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Michael Avenatti considers 2020 run

"Your first instinct is to laugh," says CNN's John King. "Donald Trump had no experience, a lot of people laughed...he's President of the United States."

Posted: Aug 12, 2018 8:15 AM
Updated: Aug 12, 2018 8:31 AM

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, positioned himself on Friday in Iowa as the only possible presidential candidate prepared to hit President Donald Trump as hard as Trump hits Democrats.

Avenatti, who had told CNN on Thursday that he was seriously considering a presidential bid, delivered a complete rebuke of the idea that Democrats need to go high in a response to a President who often likes to go low, a maxim first delivered by then-first lady Michelle Obama but fully embraced by some Democrats during the Trump era.

"What I fear for this Democratic Party that I love so much is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfight," he said in an almost 30-minute speech at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding dinner, a fundraiser in the northern part of the state that is a frequent stop for presidential hopefuls. "I believe that our party, the Democratic Party, must be a party that fights fire with fire."

Cribbing but amending Obama, Avenatti added, "When they go low, I say, we hit harder."

Avenatti's trip to Iowa, which included meetings with top Democrats and multiple visits to the Iowa State Fair, is the clearest step the lawyer has taken toward considering a run for President. The first-in-the-nation caucus state is a traditional testing ground for presidential candidates -- a fact Avenatti is well aware of -- and his visit was an attempt to show he is serious.

Avenatti's speech, partially an admonition of Hillary Clinton's campaign, which embraced the strategy of going high against Trump, demonstrated how a run by the hard-charging lawyer would be almost mono-focused on Trump. Avenatti's remarks mentioned Trump by name over a dozen times and indirectly referenced him countless more.

"I know some of you may disagree with me. The answer to Donald Trump, you may say, is to do just the opposite of Donald Trump. Being noble, being kind, being classy. And I am all for each of those things," he said. "But tonight, with our country under an unprecedented assault by a con man who fights only for himself and degrades the vulnerable and the powerless and regular hardworking people day in and day out, I believe that we must honestly ask ourselves as a party whether those we fight for can afford our gentleness."

He added, "The moment we are living in is grave. It is critical. Trump doesn't have the character, the heart, the knowledge or the wisdom to be President of the United States of America."

Avenatti urged Democrats to bring Trump voters back to the party, casting the President's supporters "not as evildoers, but as victims of a great con."

"Look, we have all been taken advantage of before. One thing I know from my work as an advocate is that decent people get conned all the time," he said. "And let's face it: Trump is a very good con man. He sold many of us a bill of goods. In the finest tradition of the snake-oil salesman, he sold the perfect potion to many of us to cure all that ails us."

He also acknowledged the uniqueness of the fact that he, the lawyer who represents Daniels in her defamation suit against Trump, was onstage in the Surf Ballroom, the historic Iowa venue where rock-and-roll icon Buddy Holly played his last show before dying in a plane crash nearby.

"What, you may be asking, is a quote-unquote porn star lawyer doing here tonight to speak with you about our party and our republic?" he said. "In normal times, I would not be here. I would be home in Los Angeles enjoying my life. But these are anything but normal times."

Avenatti was not the only candidate to urge fighting with the President, either.

"I am ready to get into a bit of a fight," said Ohio's Rep. Tim Ryan, another Democrat considering a presidential bid. "We need to come together and get in a big fight here in America."

Ryan urged Democrats to, like him, embrace an Irish adage: "Is this a private fight or can anyone get into it?"

It was clear throughout the night, though, that most of the dinner attendees were there to meet and see Avenatti, partly because of excitement and partly because of utter fascination.

When Randy Black, chair of the dinner, announced the slate of politicians and would-be politicians speaking at the event, Avenatti's name got the biggest applause. And that was reflected in conversations with dinner goers -- some of whom were not Democrats.

"I'm a Republican who came here to prove that all of us do not approve of the President," Ed Enright, a self-identified Iowa Republican, said standing outside the dinner with a sign that read, "Mr. Avenatti keep the heat on lying Trump." "If Avenatti runs I'll help him here in North Iowa and try to make a difference for him."

