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New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is also president of the Sewerage and Water Board, center, listens to outgoing Director Cedric Grant, at right, and seen on screen second from right, during a Board of Directors’ Meeting of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans at 625 St. Joseph St. second floor board room in New Orleans, La., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. The board discussed a series of challenges in dealing with failures of the water pumping system. Also seen on the video feed screen is Deputy General Superintendent Bruce Adams, on screen top left, and Deputy Director Robert Miller, on screen right.

Mitch Landrieu said no, or probably not, anyway.

Michael Gerson’s response: Please?

As more and more Democrats are either entering or circling around the upcoming presidential contest, Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, urged the former New Orleans mayor to join them. A former top speechwriter for George W. Bush and harsh critic of President Donald Trump, Gerson devoted a recent column to Landrieu’s handling of the Confederate monuments, arguing that his voice as a racial progressive who doesn’t demonize those who feel differently is badly needed.

“If one of the main purposes of the 2020 election is to heal racial wounds that President Trump has salted, and to provide serious reflection on the proper application of American ideals to current controversies, then Landrieu needs to be on the main debate stage during the Democratic nomination process,” Gerson wrote.

It was quite a plug for a man who just last week told CNN that he’s unlikely to enter the fray — although he did leave himself a “never say never” out.

Grace Notes: How to interpret Mitch Landrieu's strongest statement yet about running for president

Michael Gerson: Mitch Landrieu took down Confederate monuments in his city. He should be on the main stage for 2020.

It also points to a central feature of the quickly forming contest, a deep debate over what should be the Democrats’ central message and who is the ideal messenger. Gerson is obviously looking at the race from the point of view of voters who might vote Republican. Others are arguing that the Democrats should focus on exciting their base rather than making swing voters comfortable.

This debate isn’t going to end any time soon.

And nor, apparently, will the speculation about Landrieu’s future, whether he forms an exploratory committee or not.


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.