the commission through executive order in May, lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton but has alleged without evidence that up to 5 million people voted illegally.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are refusing to comply, while many others plan to provide the limited information that is public under their laws.

Democratic politicians in Florida had called on Scott – who has been a strong supporter of fellow Republican Trump – to reject the request from the commission.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, the leader of the Senate Democrats, said in a letter to Scott that turning over the voter information was a “blatant invasion of privacy and federal overreach.”

“It also begs the question of why this data is being sought in the first place, and whether voter suppression may be the ultimate goal,” wrote Braynon, whose letter was signed by other Senate Democrats.

Florida maintains a statewide voter database where a good deal of information is already public such as the names and addresses of most voters and their voter history, which shows when they voted, but not who they voted for. News organizations, political consultants and political parties routinely make public records requests for the information.

Detzner said in his letter to Kobach that the public portion of the database does not capture information on felonies.

But the state does routinely search to see if someone who is registered to vote has been convicted of a crime. That information is sent to local election officials, who have the ultimate decision on whether to remove someone from the voter rolls. Florida is one of a handful of states that does not allow former convicts to vote unless their rights have been restored by the state.

During his first term as governor, Scott came under fire for his push to trim the voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens. An initial voter purge initiated ahead of the 2012 elections found some ineligible voters, but it also wrongly identified U.S. citizens.

Kathy Castor on Nancy Pelosi: No time to discuss a change of leadership

In the wake of Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff‘s four-point lost to Republican Karen Handel in last week’s special election, there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats desperate to show that they’re building momentum going into the 2018 midterms.

Ossoff’s loss was the fourth special election to go to the Republicans in the first six months of the Trump presidency.

“Our brand is worse than Trump,” Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan lamented the day after Ossoff’s loss, while New York Representative Kathleen Rice of New York told CNN the entire Democratic leadership team should go.

First and foremost, Rice and Ryan are referring to Nancy Pelosi, who has been at the head of the Democratic House leadership since 2003.

Pelosi has fought back tenaciously, saying she isn’t going anywhere, and she has a majority of supporters in her caucus, such as Tampa U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, who continues to stand by her despite the growing criticism of her tenure.

“This is the exact wrong time to be having this discussion because everyone needs to be focused on defeating this health care bill in the Senate this week,” Castor told FloridaPolitics when asked Monday morning in Tampa where she stood on the issue.

The calls among some Democrats to oust Pelosi have been ongoing for years as the Democrats have continued to lose seats in the House of Representatives. Those grumblings were loud after last fall, and reached a fever pitch way back in 2010 after the Republicans took back the House and the speakership from Pelosi.

At that time, Castor called the discussion “a distraction,”

While calling Pelosi “a strong leader,” Castor said Monday that “over the next few years, you’re going to see a change in the House leadership.”

One would think so. Pelosi is 77. Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer from Maryland is 78, while assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn turns 77 next month.

While some pundits and Democrats said that last week’s election was one that Democrats needed to show that they will have a big year against vulnerable GOP incumbents in Congress, others have noted that it was a district that has always been Republican.

“This is Newt Gingrich’s (former) district; (now-Health Secretary) Tom Price’s district. A first-time candidate. That was going to be a toughie,” said Castor, who made a campaign appearance for Ossoff.

In fact, Price defeated his Democratic challenger last November by 23 percentage points, and Georgia Six was Gingrich’s home district for more than 20 years. But it was also a district that is changing, and is now the 6th best educated congressional district in the country.

Trump narrowly won it by just 1.5 points over Hillary Clinton last fall, however.

“I thought it was a warning shot to the 70 other districts out there are more Democratic, or more independent than that one, you just watch,” said an ever-confident Castor about the Democrats chances of winning back House seats in 2018.

I’m not distraught over that at,” she said. “I’m more hopeful than anything.”

Donald Trump returning to Iowa, where he may find remorseful independent voters

Iowa independents who helped Donald Trump win the presidency see last year’s tough-talking candidate as a thin-skinned chief executive and wish he’d show more grace.

Unaffiliated voters make up the largest percentage of the electorate in the Midwest state that backed Trump in 2016, after lifting Democrat Barack Obama to the White House in party caucuses and two straight elections. Ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa Wednesday, several independents who voted for Trump expressed frustration with the president.

It’s not just his famous tweetstorms. It’s what they represent: a president distracted by investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a court battle over his executive order barring refugees from majority-Muslim countries at the expense of tangible health care legislation and new tax policy.

