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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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An announcement appears imminent. Over the past month, Swalwell appears to be testing some basic campaign taglines and platforms. Variations of the phrase, "Go big, be bold, do good," have crept into his speeches and remarks recently. Numerous reports in the national media suggest Swalwell believes he rates high on voters' mind on the "likability" scale. He appears to be showing interest in offering solutions to kitchen-table issues such as income inequality, housing, and especially student debt. Earlier this month, Swalwell said he supports Medicare-for-All, although he offered no specifics of how to pay for such a program. But most political strategists believe Swalwell will target his campaign toward the center. It's an area of political spectrum that is somewhat bare at the moment with only Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke, but likely to soon include former Vice President Joe Biden.

Whether or not Democrats are interested in backing a centrist candidate in 2020 is a big question. The left's energy appears to lie with progressives who were energized in 2016 by Bernie Sanders and now are buoyed by figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Swalwell, though, may be banking on the tried-and-true centrist approach that worked for recent Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. But a common refrain often heard from Democrats and pundits is that the outlook for a Caucasian male nominee is bleak.

In any case, Many East Bay Democrats are not excited about losing Swalwell as their representative in Congress. Torello acknowledges there are quite a few insiders who question why Swalwell would give up his incredibly safe seat in Congress for a long-shot run for president. Swalwell has been quite clear that he will no seek re-election to his congressional seat in March 2020, if he runs for president.

Torello, the former skeptic, acknowledges that the dialogue is born out of a desire to keep Swalwell's representation. "I think what they're saying is, 'It's too soon to give up the seat,'" she said. Then she added, "People have to do what they think they need to do. If he has the capability to run for president, he needs to follow that trail, but we lose an important voice."

Asked to predict whether Swalwell's presidential campaign will be successful, Torello said there's no true frontrunner and no debates yet to compare the candidates. "Anything is possible."

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