Democratic Primary Exit Survey: Eric Swalwell

California representative Eric Swalwell was never going to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Even he probably knew it. According to FiveThirtyEight, he never polled higher than one percent in a state or national survey and by his own account, his fundraising numbers “weren’t what [he] had hoped for.”

And just like that, the 2020 Democratic primary claims its first victim.

Victim is a strong word, since Swalwell retains his House seat, committee appointments and subsequent influence. But his attempt to vault into the national spotlight landed about as well as his terrible debate one-liners, which is to say really badly. His “breaking up with Russia” line was cringeworthy, from the overeager delivery to his corny smile. And his “father of a two-year-old infant” closing statement intro was one of the worst zingers any candidate attempted.

Swalwell also told Biden to “pass the torch” to younger candidates, which was funny enough until Biden (and Bernie Sanders) slapped him with it. His debate strategy was to be a big cornball and tell the old people to go away. And to piss off Pete Buttigieg.

Swalwell’s challenge (and Buttigieg’s death stare) will live on as the greatest moment of his brief presidential campaign. He was right to call out Mayor Pete for not firing South Bend’s police chief and brought the appropriate amount of attitude. If nothing else, Swalwell briefly exposed Buttigieg’s disconnect between his presidential aspirations and his current political responsibilities.

But aside from that fleeting moment, Swalwell brought little to the Democratic table. He hammered his gun violence messaging and touted his Russia interrogation credentials. In the end, though, Swalwell was just a regular white guy who couldn’t differentiate himself. Everybody needs some sort of gimmick or talking point, and looking like you own a vast collection of Vineyard Vines shirts isn’t gonna cut it. For now, he’ll head back to California to defend his seat in 2020. We’ll likely see him in some future presidential primary, armed with new one-liners and fresh diaper jokes.

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