Good Friday Morning to everyone, except for the people who named their company “Shadow Inc.” and got put in charge of counting votes in Iowa. I’d tell them to have a bad morning, but since they’re already taking job applications for “client success reps,” I’m going to assume they’re in a unique ring of hell right now.
It’s tough to skip making comments about Iowa since they have it tee’d up so easy. That’s why I’m going to focus this newsletter on results, or lack thereof, in Iowa. I’ve got a couple of quick hits before jumping into the Iowa caucuses, links to follow.
- The coronavirus in China is a fascinating story. I’m not concerned right now with the disease jumping to the United States. The death rate for coronavirus outside China is 0.17%, which is very low. In China that jumps up, significantly, to around 2% — and that’s if you believe any of China’s numbers (I don’t — they’ve lied about their economic numbers for decades, no reason to believe them here). In other provinces, that number jumps to 2.8%. I suspect the infection and death rates are higher since China has started using war-time powers against its people — the NYTimes reporting is astonishing. People like throwing around the 1918 Spanish Flu, but we’re nowhere near that territory. That disease killed 10-20% of everyone infected, and it infected around 500 million and killed closed to 50 million, impacting close to 3-6% of the entire global population. The coronavirus is revealing what a disaster China’s health and sanitation services are for the people. The communist government has propped itself up through lies — and now a virus is loose among the people. For China, this is worse than the trade war — which is why they’ve dropped tariffs with the US. This disease will cripple them economically, and could if they can’t control it, lead to an uprising among the people. We’re a ways off from that kind of scenario, but after only three weeks of being in the public light (obviously much longer behind closed doors), China is looking desperate.
- Impeachment is FINALLY over. The State of the Union went mostly as expected. Everyone is spending most of their time talking about Trump, not shaking Pelosi’s hand and her ripping up his speech. In short, nothing has changed. It’s perfect red meat for both bases.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the show, host Daniel Vaughan talks about the end of the impeachment trial and what went wrong to bring us to a failed impeachment. He also discusses the Democratic Primaries as we head into the Iowa caucuses and what we can glean from the opposition hits on Bernie Sanders, movement in the polls, and what to make of Mike Bloomberg’s campaign.
How Mitch McConnell buried the idea of witnesses.
The most unserious impeachment effort in history is finally over. It’s time to bury this thing.
The Iowa Debacle and Bernie Sanders’s big moment
Where do you even start with Iowa? The caucuses and voting got held on Monday — and as I’m writing this, we’re still waiting for final results. I question whether or not we’ll even get them. The Associated Press reported Thursday evening that they were unable to determine who won the race. And Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is running around tweeting that Iowa needs to do a full recanvas.
We’re headed to a New Hampshire primary where no one has technically gotten crowned the winner, nor have delegates gotten assigned to any candidate. If you squint hard, it looks like a tie between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders with Elizabeth Warren in third, Biden in fourth, and Klobuchar bringing up fifth place. But I’ll be honest, I can’t tell who is getting assigned delegates looking at this mess — and I do emphasize the word mess.
The military phrase FUBAR applies here, as do many other words or phrases that rely on profanity.
I’m less concerned with what happened than the political aftermath. The “what happened?” is covered well by various places. The Wall Street Journal broke the news that an app was the center of the problem in Iowa. The LATimes reported that former Clinton staffers backed this app company. ProPublica covered how that app got disastrously designed and fully capable of getting hacked. The Daily Beast covered how investors connected with the app company were rushing to clean up the website and their connections to everything. Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has some links to the app company — which isn’t a good look when a campaign and the vote counters have even the slightest appearances of a relationship.
Between the Ann Selzer poll getting spiked before the caucuses and the meltdown of the actual caucuses, the Democratic primaries are off to the weirdest start I’ve ever seen.
The political aftermath of Iowa
There are about a dozen different ways to start this out, but I think the best approach is to look at who has the healthiest path forward. I agree with a Twitter thread by Sean Trende, there’s just a ton of uncertainty in modeling/figuring out what happens next. You can’t technically count anyone out just yet — any of the top five anyway.
That said — if I had to pick a person in the strongest position, it is unequivocally Bernie Sanders. As it stands right now, he’s either the winner or tied with the winner of Iowa, headed to New Hampshire where he’s the odds-on favorite to win. Bernie’s problem has always been that he was a factional candidate who never built off that coalition to find a path forward, not to mention that the Democratic establishment hates him.
