Former DNC Deputy Chair Shares How The Democratic Party's 2020 Candidate Can Avoid Hillary Clinton's Fate

Minnesota Attorney General and former Democratic National Committee Deputy Chair Keith Ellison had some strong words of advice for 2020 candidates on Tuesday: When it comes to paying attention to voters, be more like Donald Trump and less like Hillary Clinton.

Speaking to Newsweek at an event hosted by The Concordia Forum in participation with Democrats Abroad in London, U.K., Ellison, who officially endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for president last month, said that if 2020 candidates want to beat Trump, they will have to remember that the most important thing they can give voters "is your attention."

"Our problem last time was that we had a coronation early on and people who weren't feeling Hillary Clinton just checked out," said the Minnesota attorney general, who was elected to the role in the November midterm elections, despite controversy over allegations of abuse from a former girlfriend.

Echoing a common critique of the Clinton campaign, Ellison asserted that part of the reason that voters felt disconnected from Clinton was because her campaign neglected voters in states that proved to be crucial, while Trump was out rallying "all the time."

"If you want a friend, be one. If you want to lose a friend ignore that person," the Minnesota attorney general said. "The state of Wisconsin feels ignored, or felt ignored. They were like, 'okay you don't wanna talk to us? Well guess, what? We'll just stay home.' And that gave us Trump."

While Clinton has refuted criticisms claiming her performance in the three states lost her the election, Ellison maintained that there is no excuse for "just not showing up at all in Wisconsin."

"Look, the Clinton team can make a lot of excuses as to why they lost to the worst candidate ever," Ellison said. "They can say it's the Russians and I'm sure all that factors in, but how are you going to justify not showing up at all in Wisconsin?"

"There's just no excuse for that and nobody made you do it," he continued. "Bernie [Sanders] didn't stop you from going to Wisconsin and Putin didn't stop you from going to Wisconsin. How are you going to explain that? You can put it on anybody you want, but you didn't show and that's it."

Today's 2020 Democratic hopefuls, Ellison said, "can either learn the lesson or you can just entrench yourself in not learning the lesson." But ultimately, he said, "the candidate who will win is going to be the candidate who touches the most people."

While in the 2016 Democratic primary race, Ellison had initially thrown his support behind Sanders, he went on to officially endorse Clinton after the Vermont senator himself gave her his support.,

At the time, Ellison said he had "always admired Hillary Clinton" and had "always thought she was good."

"I think she's a dedicated public servant, and done a lot for our country," he said, according to The MinnPost.

On Tuesday, Ellison also dismissed concerns of the Democratic 2020 field being too crowded, telling Newsweek that having a diversity of candidates running is good for democracy.

"Every candidate is impacted by every other candidate, right?" Ellison, a former U.S. Representative who was the first Muslim to serve in Congress, said.

"So, if Pete Buttigieg is running as the first openly LGBTQ person to really be a serious contender, that means people who have felt excluded now have somebody they feel might raise the issues they find to be important. And then all the other candidates, in order to compete with Pete Buttigieg, have to assure the LGBTQ community that [they are] going to care for their concerns."

The same, he said, goes for Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who has launched a 2020 campaign that makes fighting climate change a central focus.

"Jay Inslee is probably not going to make it to the end, but nobody can avoid the climate issue with him talking about it every single time," Ellison said. "You're going to have to develop a climate program or else Jay's gonna steal your votes."

"So, just the large number of people, it means that a broader set of constituencies and issues are going to be focused on and addressed," he said.

Those who have branded the crowded Democratic field a "circus," Ellison said "don't get how democracy works."

"I think we have a good field... More than 20 people, a lot of choices," he said. "I think it's a very good thing that all these people are running. It gives a reason for just about every American to participate and what we really need is a massive upsurge in participation."

By the time the 2020 election race is over, the former DNC deputy chair said he believed the U.S. will be welcoming in its next Democratic president.

"Trump does rallies all the time, and people say that he is dumb, but Trump is actually a pretty smart guy. He knows the path to victory is keeping people hot and then getting them to turn on others...But, I doubt Trump wins," Ellison said.

"I don't see him winning in Michigan, with a Democratic governor and attorney general in since he got elected, so I don't see Michigan going for Trump in 2020. Wisconsin, they have a Democratic governor and attorney general... So yeah, he's got problems," the attorney general said, before adding: "Still got to figure out what to do about Pennsylvania though."

"I feel we're gonna win. I'm confident that we're gonna win," Ellison said. "But, I'm not going to ignore the possibility that he might win again."

Keith Ellison
Then-U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) speaks during an event at the headquarters of American Federation of Teachers December 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.. Now Minnesota Attorney General, Ellison has offered 2020 Democrats some advice. Alex Wong/Getty