Democratic officials made “a mistake” by picking a 72-year-old ex-governor from a state that voted for President Trump to deliver the party's response to Trump’s congressional speech, a prominent House Democrat said Wednesday.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who has represented Missouri in Congress since 2005 and previously chaired the Congressional Black Caucus, told MSNBC a day after Trump’s Tuesday night speech that Democrats picked the wrong man in ex-Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to represent their party.
“I don’t mind saying when we make mistakes. And that was a mistake,” Cleaver said.
Beshear delivered a widely mocked speech during which he accidentally claimed to be a Republican at one cringe-inducing point. The response also featured a peculiar backdrop of people sitting behind him, near motionless, in a dimly lit diner.
Asked what Democrats were thinking when they selected Beshear, Cleaver was blunt: “The problem is, you’re asking about thinking, and that didn’t happen.”
So-called “responses” to major presidential addresses are typically a difficult assignment, producing panned remarks from Sen. Marco Rubio, ex-Rep. Michele Bachman and former Gov. Bobby Jindal – among others – during the years President Barack Obama was in office.
Cleaver cited younger, more diverse candidates, such as current CBC chair and Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond or ex-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, as perhaps better positioned to captivate a television audience following a stinging November presidential loss.
“We think we’re going to have a problem if we don’t start presenting an image of the millennials and that there’s a youth movement in the Democratic Party,” Cleaver said.