But the support Sanders does have is sticky — they stay with him no matter what happens. And depending on the state, that is going to get him around 15-25% of the vote, give or take. None of the other candidates has sticky supporters; everyone else is fickle and fractured. It’s a similar dynamic to the Trump coalition in the Republican Party — the difference was that Trump was able to take his core support and add on evangelicals to push himself above the 30% mark in many states — forming a hard to beat movement. Who is the group that will add-on to the Bernie coalition? He hasn’t found it yet…
Does it matter Bernie hasn’t found that group yet? Not really. The Iowa results ensured no one dropped out because no one knew the results. Everyone immediately ran to New Hampshire. Furthermore, looming just outside the early states is Mike Bloomberg, who saw the Iowa debacle, Joe Biden faltering and decided to double down on his ad spending gambit. The television airwaves, which were already heavy with Bloomberg ads, are now going to be saturated with his ads.
The RealClearPolitics poll averages show Bloomberg at 10% nationally now — compared to Pete Buttigieg’s 7%. Bloomberg has bought himself 4th place in the polls at a national level. And I suppose that brings us to the most significant part of Iowa. Joe Biden.
Biden is on fumes
There’s no way to sugarcoat this: Joe Biden is close to being finished in the Democratic Primaries. He completed a distant fourth in the voting. I’m not entirely sure how many delegates he’ll be able to claim, he hovered near non-viability in all the precincts. Biden’s weakness has opened the door for both Sanders and Bloomberg. Biden’s weakness in Iowa made his voters there switch to Buttigieg.
Sean Trende nailed Biden’s current position in his analysis:
Joe Biden is on life support. We shouldn’t mince words here: Biden had an awful night. Yes, Iowa is a heavily white state, and it is a caucus rather than a primary, so it didn’t play to his strengths. Nevertheless, Biden is a former vice president to a very popular ex-president. He has universal name recognition and the implicit backing of large swaths of the Democratic establishment.
Yes, he can still recover in South Carolina, although that is looking much less probable than it did Monday morning. If his African-American support remains solid, he will perform well in the South. But his weakness among Northern whites is a red flag for states where he will need to win — and where he can’t rely on African-American support to push him over the top. If he’s coming in fourth place in Iowa, delegate-rich states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio are likely to be challenging for him as well.
Looming over all of this is the question of money. All of the candidates spent heavily on Iowa, and Biden needs to replenish his coffers. Will donors stick with him through New Hampshire? Almost certainly. But how many underperformances can he turn in before they abandon him?
The only reason Biden shouldn’t drop out right now is that neither Bernie Sanders nor Pete Buttigieg has shown any capacity to expand their coalitions. Could that happen if they both get the shine of a winner? Potentially. Buttigieg, in particular, may have the whitest coalition outside Sanders and Warren. Buttigieg is almost an anathema to black voters.
Biden’s best hope is that neither Sanders nor Buttigieg can consolidate support before Nevada and New Hampshire, where Biden can regain his footing with a more diverse voting group. But if minorities decide that Biden is a lost cause, Biden’s campaign is done.
I predicted Biden would sneak into a first-place finish. I was wrong. The person who filled that spot was Buttigieg. The same thing could happen in New Hampshire. But Buttigieg has to repair fences with minorities. And I suspect Sanders has a better chance of building that coalition than does Buttigieg.
The contested convention lives!
But the big winner is … nobody. The chance of there being no delegate majority has increased substantially, to 27 percent from 17 percent before Iowa. For reasons we’ve explained previously, the no-majority scenario isn’t quite the same thing as a contested convention, but the two concepts are closely related.
If the field remains divided, it could prevent anyone from getting enough delegates in time for the convention. That means we could get a contested convention or a convention fight. The Democratic establishment doesn’t want Bernie to win. If he can’t pull it off by the convention, look for the rules committee at the convention to look for ways to freeze him out.
It was a good night for brokered conventions. As with Bloomberg, there is a lot that has to take place to get to the end of the primary process with genuine doubt as to who the nominee will be. But one of the necessary preconditions is multiple well-funded candidates running on Super Tuesday. Right now we will almost certainly have Bloomberg and Sanders, with two of three of Warren, Buttigieg, and Biden (if not all three) sticking around, depending on how the early states go. Again, that isn’t sufficient for a brokered convention, but it is a big and necessary step. This was probably the best outcome people rooting for a brokered convention could have hoped for.
