Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Assorted Super Tuesday Thoughts

As Super Tuesday slides into regular Wednesday, the race looks quite a bit different than it did just a week ago. Joe Biden won at least nine of fourteen states in play today -- Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Minnesota (and is ahead in Maine, though it's still too close to call). Sanders won his home state of Vermont as well as Utah, California, and Colorado.

Oh, and Michael Bloomberg won American Samoa.

So where are we now? Is this a Biden coronation? Wherefore my beloved Elizabeth Warren? And did anything interesting happen downballot?

  • Obviously this was a really good night for Biden. Early in the evening I thought people might be overstating just how good it was by over-weighting the absolute whupping Biden handed out in Virginia. But no: this was a really good night for Biden. It wasn't a complete knockout blow, but he basically ran the table on "surprises". He won all the states that were even close to "toss-ups", and at least a few which were though to be strong Sanders locales. And while Sanders had the misfortune of having his better states be further west (and thus reporting later), Biden winning Texas takes the wind out of the sails of Sanders' emphatic victory in California.
  • The Black community is not a monolith. But overall, Biden is creaming Sanders among Black voters. That's just the truth. Sanders has improved on his numbers in the Black community since 2016, but not by a lot, and in states like Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia ... that's going to leave a mark.
  • So is Sanders dead in the water? I don't think so. First, remember last week when everyone was thinking Sanders had it basically sewn up? Things change quickly. And to the extent the race consolidates down to Biden versus Sanders -- well, I think Biden might start with an edge in support, but I think Sanders can clean his clock in a debate context. There's still a lot of room for movement here.
  • That said, I do think Sanders' theory of the case has been severely damaged today. Yes, he's crushing it among young voters margin-wise -- but he doesn't seem to actually driving greater turnout. Indeed, surprisingly enough, we're seeing big turnout increases in places where Biden cleaned up. Virginia voter turnout nearly doubled from 2016 to 2020. South Carolina surged too. The thesis of Broockman/Kalla paper (go Bears!) -- that Sanders' path to victory in November relies on not just winning big among the youth but getting them to actually show up to the polling place, and that's a dodgy bet -- seems more and more plausible.
  • It's a particular mood where, anytime a particular Democratic candidate seems to be getting traction, I feel a wave of despair and pessimism about their chance of winning the general election. When Sanders was winning, I was gloomy about his November prospects. Then the race opened back up, and I felt a brief sense of relief -- until I thought about Biden as the nominee and immediately was re-enveloped in a feeling of doom. And lest you think this is just a partisan plea for Warren, on the rare occasions I felt any possibility that she might win the nomination, I immediately started despairing about the general.
  • Quite a few Sanders partisans who last week were loudly insistent that raw plurality vote wins were the only thing that matter and if you disagree you hate democracy are oddly quiet this evening. Just kidding: they're not quiet -- they're just now loudly saying things about how moderate consolidation around Biden is its own form of cheating, without even a nod at the obvious change in position.
  • What were the biggest upsets of the night? Biden winning Massachusetts wasn't on anyone's radar. But I might say that -- even with Klobuchar's endorsement -- Biden picking up Minnesota might be a bigger surprise. Sanders did really well here in 2016, and right up until Klobuchar dropped out the line from the Sanders camp was "she's only staying in the race to block Sanders!"
  • With all due respect to American Samoa, Bloomberg basically made no impact on the race today. He's apparently going to "reassess" his campaign tomorrow. I will say his team is good at making ads, so I hope Bloomberg continues to dump money into blitzing Trump over the airways.
  • Elizabeth Warren comes in third in her home state, and is only going to cross the 15% viability threshold in Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, and maybe Minnesota. She'll pick up a few more delegates here and there in congressional districts where she overperformed, but overall, she's pretty well toast. And even the "contested convention" strategy seems difficult to pull off credibly when your best performances during the race are a big stretch into third place.
  • I predict Warren drops out by the end of the week and endorses Sanders. I also predict that the Sanders Twitterati will respond by saying basically "too late, snake". Then they'll wonder why her endorsement didn't really move the needle (they will finally conclude that it's Warren's fault).
  • What's going on downballot? The race I was watching most closely was the Democratic primary in the Texas 28th congressional district, where Rep. Henry Cuellar -- easily one of the worst Democrats in the House -- was facing a stiff primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros. Right now, with about 33% reporting, Cuellar is leading by 5 points. I tend to have a pretty high bar for supporting anti-incumbent challenges, and this was one I backed whole-heartedly, so I'm very disappointed.
  • In the California special election to fill ex-Rep. Katie Hill's seat (CA-35), the big question is who will face Democrat Christy Smith in a run-off. Smith has 33% in a highly fractured all-party primary, leading the pack. Ex-Rep. Steve Knight, whom Hill defeated last cycle, is down eight points to fellow Republican Mike Garcia in the race for the second spot. Unfortunately, combined with the various lesser Republicans, the total GOP vote in the primary is well over 50%, signaling a tough general election fight for Smith. On the other hand, Cenk Uygur right now has less than 5% of the vote, and it is frankly sinful how much pleasure that gives me.
  • Speaking of Uygur, there are a couple of other true sociopaths running (I mean, there are many, especially on the GOP side, but I'm focusing on Democratic primaries here). 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Joe K here! I definitely share your mood about feeling gloomy about any candidate winning the general once they're ahead . . . except that I feel oddly .. buoyant? . . about Biden because if he did actually juice turnout, maybe he can win? Then I remember that the Democrats failed to impeach Trump over a scandal connected to him and I'm depressed again.