Sunday, February 16, 2020

On From New Hampshire

The New Hampshire primary is over and I thought it was a good time to assess the race for the Democrat nomination for President.

At one point there were 25 Democrat candidates in the race.

The field has been winnowed to 8 even though only two relatively small states have voted. Of course, after what happened with the Iowa caucuses, it is unclear how much we can even trust those results.

Here are the Democrats remaining in the race.


Jerry Yang, Deval Patrick and Michael Bennet all dropped out after New Hampshire's results came in.

Donald Trump

I will get into my observations of the Democrat race below but not before noting the performance of Donald Trump in New Hampshire.

Trump has no serious competition for the GOP nomination as the incumbent President. However, I found it astounding the numbers of voters who turned out to vote for him anyway.

It is similar to the astonishment I still get in seeing Trump pack these huge arenas for his campaign rallies night after night. I have been following politics for a long time and it is not easy to get many people off of their couch to attend a political rally let alone vote in a primary that means nothing.

Somehow, someway, Trump gets people to turn out and show up.

Look at Trump's vote in New Hampshire's GOP primary compared to other incumbent Presidents running for a second term for their party's nomination.

Credit: Fox News

The graphic above is when 87% of precincts were reporting. Trump's final vote count was just short of 130,000 votes.

There is a long way to go to November but Trump is in a much better position in 2020 than he ever was in 2016.

Even after Trump won in 2016 there were a lot of doubters among Republicans as to what kind of President he would be.

Those doubts have all but disappeared except for the most strident never Trumpers among traditional Republican voters.

Someone I know recently said this about Trump which I think is true for a lot of Republicans in 2016.

"I held my nose and voted for Trump in 2016. However, I would crawl across a room of broken glass to vote for him again in 2020."

The Democrats

At this point the race appears to be narrowing down to four names---Sanders, Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Klobuchar.

Who is missing from that list?  Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. It was barely two months ago that these two were leading the polls. The speed of their demise has been breathtaking. However, their failure at the polls has not surprised me. Voters can render harsh verdicts. Both Biden and Warren had weaknesses to begin with. Those weaknesses further revealed themselves as voters looked at both of them closer.

Warren had a "truth" problem going into the race with her discredited claim that she was an American Indian. I was surprised she was able to rehabilitate herself such that she was even able to be a credible candidate at all. However, Americans are generally a forgiving people. They will give you a second chance. Warren's problem is that she seemed to have a consistent problem with being truthful. Voters seem to have figured it out and abandoned her for Bernie.

I never thought Biden would ascend to the White House. For me, it was just a question of when he would implode. I just could not determine whether it would occur in the primaries or in the general election. I wrote this about Biden last Fall when he was far and away the odds on favorite to be the nominee.

Biden is 77 years old and, if elected, would be the oldest President to ever be sworn in at age 78. He is gaffe-prone and you have to think that this alone will be his undoing at some point. He also has the entire specter of his son Hunter's behavior hanging over his head. Hunter earned millions by serving on the board of a Ukranian gas company while his father was VP but now claims he has little money to pay child support for a child born from his relationship with a DC stripper? Biden is the strongest candidate in the field? If he is, it is only because the rest of the field are so far left that good old Joe looks pretty good in comparison. That is hardly the stuff of a strong candidate to challenge Trump. An important question--will Biden implode before or after the Democrat convention? I have to think it is inevitable.

Could Biden surprise in South Carolina with heavy Black support? It is possible but I think that will just delay the inevitable. It is hard to see how Biden recovers from here. He is looking like damaged goods. Put another way, he is trying to sell himself but he is beyond his expiration date. Voters are not buying him.

In many respects the Democrat race is shaping up somewhat like the 2016 Republican race when the most important thing was for a candidate who could beat Hillary or in 2012 when GOP voters were looking for the person who could beat Obama.

Similarly, the Democrat voters are looking for someone who can beat Donald Trump. By a nearly 2:1 margin, voters in New Hampshire said it was more important to select a candidate who could beat Trump than someone who agreed with them on the issues, according to an NBC exit poll.


The problem for establishment Democrats is they don't think that their frontrunner right now, Bernie Sanders, can beat Trump. This is despite the fact that Sanders appears to be the only one in the Democrat field that seems capable of exciting some voters.

This is not dissimilar to the views that establishment Republicans had about Trump about this same time in 2016.

Seeing Sanders leading the field right now is also not a surprise to me. I wrote this about Bernie in April, 2019 as the Democrat field was just starting to come together.

At this point I would think Bernie Sanders has the best chance for the nomination. He has been through this before. He starts the race with the biggest fundraising operation. There are also a lot of supporters who believe he was cheated out of the nomination in 2016 by the DNC. However, in the end, will Democrat voters nominate a 78-year old unabashed Socialist (he is not officially a Democrat in the Senate) as their nominee?

That still remains true today. In fact, this race now looks like it is Sanders or whichever of the other four candidates can separate themselves and get this down to a one-on-one matchup with the Socialist Bernie.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg has basically matched Bernie's vote and delegate totals in the first two states. He has come the furthest in this campaign from the beginning.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether voters are really ready to elevate a 38-year gay Mayor from a city of 100,000 population to the highest office in the land? 

