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Who is Eric Swalwell Anyway? (And Why Does He Think He Can Be President?)

The East Bay congressman's history demonstrates shrewd political skills and an instinct for finding the center. Is that enough?



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"He been doing a good job of triaging what Trump brings everyday," said Crystal Araujo, a member of the East Bay Young Democrats of South Alameda County, in addition, to a local campaign consultant.

The Bay Area News Group story ran a tally of Swalwell's national television appearance. It found that Swalwell made 282 appearances in 2017, and another 233 during the first eight months of 2018. A quick perusal of Swalwell's IMDB page reveals the astonishing breadth of his "filmography," encompassing multiple appearances on virtually every televised government affairs program. And that's not accounting for the numerous segments on local television newscasts. The pace is certain to be exceeded this year, as Swalwell is on the tube on daily basis. "He now had a stage that was front and center for the resistance of Trump and he's risen to the task and speaks for the resistance," said Torello.

The immense volume of media coverage has gained Swalwell a significant following, but also created detractors on social media. Since being elected to Congress, Swalwell has offered unwavering support of Israel. He's attended trips to Israel funding by an educational offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). When Republican Speaker John Boehner controversially invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in 2015, a slight that angered President Barack Obama, Swalwell attended while other Democrats protested. He told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I will be there; I will listen. I don't think two wrongs make a right. I'm not going to be disrespectful toward a head of state from a country that is so important to us, but I think we could have accomplished getting updated by the prime minister in a way that worked with the White House."

Just as Israeli forces were trading rocket fire with Hamas-backed rebels in Gaza, six months earlier in July 2014, Swalwell was heavily criticized for a Facebook posting in which he voiced more concern for victims in Israel, even though at the time three Israelis had perished, but more 2,000 Gazans had been killed by Israeli missiles. The posting included a graphic with the Israeli flag and the words, "I stand with Israel for peace and Security," he wrote. "Innocent civilians in Israel have been under constant attack from rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza. These attacks have recently escalated, with over 500 rockets fired at Israel in just the past month. I stand with Israel as it seeks peace and security in the region." Palestinians activists subsequently crashed a town hall in San Lorenzo, dominating the 90-minute event. When they questioned Swalwell's support from pro-Israel groups, he responded, "You're right. I have voted for and supported aid to Israel. I have supported aid for the Palestinian people."

Last November, Swalwell engaged in a thread of tweets with a gun-rights' supporter, who suggested gunowners would wage war against the federal government in response to the gun-control measures Swalwell was proposing. "And it would be a short war my friend," the congressman tweeted. "The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they're legit. I'm sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities." The Twitter gun lobby exploded. Swalwell later said the tweet was sarcasm. But if he had intended to bait the right with his comments, he succeeded. The National Rifle Association and other gun rights' activists made Swalwell a high-profile target of their enmity. In return, Swalwell turned the reaction into a campaign fundraising plea.

Swalwell's advocacy for strict gun control measure is not new. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, he joined the debate on Fox News with conservative pundit Sean Hannity just a week after joining Congress in January 2013. Swalwell called for a ban on assault weapons and offered his support for legislation prohibiting the sale and transfer of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Last year, Swalwell proposed a total ban on assault weapons, along with a buyback program paying owners of semi-automatic weapons up to $1,000 for each gun. Some viewed the proposal as additional evidence, along with the repeated visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, that Swalwell was seeking higher office.

It's difficult to pinpoint the origin of Swalwell's intent to run for presidential. But there were already signals just shortly after Trump was elected. Those whispers came to life after Swalwell visited Iowa twice in December 2016 and a month later. Over the next two years, he visited the early caucus state more than 15 times, at last count. He stumped for Democrats running for office in Iowa, spoke before Democratic clubs all over the Hawkeye State, a made the compulsory food-related appearances at the Iowa State Fair and headlining the Presidents' Day Soup Supper last month. Swalwell's comments since at least August has shown an unwavering conviction to eventually enter the presidential primary. "I'm ready to do this," he told Politico last month. Swalwell's campaign has been hiring workers in Iowa and New Hampshire and he recently began branching out to South Carolina, another early primary state.


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