Fifty-one weeks ago I opined that Bernie should not be the Democratic nominee and Joe should not run. I gave a tip of the hat to Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton for declaring that they weren’t running.
This blog isn’t called Blundering Oracle for nothing.
After the first four caucuses and primaries, and just prior to Super Tuesday, it’s a good time to take stock.
Bernie Sanders is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, though still not an actual Democrat. Bernie is beloved by young people. He’s made real progress with Hispanics. But it’s the same old Bernie, yelling and cranky, with his populist message of us versus them (ordinary people versus the billionaire class, though regular millionaires are no longer the bad guys, since he became one).
Joe Biden took his time getting into the race and sort of muddled his way from Iowa to New Hampshire to Nevada, essentially going nowhere, before getting a reprieve last night in South Carolina. Black and older voters picked Joe up and gave him his first Democratic primary win ever. Ever. Let that sink in for a minute, because this is Joe Biden’s third run for president.
Mike Bloomberg reversed his “I’m not running for president” statement of March 5th last year by filing with the FEC on November 21st. Bloomberg didn’t contest the first four states, choosing instead to hire staff and run commercials. And spend money. Lots of it. Bloomberg is staggeringly wealthy — one of the world’s richest men, worth something like $60 billion — and he’s spent perhaps a half billion dollars to promote himself. Yes, you read that right.
Bloomberg was onstage at the last two Democratic debates. The first time he was like a human piñata, with all the other Dems taking a swing at him. The last time, Bloomberg got less attention, though Elizabeth Warren was happy to continue to smack him around a little more.
Hillary Clinton steps out of the shadows from time to time. She made a thinly veiled attack on Tulsi Gabbard, who is STILL running for president, inexplicably. Gabbard went full hit ’em back, harder, against Clinton. Gabbard now says she won’t run as an independent or third party candidate and isn’t interested in any appointment in the Trump administration. We’ll see.
Hillary also had some choice remarks about Bernie Sanders, including a rather middle-school sounding “Nobody likes him” dig.
So far, Hillary has not reversed her “I’m not running” declaration. And I continue to believe that many cling to their hopes/fears that she will eventually do so.
Meanwhile, Tom Steyer is the latest non-viable candidate to acknowledge the impossibility of his own candidacy and drop out. Steyer started spending money in the early states many months ago. The first time I saw him in Iowa was prior to the Democratic Wing Ding last August. Steyer was hustling around the venue with a little entourage of staffers and made almost no impression on me. I read this morning that Steyer outspent everybody else in South Carolina, for which he finished a distant third.
Pete Buttigieg won the star-crossed Iowa caucuses, barely, finished a strong second in New Hampshire, faded in Nevada and finished fourth in South Carolina. Early in the campaign Buttigieg was called out for controversies involving policing and gentrification in South Bend and the media seized upon the narrative that Mayor Pete “struggled” or “failed” with non-white voters. I like Buttigieg and I think he has great potential. I hope that whatever the outcome of the Democratic primary, he’ll go on and make a difference.
Prior to Bloomberg’s first debate, I wondered if one of other candidates would go on sort of a political suicide mission against him, and Elizabeth Warren was that happy warrior. I’ve seen Warren in person several times, and she made her strongest impression in a town hall setting where she told her life story and outlined her proposals and was very persuasive. Warren is also a strong debater, but of course the unspoken rules are different for a female candidate. Where does she go from here? I honestly have no idea.
Amy Klobuchar, like Warren, comes across really well in a retail politics situation. I saw her a couple times in Iowa, and in a smallish crowd she did great. Klobuchar finished a surprising third in New Hampshire, coming off a well-received debate performance. Subsequent debates were not as strong — Buttigieg seemed to get her a bit rattled at one of them — and like Buttigieg, Klobuchar is having trouble connecting with non-whites. Hard to see a path to the nomination for her.
Will Mike Bloomberg’s massive spending result in a big share of Super Tuesday delegates? I wouldn’t bet big money on it. If he doesn’t do well on March 3, will he drop out, or continue to play the wild card?
Will Joe Biden’s resurrection in South Carolina translate into viability in non-southern states? Will Biden self destruct? Frankly, my money is on the latter. There’s a reason that Biden did so poorly in those early states where he actually campaigned (and had big leads in the polls last year): Joe Biden of 2020 is not Joe Biden of, say, 2012, when he was running with a popular incumbent. All Biden had to do this year was not screw it up, but that’s exactly what he’s usually doing.
Will Bernie Sanders make it to the Democratic National Convention with at least a plurality of delegates and somehow prevail upon the Democratic “establishment” he and his supporters so revile to win the nomination? Quite possibly so. I think there’s a very real and credible fear among non-Bernie Dems that if Bernie is again denied the nomination, his supporters will act out against the Democratic nominee. There are other fears associated with Bernie’s candidacy, whether he wins or loses, because nobody knows exactly what that might look like.
We live in interesting times.