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: 443562

Reported Deaths: 5918
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin921721468
Ramsey39534730
Dakota32680325
Anoka30733358
Washington19904223
Stearns17728184
St. Louis13503239
Scott1185394
Wright11519102
Olmsted1031671
Sherburne813664
Carver689336
Clay646678
Rice597866
Kandiyohi551571
Blue Earth536333
Crow Wing478173
Otter Tail451362
Chisago447932
Benton416085
Winona384546
Douglas371566
Nobles366346
Mower360127
Goodhue342857
Polk327056
McLeod322244
Morrison309343
Beltrami307446
Lyon299035
Itasca281543
Becker280638
Isanti280640
Carlton278042
Steele27019
Pine264413
Freeborn238720
Todd230529
Nicollet222636
Brown212634
Mille Lacs212145
Le Sueur207615
Cass204723
Meeker198233
Waseca188015
Martin168826
Wabasha16802
Roseau165216
Hubbard147638
Redwood138827
Renville136339
Houston133613
Dodge13244
Chippewa130732
Cottonwood125618
Fillmore12135
Wadena118214
Rock109412
Sibley10767
Aitkin106733
Watonwan10598
Faribault103814
Kanabec96818
Pennington96715
Pipestone93423
Yellow Medicine92614
Murray8625
Jackson85010
Swift83017
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6968
Clearwater68314
Lac qui Parle65416
Lake62615
Wilkin6219
Koochiching58410
Unassigned49468
Lincoln4811
Big Stone4523
Grant4257
Norman4218
Mahnomen4077
Kittson36819
Red Lake3154
Traverse2443
Lake of the Woods1771
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 302245

Reported Deaths: 4203
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45206441
Linn17616270
Scott15300161
Black Hawk13616228
Woodbury12927175
Johnson1198649
Dubuque11275148
Pottawattamie8896112
Dallas879569
Story860433
Webster467269
Cerro Gordo461966
Sioux453151
Clinton447161
Warren436237
Marshall425161
Buena Vista391129
Muscatine384375
Des Moines379140
Plymouth348667
Wapello340097
Jasper317855
Lee312528
Marion300452
Jones269149
Henry262630
Carroll252833
Bremer241648
Crawford227822
Boone215316
Washington213831
Benton207943
Mahaska190636
Jackson190531
Tama185357
Dickinson183526
Delaware171836
Kossuth170141
Clay165519
Wright162324
Fayette159022
Buchanan157820
Hamilton157728
Harrison153862
Hardin153729
Winneshiek153019
Clayton150448
Cedar150019
Butler146123
Page143515
Floyd137436
Cherokee137325
Mills135516
Lyon133332
Poweshiek131424
Hancock128524
Allamakee126327
Iowa122522
Calhoun12189
Grundy119422
Jefferson119123
Winnebago118029
Madison11789
Mitchell115034
Louisa114129
Cass112141
Chickasaw110511
Sac110115
Emmet109931
Appanoose109038
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102124
Shelby101126
Franklin100918
Unassigned9180
Palo Alto9009
Keokuk84225
Montgomery84022
Howard82119
Monroe80418
Clarke7757
Pocahontas77211
Ida73730
Greene6867
Davis68421
Adair68220
Lucas6458
Osceola6349
Monona62916
Worth5943
Taylor5909
Fremont5025
Van Buren49412
Decatur4784
Ringgold4269
Wayne41421
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Adams2933
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