However, being the "fresh face" has generally been more important than experience and competence with Democrat Presidential primary voters in the past. Look no further than the Obama vs. Hillary race in 2008. Or Democrat candidates like McGovern, Carter, Dukakis and Clinton. It even applied to JFK who bested old hand Hubert Humphrey in 1960.

Will history repeat itself in 2020?


Bloomberg has not even officially been on any ballot yet. He got in late and he has put most of his focus on Super Tuesday in addition to spending mountains of money.

The New York Times reports that Bloomberg has already spent over $400 million of his own money on his campaign. To put that in context, Trump spent about $66 million of his money between the primary and general election campaigns in 2016.

Bloomberg has spent almost $25 million on Facebook advertising alone since January 1, 2020.

Advertising Analytics estimates that Bloomberg has already spent over $300 million on tv, radio and digital advertising.

He is paying new staffers $72,000 per year and provides three meals per day and receives an iPhone 11 and a MacBook Pro on the first day of work. Many of his staffers are quitting other campaigns to join his.

It has been said that money talks in politics. Bloomberg is in the conversation for the nomination due to that money with the hope that he can be the Bernie alternative.

There has never been anyone that has thrown so much of his money around in a political race. Bloomberg is just not buying advertising and staff. Bloomberg has funneled huge sums into the campaign coffers of Democrat officeholders and liberal causes the last several years. For example, Bloomberg spent $110 million in 2018 to boost the efforts of 24 candidates who are now in Congress. You can be sure that all the cash that has been spread around will insure that there will be little criticism of Bloomberg from any Democrats. No wants to bite the hand that feeds them (or will possibly feed them in the future).

If there is one truth in politics it is that "money talks".

Bloomberg's fate will be determined Super Tuesday. If he can't finish 1st or 2nd on that day after spending all that money and placing such a big bet on Super Tuesday it will probably be hard to convince people he is viable.

Bloomberg cannot be counted out for the simple reason that he appears willing to bury his opponents under the piles of money he is putting into the race. If I have to bet on one person to be left standing to challenge Bernie it is Bloomberg. The money is the reason.


Amy Klobuchar is the fastest riser in the Democrat race. She was dead in the polls for six months and has suddenly caught fire in the last two weeks. I attribute her rise solely to the fact that many Democrats are desperately searching for a Sanders alternative. She is more moderate than Bernie and Buttigieg, she is younger than Sanders and older than Pete, and at age 59, is about the right age to be running for President. She is also a woman which makes her very attractive as an alternative to three men and as an adversary for Trump this fall. She also is not a billionaire which should be helpful in a Democrat primary.

She shares the same problem with Buttigieg and Bloomberg. They are unlikely to be able to beat Sanders if all three of them are splitting up the anti-Bernie vote. Three is too much of a crowd and one or two of them needs to fall by the wayside for any of them to beat Bernie.

The Numbers

Winning the Democrat nomination on the first ballot at the DNC Convention is complicated by the fact that the Democrats do not have any "winner take all" states. Delegates are apportioned to any candidate garnering at least 15% of the vote in a state's primary.

Therefore, the longer the field stays large and the vote is split, the less likelihood that any candidate will have enough pledged delegates to gain the nomination.

If no candidate gains the majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot, then the Democrats allow the "Super Delegates" to vote. This is a change from the past when these party big wigs voted on the first ballot. This is one of the reasons Hillary was able to beat Bernie in 2016.

We should know a lot more about how the numbers are coming together over the next month. By March 17, 61% of the pledged delegates will be decided. This is more front-loaded than in past years as the delegate-rich California primary has been moved up from June to March 3 (Super Tuesday). Texas is the same day as are 12 other states.

This is the Democrat primary calendar with the delegates in play over the next month.

Credit: Wikipedia

I think the odds are better than 50/50 right now that no candidate will have the pledged delegates heading into the convention. I say that thinking that Sanders will be in it to the end. There are at least 15% committed Socialists in the Democrat party in every state who will show up to vote for Bernie and send him money along the way.

Lack of funding usually ends the dream for most candidates but that will not end the Bloomberg campaign. He only gets out if he feels he has absolutely no chance and also sees that he is actually helping Sanders by staying in. One other candidate will likely go the distance with Bernie (Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Biden (miracles can happen).

In that scenario Sanders might never get 50% of the vote in any state's primary while his competitors each gain 15% -20% in every state and accumulate delegates as well.

This is very similar to what Trump did in March in the 2016 election. He rarely got above 40% in the vote but the GOP transitions to "winner take all" contests later in the primary calendar which gave Trump the delegates to avoid a contested convention. Even with that added benefit, Trump only had a slight majority of delegates when he got to the RNC convention.

Should Bernie be worried that he may have the most pledged delegates heading to Milwaukee but he will leave there without the nomination?


Remember that Bernie does not admit to being a Democrat. He calls himself a Democrat Socialist or Progressive. He officially represents Vermont in the Senate as an Independent. He is not real popular with the Democrat party big wigs.

Sanders got pushed aside in 2016 and it is not going too far out on a limb for me to suggest that they could do it to him again.

Fasten your seatbelts. We could be on our way to a really wild ride as the Democrats move on from New Hampshire.

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