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 8:29 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."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 557665

Reported Deaths: 7104
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1161051683
Ramsey48076856
Dakota42704422
Anoka38757416
Washington25072274
Stearns21100219
St. Louis16883298
Scott16071117
Wright14862127
Olmsted1278097
Sherburne1068280
Carver986845
Clay784790
Rice7657102
Blue Earth699540
Kandiyohi629581
Crow Wing619886
Chisago551650
Otter Tail545273
Benton533897
Mower451332
Goodhue445572
Douglas444071
Winona439149
Nobles400848
Morrison396359
McLeod396055
Isanti380159
Itasca375553
Beltrami373557
Polk366567
Steele364114
Becker356548
Lyon349048
Carlton330752
Freeborn328529
Pine312721
Nicollet308342
Brown294839
Mille Lacs283850
Le Sueur271322
Todd269230
Cass250826
Meeker238137
Waseca231421
Martin213529
Wabasha19983
Roseau198019
Hubbard172541
Renville172543
Dodge17203
Redwood166535
Houston162514
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Fillmore15179
Pennington151219
Chippewa146737
Wadena145021
Faribault144219
Sibley136710
Kanabec132022
Aitkin128936
Watonwan12579
Rock123119
Jackson117610
Yellow Medicine110919
Pipestone110026
Pope10316
Murray10299
Swift100118
Marshall85617
Stevens82310
Lake78419
Clearwater77914
Koochiching77513
Wilkin77112
Lac qui Parle73622
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Lincoln5602
Grant5518
Norman5229
Mahnomen5088
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Red Lake3877
Traverse3605
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Cook1460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 358375

Reported Deaths: 5826
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk56091605
Linn20328330
Scott19153235
Black Hawk15566306
Woodbury14917221
Johnson1408481
Dubuque13169203
Dallas1090996
Pottawattamie10769162
Story1032447
Warren556986
Clinton538390
Cerro Gordo523486
Webster508391
Sioux506973
Marshall477274
Muscatine461596
Des Moines441965
Wapello4254120
Buena Vista421940
Jasper407870
Plymouth398179
Lee368555
Marion354875
Jones293355
Henry286437
Bremer279460
Carroll279352
Crawford262440
Boone258933
Benton250355
Washington249250
Dickinson242543
Mahaska225250
Jackson218242
Kossuth213163
Clay211325
Tama206771
Delaware203339
Winneshiek194733
Page190421
Buchanan188931
Cedar184623
Fayette183041
Wright180535
Hardin180142
Hamilton178249
Harrison176673
Clayton167155
Butler162534
Mills158820
Cherokee157138
Floyd155442
Lyon154941
Madison154319
Poweshiek152833
Allamakee149151
Iowa145724
Hancock143734
Winnebago136231
Grundy135432
Cass134854
Calhoun133211
Jefferson130935
Emmet128840
Shelby128637
Sac127319
Louisa127249
Appanoose126647
Mitchell125241
Union123232
Chickasaw122615
Humboldt118326
Guthrie118029
Franklin112921
Palo Alto111022
Howard102822
Montgomery100637
Unassigned10020
Clarke98324
Keokuk94830
Monroe94128
Ida89633
Adair84532
Pocahontas83721
Monona81230
Davis79924
Greene76710
Osceola75716
Lucas74923
Worth7118
Taylor65412
Fremont6149
Decatur5909
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53623
Wayne52123
Audubon4939
Adams3314
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