But even as Avenatti boosted turnout, he made it difficult for some of Iowa's Democratic candidates to attend the event.

The party's gubernatorial candidate, Fred Hubbell, did not attend the dinner, citing a scheduling conflict. Neither did Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, two Democrats running for Congress in Iowa.

Black said the event sold around 300 to 400 extra tickets he attributes to Avenatti, but he added that Hubbell, Iowa secretary of agriculture candidate Tim Gannon and state auditor candidate Rob Sand all decided not to attend after Avenatti was announced.

"People want different. Look at what Trump did," Black said. "He was a fascination and look, he spawned all kinds of different people who had never been there before, never flirted with politics. And look what happened."

The only congressional candidate to attend was J.D. Scholten, the Democrat challenging controversial Rep. Steve King in a deep red district.

Those hopefuls who did attend, though, tried to ignore Avenatti.

"I haven't thought about it for a second," Rep. John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat who has been running for president for over a year, told CNN. "I think I have a very different message and I'm a different kind of Democrat, and I think what I stand for and who I am is what people are going to look for and it won't matter who is in the race."

But the crowd of Iowa Democrats in Clear Lake on Friday are hungry for Democrats to come to Iowa and eager for yet another presidential election season to arrive in the Hawkeye State.

Avenatti provided those loyal party members with a clear vision and encapsulated it by quoting a Latin saying: "If you want peace, prepare for war."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515208

Reported Deaths: 10290
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34981557
DeSoto33342432
Hinds32718643
Jackson24896391
Rankin22553404
Lee16439245
Madison14949283
Jones14155248
Forrest13829260
Lauderdale12305324
Lowndes11348193
Lamar10687140
Pearl River9739244
Lafayette8867143
Hancock7847132
Washington7555169
Oktibbeha7228138
Monroe7055179
Pontotoc7026110
Warren6883178
Panola6783135
Neshoba6740210
Marshall6705142
Bolivar6468151
Union642898
Pike5941157
Alcorn5912107
Lincoln5539136
George510680
Prentiss507785
Tippah495483
Itawamba4877107
Scott478799
Adams4775125
Tate4774117
Leflore4747144
Copiah458095
Yazoo457892
Simpson4565117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4318106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4243109
Leake414090
Newton396082
Tishomingo386194
Grenada3786109
Stone365966
Jasper341266
Attala339590
Winston317992
Chickasaw317667
Clay312778
Clarke301695
Calhoun286349
Holmes272589
Smith269952
Yalobusha244647
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220241
Perry214456
Amite210257
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175241
Jefferson Davis174043
Tunica163539
Benton153239
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134639
Humphreys132239
Franklin126430
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847064

Reported Deaths: 16157
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163702006
Mobile743001381
Madison53394737
Shelby38395371
Baldwin38140589
Tuscaloosa36096642
Montgomery34535782
Lee25639264
Calhoun22620519
Morgan22503408
Etowah20043520
Marshall18812317
Houston17754425
St. Clair16928358
Limestone16178220
Cullman16113304
Elmore15927295
Lauderdale15042307
Talladega14234301
DeKalb13033270
Walker12119380
Blount10756193
Autauga10531157
Jackson10191195
Coffee9431192
Colbert9356210
Dale9035192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell709665
Chilton7077170
Escambia6961144
Covington6956195
Franklin6355108
Chambers5791142
Marion5428130
Dallas5299210
Pike5124109
Clarke485586
Lawrence4841130
Winston4784110
Geneva4649136
Bibb435294
Barbour370080
Butler3445101
Marengo342793
Monroe338066
Randolph337367
Pickens334689
Fayette331385
Henry320866
Cherokee319563
Hale318589
Crenshaw261577
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253355
Clay251669
Macon245465
Conecuh193262
Coosa185647
Lowndes178268
Wilcox178138
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130245
Choctaw93328
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