Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Post-New Hampshire Thoughts

New Hampshire is in the bag, and it's a win for Bernie Sanders. That makes him one for two, or two for two, depending on how you count. Let's go with 1.5 for two. And second place goes to none other than South Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- the Iowa Caucus winner (or "winner" -- again, I'm just not going to go into it). Third place, in a huge late surge, was Amy Klobuchar, who rounds out the pledged delegates winners. Fourth and fifth were Warren and Biden, respecitvely.

So where is the race now? My assorted thoughts:

  • The biggest story is, of course, the Klobucharge. Namely, that people have finally settled on "Klobucharge" being the correct term. Indeed, as Eric Muller observes, this is just the tip of the iceberg: there's laying on the Klobucharm, flying off the Klobucharts, watching opponents get Klobucharred....
  • We're so starved for hot takes that "the winner of the evening was the guy who won the evening" never satisfies. After all, Bernie beat Pete Buttigieg by less than two points in a state where he obliterated Hillary Clinton four years ago, and they actually earned the same number of delegates. Is that really good news? Answer: yes, because the moderates are still fractured and it's really hard to see Buttigieg consolidating the vote while there's time for it to make an impact. Sanders is now the definite -- though not overwhelming -- favorite.
  • That said, the other big winner definitely is Klobuchar, who I think probably has positioned herself as the moderate candidate to beat. But does she have the resources and time to really launch in other states? Does she have any significant basis of appeal in communities of color? I'm doubtful -- which is another reason why this was a good night for Bernie.
  • On the one hand: It's strange how we make all this noise about how unfair it is that the Democratic primary begins with two states that have virtually no POC voters, then write campaign obituaries after just two states with virtually no POC voters hit the polls. On the other hand: Joe Biden looks like toast, and his last stab at relevancy may be to play kingmaker among the remaining moderates. My guess is if he passes the torch to anyone, it will be Klobuchar.
  • Tough night for my candidate, Elizabeth Warren. Getting the Castro endorsement may well have been prescient in the worst way: just like with Castro, my entire Twitter feed loves her, and just like with Castro, that love sadly is not translating to significant real world impact. She's not yet DOA, but she's in a tough spot. Sad.
  • Two drop-outs: Yang and Bennet. I think a lot of Yang's supporters go to Sanders. As for Bennet's voters, well, you'd have to ask Michael Bennet because I'm pretty sure he's the only one.
  • There were also reports -- quickly retracted -- that Tom Steyer was dropping out as well. This was the only time anyone has thought about Tom Steyer in the past month.
  • While everyone else has been distracted, Michael Bloomberg is quietly rising in the polls based on the irresistible grassroots force of having literally infinity money to spend on advertising. But what happens when that force hits the immovable object of "Bloomberg is a sexual harasser whose signature political program was police harassment of Black people"? I imagine Bernie will start lighting him up on this sooner rather than later -- but until we actually see it, it's hard to know what will happen.
  • Every year, political commentators breathlessly ask "could we have a brokered convention?" And every year, actual knowledgeable observers roll our eyes and say "there will never be a brokered convention." And yet ... could we have a brokered convention? Most of the "Sanders is the front-runner" case right now is based on the moderates dividing up the vote and allowing  Sanders to continue skating to narrow plurality wins based on his high floor/low ceiling. But Democrats don't have any winner-takes-all states, so even if Sanders keeps "winning" pluralities he's not amassing a delegate majority or anything close to it (the New Hampshire delegate tallies right now are Sanders 9/Buttigieg 9/Klobuchar 6).
  • A brokered convention would be a disaster. Dis-as-ter. It's almost impossible to imagine Sanders winning it -- with the possible exception of Warren, none of the remaining heavies seem likely to have delegates itching to back him. But can you imagine how Sanders Sibs will react if they have a plurality of delegates going in, won the most states, and still lose the nomination? Hell, they barely accept it as legitimate when they lose the normal way. It will be Dems in disarray on steroids, except this time it will actually be true. A brokered convention might well rip the party apart.
  • The only way Sanders wins the nomination in a brokered scenario is if his delegates credibly threaten to shoot the hostage (in this metaphor, the hostage is America, and shooting it means sitting back and letting Trump win), and they just might do it, which means threatening to do it just might work. Either way, it's a nightmare.

1 comment:

DL said...

I think you are missing a possibility on the analysis - that the votes for Buttigieg and Klobuchar were protest votes. It's a mistake to assume that everyone that votes for them is committed to their cause, especially since they haven't been examined or challenged much at all. With the media choosing sides all around when it comes to politics these days, the results (and the "people on the street") have to get shoe-horned into a narrative that fits a position, when it is entirely possible that quite a few people didn't just stay home, but chose an underdog to send a message that they aren't happy with any of the choices.