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The 'magic ticket' for 2020 election is character: Third Way Executive Vice President of Policy

Third Way Executive Vice President of Policy Jim Kessler joins the On the Move panel to discuss the latest from the Democratic National Convention, and what's to come.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We've got to talk about what happened last night at the Democratic National Convention and how this is all playing out and could impact your investments. First, let's talk about what Jill Biden had to say about the state of America.

JILL BIDEN: We just need leadership worthy of our nation, worthy of you, honest leadership to bring us back together, to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next, leadership to reimagine what our nation will be. That's Joe.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So let's talk about this with Jim Kessler. He is Third Way executive vice president of policy-- want to let you know that they are also a partner of the Funding Our Future campaign, a group we feature each week only on Yahoo Finance, a group that advocates for a secure retirement for all Americans. Mr. Kessler, good to have you here.

Let me start with the very easy question about the message Jill Biden had about this state of affairs in our country and leadership. Because eventually, it's going to become specific about the safety net issues and retirement. But first about her message last night, what do you want us to know? Are you unmuted there, sir? Mr. Kessler, I think you have to unmute. I do it all the time, so don't be embarrassed.

JIM KESSLER: Here we go.

ADAM SHAPIRO: There you go.

JIM KESSLER: How's that?


JIM KESSLER: I've never seen a political campaign or convention focus on character more than this convention has. They clearly think that leadership, character, humanity, peace, love, and understanding-- this is the way to defeat Donald Trump. Our own polling, when we've looked at the electorate, has found that people think-- overwhelmingly, undecided voters, when you're asked what's the word you would use to describe Donald Trump, the word they use is selfish.

So they-- you know, this is the magic ticket. And I thought Jill Biden was magnificent last night. It was one of the best speeches I've heard at a convention, let alone for a future First Lady. And I've seen-- I've been to a lot of these conventions. With her Philadelphia accent, she really laid it in there, and she did a great job for her husband.

DAN HOWLEY: Jim, how do you get people excited about Biden? It doesn't seem like there's a groundswell of people behind him. It seems like they're saying, OK, well, he's not Trump.

JIM KESSLER: This has been the underestimated campaign of all time. And you know, if you go on Twitter, as I do, you know, that is not Joe Biden's universe. But people who are on Twitter every day represents 7% of the electorate. The other 93% are on it not at all or just occasionally. And you know, Donald Trump is a motivating factor for many, many Democrats and for many swing voters.

And look, Joe Biden, he's bringing something that is unique to him-- empathy, compassion, and warmth for a country that's starving for it. And I think that is the substitute for excitement. It is that emotion. And in most elections, that's not what carries you to a win. In this election, it might be number one factor.

JULIE HYMAN: Jim, it's Julie here. Your organization, Third Way, if I'm not mistaken, is sort of center left, right?


JULIE HYMAN: And as you know, the party has been pulled by some elements more in the leftward direction. How do you think that the Democratic Party has navigated that? And what are you hearing-- because as you point out, there's not a lot of policy substance here-- but what are you hearing that has been talked about that sort of pleases you on a center-left basis?

JIM KESSLER: Right, this has really been a character-over-substance convention, surprisingly so. There is a-- look, there is a constant argument within the Democratic Party, the more centrist version versus the more left. That has been a heated argument. Joe Biden clearly represents the centrist wing. He won. Kamala Harris is a choice that is pleasing to centrists like myself as well. On some of the key issues where there was real battle ground, the centrist side won.

You know, Medicare For All is not going to happen. It's going to be expansion of Obamacare. Climate change, I think there's a lot more where the left and center agree on than meets the eye, but it is going to be a technology-neutral approach and an investment approach, which I think will get us to our climate goals and is good for the economy. So you know, look, I expect that there's going to be some tension in the future and once Biden is president-- should he be president-- but the moderate wing has done pretty well on this so far.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Jim, I got to ask and one last question, which has to do with the polls you referenced at the beginning. And President Trump beats Biden when it comes to the economy. Remember the tagline, it's the economy, stupid. How is that any different today? And if that's a fact, it seems to me like Mr. Trump gets re-elected.

JIM KESSLER: Yes, so he does-- Trump still has a slight edge on the economy. It's not a huge edge on the economy. I've said-- my advice to Democrats is COVID is the economy and the economy is COVID. And you just would have to tie those two things together at all times. And you know, if you look at the-- listen to the previous segment you were on, there was a lot of talk about how the stock market is doing really well, in part because stimulus checks have allowed people to shop. And we've kept people whole.

But the COVID economy, if those stimulus checks go away and if that UI bump goes away, the bottom half of this country-- you know, that 50% below the medium-- they go into a depression right away. Unemployment checks average $300 per week, OK? That's enough to pay your insurance bill. That's it. With the bump, it's $900 a week. That's enough to go shopping. So that's where, I think, Joe Biden is going to have to be the COVId is the economy, and the economy is COVID.