“He’s so sidetracked,” said Chris Hungerford, a 47-year-old home-business owner from Marshalltown. “He gets off track on things he should just let go.”

And when he does spout off, he appears to lack constraint, said Scott Scherer, a 48-year-old chiropractor from Guttenberg, in northeast Iowa.

“Engage your brain before you engage your mouth,” Scherer advised, especially on matters pertaining to investigations. “Shut up. Just shut up, and let the investigation run its course.”

Scherer said he would vote again for Trump, but pauses a long time before declining to answer when asked if he approves of the job the president is doing.

Cody Marsh isn’t sure about voting for Trump a second time. The 32-year-old power-line technician from Tabor, in western Iowa, says, “It’s 50-50.”

“People don’t take him seriously,” he said.

Unaffiliated, or “no party” voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who register Republican and 31 percent registered Democrat. Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks

They helped him capture 51.8 percent of the overall vote against Clinton.

Nationally, exit polls showed independents tilted toward Trump over Clinton by about a 4-percentage-point margin in November, but an AP-NORC poll conducted in June found that about two-thirds of them disapprove of how he’s handling his job as president.

In North Carolina, Republican pollster Paul Shumaker says he has seen internal polling that has warning signs for his state, where Trump prevailed last year. Independent voters are becoming frustrated with Trump, especially for failing so far to deliver on long-promised household economic issues such as health care, said Shumaker, an adviser to Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Inaction on health care and any notable decline in the economy will hurt Trump’s ability to improve his numbers with independents, with broad implications for the midterm elections next year, Shumaker said. At stake in 2018 will be majority control of the House. A favorable map and more Democrats up for re-election make the GOP more likely to add to its numbers in the Senate.

“How the president and members of Congress move forward and address the kitchen-table issues facing the American voters will determine the outcome of the 2018 elections,” he said.

In Iowa Wednesday, Trump will be rallying his Republican base in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence attended Republican Sen. Joni Ernst‘s annual fundraiser, where he talked about job growth and low unemployment since the start of the year, although economists see much of it as a continuation of Obama policies.

Trump has only been in office five months.

It’s a message the Republican establishment is clinging to, especially those looking ahead to 2018.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, installed last month to succeed new U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, said last week of Iowa voters: “I think they are confident that President Trump and this administration are doing the job that they said that they would do, going out there and making America great again.”

But Trump has to worry about people like Richard Sternberg, a 68-year-old retired high school guidance counselor from Roland, in central Iowa, who voted for Trump. But is Sternberg satisfied? “Not completely.”

He is bothered by Trump’s proposed cut to vocational education, an economic lift for some in rural areas.

“We, especially in Iowa, need those two-year technically trained people,” Sternberg said.

More broadly, Trump needs to act more “presidential,” he said.

“Trump speaks before he thinks,” Sternberg said. “He doesn’t seem to realize what the president says in the form of direct communication or Twitter carries great weight and can be misconstrued if not carefully crafted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman still question which has been more partisan as mayor

Rick Baker knew for months that Rick Kriseman was going to attack him as an out-of-step Republican in a Democratically friendly city, even before entering the mayoral campaign last month.

In his campaign kickoff announcement, the former St. Petersburg Mayor warned supporters  they’d be getting a dose of such rhetoric from the Kriseman camp: “Because that’s the only thing they have.”

But last week, while filing papers for his official re-election run, Kriseman said that a review of who contributed to Seamless Florida, Baker’s political action committee, should make voters wonder about which candidate is the real partisan in the race.

“To say that he hasn’t been partisan as mayor and he hasn’t run a partisan campaign and you look at his fundraising and how much of it has come from Republicans, PACs, not individual donors, I think it’s up to voters to decide,” said Kriseman. “At least we’re up front about it.”

Among those giving $25,000 checks to Seamless Florida: Jobs For Florida, a PAC founded by Trilby Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson; Floridians for Economic Freedom, a PAC chaired by Safety Harbor House Republican Chris Sprowls, and the Florida Roundtable, chaired by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In response, the Baker campaign told the Tampa Bay Times last week that nearly half of their 651 individual contributors gave $25 or less; roughly half were Democrats or independents.

And last Friday, when speaking with SaintPetersBlog, Baker went even further: “To me, if somebody contributes $5 they’re important to me. They might not be that important to Rick Kriseman, but they’re as important to me as anybody who contributed $5,000,” adding that he’s happy to get money from any corner of the community, regardless of political affiliation. “I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

“I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

But Kriseman replies that voters may need a history lesson if they’re going to be lectured about who has a partisan agenda.