As a person rooting for a brokered/contested/convention fight, this is pretty exciting!
The person left unmentioned… Elizabeth Warren
Did you notice no one in the media is discussing her campaign any more? She didn’t tank. She’s the third-place finisher in Iowa. She’ll likely do the same in New Hampshire. She doesn’t stand much of a chance in Nevada or South Carolina. She’s trying to limp to Super-Tuesday to wrack up some wins, but I’m not sure they’ll come. For the person with all the media behind her, she’s finishing with a fizzle.
Oh, wait… sorry… that’s not right. From Politico: “Women of color bolt Warren’s Nevada campaign in frustration.”
A half-dozen women of color have departed Elizabeth Warren’s Nevada campaign in the run-up to the state’s caucuses with complaints of a toxic work environment in which minorities felt tokenized and senior leadership was at loggerheads.
The six staffers have left the roughly 70-person Nevada team since November, during a critical stretch of the race. Three of them said they felt marginalized by the campaign, a situation they said didn’t change or worsened after they took their concerns to their superiors or to human resources staff.
“During the time I was employed with Nevada for Warren, there was definitely something wrong with the culture,” said Megan Lewis, a field organizer who joined the campaign in May and departed in December. “I filed a complaint with HR, but the follow-up I received left me feeling as though I needed to make myself smaller or change who I was to fit into the office culture.”
Another recently departed staffer, also a field organizer, granted anonymity because she feared reprisal, echoed that sentiment. “I felt like a problem — like I was there to literally bring color into the space but not the knowledge and voice that comes with it,” she said in an interview.
Yikes. Knives out in the Warren campaign as things start imploding there. Again. Worth noting, The NYTimes has reported the same thing happening in Buttigieg’s campaign.
These kinds of stories are why Joe Biden’s campaign isn’t dead yet. If Bernie Sanders can figure out how to appeal to black and Hispanic voters in Nevada and South Carolina, the race is over. If he can’t do that — then the race remains wide open. In 2016, Clinton was struggling against Sanders until she hit southern states rich in black voters that delivered the nomination to her. Biden needs the same magic to survive. Warren and Buttigieg seem unlikely to pull that off. It’s up to Bernie or Biden to do it.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in both the polling and models right now. Bernie Sanders has the inside position to win the race, though. The big question mark: who can win over minorities in the Democratic Party? If Bernie can pull that off, the nomination is his for the taking, and he can sweep the nomination process. If he can’t do that — then the field remains wide open, and Bloomberg will play some role in the nomination process.
My New Hampshire prediction: 1. Sanders, 2. Buttigieg, 3. Warren, 4. Biden, 5. Klobuchar. I think Klobuchar is the first of the top five to drop out. Biden has to decide if he has the money and capacity to make it to South Carolina after losing in New Hampshire. It’s going to dicey for Biden real quick.
Links of the week
Election Update: What The First Few Post-Iowa Polls Say – Geoffrey Skelley, FiveThirtyEight
Satellite Caucuses Give A Surprise Boost To Sanders In Iowa – Nathaniel Rakich, FiveThirtyEight
Takeaways From the Early Iowa Caucus Results – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
If You Think It’s Bad for Mainstream Democrats Now, Just Wait – Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine
On Facebook, anti-vaxxers urged a mom not to give her son Tamiflu. He later died: Online groups that routinely traffic in anti-vaccination propaganda have become a resource for people seeking out a wide variety of medical information. – Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News
How Would You Balance the Budget? – The Bush Center
Pelosi’s Petty Move – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mitch McConnell felt bad for Nancy Pelosi after watching her get forced to impeach the president by the radical wing of her party, then impeach him and sit on the articles of impeachment for weeks. So, he decided to cheer her up a bit.
McConnell had his staffers deliver Pelosi a shirt reading “I Impeached The President And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.” Pelosi did not seem to understand the nice gift, pointing her finger sternly and lecturing the McConnell staffer: “Don’t mess with me.” Though her dentures fell out before she could finish her rant, sadly.
Thanks for reading!