Politics Magazine

02.21.20 Was I Dead Wrong, Or Just Living in Last Week?

Posted on the 21 February 2020 by Keith Berner @leftyview

After my last post (Goodbye, Elizabeth. Hello, Amy?), I heard from several people screaming “nooooo, it’s too early to count Warren out!” This week I heard from from some who said they agreed with my analysis last week, but that – only a few days later – it’s obsolete.

I thought I was so clever last week, but the following juicy tidbits no longer seem so juicy:

  • Goodbye Elizabeth. Did you watch this week’s Nevada debate? Elizabeth Warren was on fire, getting the most airtime, beating the crap out of Mike Bloomberg, delivering more of her policy chops, and even drawing distinctions between herself and Bernie Sanders. Nearly every commentator declared her the winner: she showed her smarts, her feistiness, and her compassion. This candidate is not done contributing to the race: Even if she is only auditioning for VP or a cabinet post, Elizabeth Warren matters!
  • Hello, Amy. As FiveThirtyEight pointed out about a few days after Amy Klobuchar’s surprising 20% finish in New Hampshire, there were no polling bounces for anyone out of NH. This week, Klobuchar is still polling in the single digits, pretty much everywhere other than her home state (Minnesota). Also, she was clearly rattled by Pete Buttigieg in the Nevada debate. If she’s going to get all wobbly when picked on by a veritable infant, there is no way she’ll stand up to the barrage that 45 and the GOP would throw at her. She has no plausible path to winning substantial numbers of delegates and I wasted the 25 bucks I sent to her.
  • It would be fun to watch Bloomberg fight 45. No, it wouldn’t be! We (I) hadn’t forgotten stop-and-frisk last week, but so many more details have come out about it, as well as about Bloomberg’s misogyny. Then, on the debate stage, we saw an arrogant prick who was unprepared and lacked any charisma whatsoever. Bloomberg, by producing one of the worst debate performances since Admiral Stockdale (Ross Perot’s 1992 VP pick), proved himself utterly unqualified to take on 45. His reference to offended women’s not being able to take a joke, also showed what a truly awful human being he is. Because of my fears about Sanders in the fall, I even went through some moments last week of thinking I could choose Bloomberg over him. No more. If it does come down to Bernie and Mike, I’m 100% for Bernie.
  • Bernie is only a weak front-runner. Not true: the past week has shown him gaining strength across the country, opening up double-digit leads nationally and in upcoming primary states.

Since my last set of guesses were so valuable (not!), let me try again.

  • Sanders is the overwhelming favorite to win the most delegates this primary season. But FiveThirtyEight now says a brokered convention is more likely than a first-ballot win for Sanders.
  • Warren is still unlikely to win any states (other than Massachusetts, where she is currently tied with Sanders) outright. But, her contributions to the race are invaluable and her impact at a brokered convention could be significant. I agree with the candidate that she is the most likely to unite the party and even draw independent support in the fall, than is any of her competitors.
  • Buttigieg and Klobuchar hurt themselves by going after each other so personally. Neither is likely to have the impact that Warren will, as primary season progresses. Both seem like midgets now.
  • I seem to be alone in this, but I thought Joe Biden turned in yet another troubling debate performance. The punditocracy seems to be grading him on a very forgiving curve, giving him big credit for being able to string together two coherent sentences. The problem with Bumbling Joe is that by the time he gets to a third sentence, he starts forgetting words or even what he was talking about. Right now, Biden is still 3+ points up on Sanders in South Carolina, but the two are headed in opposite trajectories. Biden could well lose in his firewall state and that would end his relevance (though I expect he would stay in the race until after Super Tuesday, which comes only three days after SC votes). In the current field (as appeared in Nevada), I consider Biden the most likely to get eviscerated by 45.

Big questions remain (of course!):

  • Does Sanders have a support ceiling under 40% among Democrats? If so, that bodes ill for him in the fall. Would his ceiling rise or fall if some of the so-called moderates drop out?
  • If moderates do drop out (most likely, Klobuchar), does that support go to Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg, or Biden?
  • Will Bloomberg continue to soar based on his dollars and in spite of his debate performance? Well, he’s not on the ballot until Super Tuesday and there’s another debate before that, so anything is possible.
  • Will Super Tuesday winnow the field (if not in terms of dropouts, then in terms of realistic momentum)? It sure would be easier for armchair pundits (like yours truly) if this were to come down to a two- or three-person race. Apart from Sanders, who even knows who that two or three might be?

©2020 Keith Berner

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