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Politics Why a Parkland parent is cutting ads for Joe Biden but not endorsing him

22:45  25 january  2020
22:45  25 january  2020 Source:   latimes.com

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WASHINGTON — A week after his daughter, Jaime, was killed in the nation’s deadliest high school shooting, Fred Guttenberg got a call from Joe Biden.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd: Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.© Jack Kurtz/Zuma Press/TNS Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

The former vice president spoke with the Parkland parent — who became widely known after a nationally televised CNN town hall on gun violence — for nearly an hour about loss and grief. Two years later, that conversation became the basis for a four-minute video released by the Biden campaign on Thursday.

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Guttenberg still remembers the phone call — and subsequent conversations — vividly.

“I feel deeply about how decent a person he is and how much he has meant to my family and me,” Guttenberg said in an interview with The Miami Herald. “He is someone who did reach out, who engaged me on a personal level on how to go forward and get through grief, what days would look like and what to expect.”

The conversation forged a personal connection between Guttenberg and Biden, who lost his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and daughter, Naomi, in a car accident in 1972 and his son, Beau, to cancer in 2015.

“I think we may have been on the phone for close to an hour,” Guttenberg said in the video. “He wanted to know a little bit about me, my family, how everybody was doing. And then he started talking to me about his family, about his losses but he said it’s going to be different for everybody, but for him, the thing that always got him through was mission and purpose.”

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Guttenberg channeled his energy into gun violence prevention efforts, speaking at town halls across the country and becoming politically active ahead of the 2018 election. He became a national figure through frequent TV appearances and his confrontation with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

But, like many Democrats, he’s not willing to offer a formal endorsement of anyone in the 2020 presidential race.

“What’s amazing about them putting this out there, he did that knowing I haven’t endorsed him,” Guttenberg said. “He knows that for me, I don’t want to endorse anybody right now. I endorsed the need to do something about gun violence. I endorse talking about the issue of how to deal with it. I endorse all the candidates taking every opportunity to talk about their plan.”

Guttenberg said the main reason he hasn’t endorsed yet is because he wants to see which candidate makes gun violence prevention the biggest component of their campaign — and he wants to make sure he sees a path to victory in the general election. Policies like banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are important to him, but in an environment where the leading candidates largely agree on gun policy, he wants to see who makes it a campaign priority.

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“There are candidates who clearly feel this much more deeply than others as a policy,” Guttenberg said. “Without saying who I think is less engaged in the gun violence side of policy, some of them are not trying to win as hard on this issue. There are some that clearly are. The person who can get that done is the person who can engage voters. I think putting out a video like this is one way to do it.”

Over the coming weeks, Guttenberg plans to watch which candidates bring up the issue unprompted, such as pivoting to gun violence in an unrelated question during a presidential debate. He’s also willing to do gun violence town halls with any presidential candidate who wants his help, like he did with California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell’s campaign in the summer of 2019 before he dropped out of the race.

Guttenberg said he is likely to make a formal endorsement before the Florida presidential primary on March 17 but he’s watching to see how voters respond to different campaign strategies — including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to ignore early states and spend heavily on TV ads. Bloomberg spent millions promoting candidates for gun control during the 2018 election through his organization Everytown for Gun Safety.

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“He (Bloomberg) did some really wonderful things in setting up Everytown, putting his money behind ending this epidemic,” Guttenberg said. “I feel very deeply that on this issue he would be very effective, but time would tell if his approach to running the primary will win the presidency. That’s why I’m not endorsing anybody.”

He has one piece of advice for candidates worried about winning general election votes if they highlight issues like an assault weapons ban: It can work in competitive states like Florida.

“People were disappointed in the results of the last election,” Guttenberg said, referring to the successful candidacies of Florida Republicans like Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis. “There was only one candidate who ran statewide on guns and she won, and that was (Agriculture Commissioner) Nikki Fried. Nikki Fried was the only one who made it a centerpiece of her campaign, the only one. People need to stop being afraid of this.”

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©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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