“I think it’s a little disingenuous of him to talk about partisanship when he was mayor he was at campaign rallies for Sarah Palin and John McCain,” Kriseman said Thursday, an attack his campaign made even before Baker entered the race (Kriseman was a big Hillary Clinton supporter last year).

“We are seeing the poisonous impact of Washington type partisanship in the country and I don’t think we want that in St. Petersburg,” Baker replied last week, pointing out that a Times review of the people he hired in two terms as mayor showed more Democrats appointed than Republicans.

“I took an oath — as did Rick Kriseman — when I signed to run for election that it would be a nonpartisan seat and I always served that way,” Baker said.

At Florida Democrats Leadership Gala, Joe Biden argues progressives can still win working class vote

In the immediate aftermath of Hillary Clinton‘s stunning Electoral College loss to Donald Trump last November, Democrats took to writing think pieces and conducting heated arguments about how they lost working-class white voters.

Questions like: Was it too much of “identity politics”? Were they too elitist?

Joe Biden has heard and read about those discussions, and he’s sick of them.

“This phony debate going on in the Democratic Party, the Hobbesian choice that we’re given — we either become less progressive, and focus on working folks, or forget about working folk and become more progressive,” he said while giving the keynote speech to more than 1,200 Democrats at the party’s Leadership Blue Gala at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

“There is no need to choose, they are not inconsistent,” he said to a cheering crowd.

That’s easy for Biden to say. Biden’s unique political persona as a longtime member of the U.S. Senate representing Delaware has been one of representing the working class whites that Clinton lost to Trump last fall.

Biden himself thought hard about running for president, but with no clear daylight and so much of the Democratic Party establishment supporting Clinton (including President Barack Obama), he opted to stand down, but made the case on Saturday that the party could win back those voters, with an obvious inference being that he could be that candidate to do so in 2020.

Citing congressional ratings that showed him to be among the top ten liberal senators in the nation in his 36-year career, Biden said he has been a progressive and someone who could capture the working class vote, so Democrats should know that they could get those votes as well.

“These folks we’re talking about who left us — they voted for a black man named Barack Obama!” 

In fact, exit polls show that approximately 12 percent of voters who supported Obama turned around and chose Trump in 2012.

The former Vice President talked about the working class voters that the Democratic lost in the crucial Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He said it was things like digitalization and automation that are putting people out of work, in what he called “this fourth industrial revolution” which is causing real anxiety and fear among many Americans.

“They’re worried that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “So we saw of playing to their fears, their lesser angels, their basic instincts, rather than their better angels can still have a powerful impact as a political tool.”

He then dug deep into what he said was the “hopelessness” of some of these Americans, mentioning the statistic that white men aged 45-54 who are dying at a quicker rate than any other demographic right now.

“Highest rate of drug abuse. Not the ‘hood. There,” he barked.

And Biden talked about how that anxiety can play out by lashing out at “the others,” such as undocumented immigrants, Muslims and the transgendered. “Anyone not like you can become the scapegoat.”

It was a compelling speech, marred only by a detour into how cutting tax loopholes could free up money to pay for the community college being the only soft spots in the 51-minute address.

He also chastised Democrats for failing to think big, going for an incremental change instead.

“What the hell is happening?!” he asked. “We build new things by breaking old things.”

“No, no. I’m being deadly earnest,” he followed up, one of half-dozen times he would point out his previous comment, making sure everyone knew he wasn’t joking.

While his intensity came close to yelling at the audience at points, a few times he dropped down to a whisper, where the audience had to literally lean in to hear him, such as when he described a conversation with his father, who once told him: “Joey, I don’t expect government to be able to solve our problems, but I do expect them to understand them. Just understand them.”

Remaining sotto voce, Biden admitted: “That slice of people that Barack and I had, Democrats have always had, that don’t think we understand them anymore. It’s not a lot, but it was the difference in the election.”

The former VP also asked for more civility in our politics, without mentioning the current president’s name. “We have to treat the opposition with more dignity,” he said, then boasted that there wasn’t a single Republican on Capitol Hill who doesn’t trust him or won’t talk to him.

The 74-year-old Biden recently launched “American Possibilities PAC,” a political-action committee that will keep him engaged to help other Democrats, but immediately sparked more discussion about a possible 2020 run, when he would be 77.

Then again, Donald Trump is already the oldest president in our history, having turned 71 last week.

Though there will be plenty of other Democrats in the mix, two of the leading lights — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — will also be in their 70s in three years. Sanders would be 78; Warren would be 71.

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