Good Friday Morning to everyone except all you lying dog-faced pony soldiers. You know what you did. Outside of lying dog-faced pony soldiers, the term of the week is “schadenfreude.” That’s the German word that means “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.” Specifically, for me, it’s Warren-schadenfreude. She came in 4th place in the New Hampshire primaries, which, while being one place lower than where she finished in Iowa, misrepresents how badly she did. Elizabeth Warren finished so far behind 3rd place that if you combined Warren and Biden’s votes, it wouldn’t equal Amy Klobuchar’s 3rd place finish.
After listening to the media and so many others talk about how great Warren’s plans were, how focused her campaign was. Why her only haters were sexist — it’s sweet vindication to see my gut instinct on her proven right: she’s an unlikable candidate and an awful candidate who underperformed in her state and would underperform in the primaries. Also, I drilled the New Hampshire winners in the podcast this week. More on New Hampshire below and links to follow.
- Last week I told you that I didn’t believe a single number out of China on the coronavirus. Here’s why. On Thursday, China announced far different coronavirus numbers. The NYTimes reported that the big leap in the number of people infected and those dead was because “the authorities there changed how they keep track of the disease, and not, primarily, because of any change in the shape of the outbreak.” We’re supposed to believe that China’s sudden change was because they had new methods — and not the fact that the World Health Organization arrived in China on Tuesday to assess China and the disease. The WHO was already getting hammered for being too cozy with China during this outbreak, and I suspect the WHO is forcing China to acknowledge a broader problem. And even with the change, and WHO and China putting out different numbers, WHO admitted to the NYTimes, “it did not fully understand the change China had made.” The takeaway from all this is that China either doesn’t know the full extent of the problem or it’s lying. China changes the numbers just a couple of days after the WHO shows up? Take your pick.
- There’s an odd situation happening in Nevada right now. The biggest union in that state declined to endorse anyone. That wasn’t the surprise. The surprise is that they’re not saying anything nice about Bernie Sanders, particularly his key plank: Medicare for All. Think about that for a second: a UNION is reporting that a SOCIALIST is too extreme and refuses to support him. It makes sense, though. A good private-sector union will fight for things like wages and healthcare for their members. Bernie Sanders wants to seize the means of production and eliminate the existence of these unions. If Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee — watch for Trump to see what he can tease out from this hostile relationship. Unions are overwhelmingly Democratic, but if they nominate a candidate antithetical to them, it could nullify one of the Democratic Party’s longtime vital allies.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the show, it’s a super-episode of everything related to the Democratic Primaries after the disastrous Iowa caucuses. The show goes through results, as we know them, about Iowa, whether or not Bernie Sanders can win a general election and what stands in his way, and the benchmarks for New Hampshire and what to look for in the next primary. [Ed. note: I correctly predicted the top five finishers in the correct order on this episode, and included my prediction that Warren/Biden may not hit 10%]
The Iowa caucuses were an utter embarrassment, and they point to a broader institutional problem.
Why do we keep certain traditions and get rid of others? We should probably look at ditching a few traditions after this year…
The New Hampshire winnowing
After one failed caucus and one successful primary contest, there are STILL eight official mainstream candidates running for the nomination. And even with all of that, I can honestly say there has been a winnowing process in that field. Here’s the top of the field:
- Bernie Sanders — he’s the frontrunner, weak or not.
- Pete Buttigieg — the former mayor has made a name for himself, but that ride could be coming to an end
- Michael Bloomberg — No one has placed one vote for him yet, but he’s polling solidly in Super Tuesday states and has the resources to play across the board
- Amy Klobuchar — she parlayed a vigorous NH debate into soaking up Buttigieg, Warren, and Biden voters into a good 3rd place.
- Joe Biden — the former Vice President and poll leader is on life support after two lackluster showings. He fell well short of even hitting 10% of the vote.
That’s it. That’s the field. Elizabeth Warren, who still shows up as having a 2% chance of winning it all (1 in 50) in the FiveThirtyEight model, is done. The plausible paths FiveThirtyEight is painting for Warren are the longest of longshots. The only way Warren gets back into this thing is if she gets enough delegates to position herself in a contested convention scenario. Speaking of which…
The contested convention is on!
I’ve made absolutely no bones about my rooting interests here: I want a contested convention with fights and multiple ballots and everything. And right now, in the FiveThirtyEight model of the race, which is putting probabilities on everyone’s path forward, the technical leader in the clubhouse is: “No one.”
That’s right. Right now, Nate Silver’s model is giving 38% odds that no one comes out with a delegate lead before the convention. That’s 2 in 5 chances. Bernie Sanders tied with “No one” in the model at a 37% chance of winning. That means that Silver’s model sees 75% odds that either Sanders or a contested convention happens. Of the remaining 25%, Biden is next with a 12% chance.
The reason Biden is still high is that he has a chance to right things in South Carolina — where black voters could save him. Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar have all fallen mostly flat with minority voters. Bernie Sanders has built some inroads with black and Hispanic voters, but so far, Biden still leads with them. Iowa and New Hampshire are overwhelmingly white states where Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren were able to build up large vote counts.
But now they have to build on those coalitions, and that isn’t easy. In 2016, Clinton struggled against Sanders, and then South Carolina and Super Tuesday hit Sanders hard. Clinton ran up numbers in the South and built a delegate lead with minorities everywhere. Bernie’s coalition, which is around 25% of the party, struggled to make inroads anywhere.
With four or five serious candidates in the race winning delegates in different states (possibly even after they have dropped out) and fairly little separation between the survivors (incentivizing them to stay in), and with multiple Derby horses but no Secretariat, the first real contested convention in decades is a very real possibility. It is possible that such an outcome produces a consensus nominee and strengthens the Democratic Party. It is also possible that such an outcome smashes the Democratic coalition to splinters.
Black voters are going to decide the primary
Pete Buttigieg may have the whitest coalition of anyone in the country. In previous polls of South Carolina and black voters in general, he’s registered 0% support. I’m not joking. The NYTimes couldn’t even find a statistical one person to show any support. And more recently, that support showed only marginal improvement at 2%. Elizabeth Warren, aka Fauxcahontas, doesn’t perform much better.
Amy Klobuchar has mostly been a non-factor up until this moment in New Hampshire. Her campaign is calling it Klomentum. But the same problem faces here: she’s a midwest Senator who has to reach out to black and Hispanic voters in places like Nevada and South Carolina now, something she’s never gotten in the past.
Of the 14 states on Super Tuesday — six of them are in the South: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas. California is also on Super Tuesday this year, dumping even more delegates on the finish line, but also a more diverse set of demographics.
When the dust settles, over a third of the overall delegates will have been awarded. That means black voters hold an overwhelming amount of power from South Carolina through Super Tuesday — and if they don’t like or trust a candidate, they will swing a state for that candidate. If you’re polling at 10% or less with them, like Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Warren — alarm bells should be going off.
And the reason I’m saying Warren is done — she canceled ads in South Carolin and Nevada, all but giving up in both states. She’s redeployed resources to places like Maine and her home state of Massachusetts. If she’s ceding South Carolina, that also means she’s ceding the six states on Super Tuesday with strong black communities. Her only hope is a strong showing in California. Good luck with that plan, Liz.
Bernie Sanders has a path
The path for Bernie is to make inroads with black voters — something he’s showing the capacity to do. Recent polls show him at around 20% support, with Biden dropping and Bloomberg closing in fast. Just last month, Biden was at over 50% with black voters in South Carolina, and that support got cut in half.
If Sanders can take his current coalition and expand it just a little to include a sliver of the black vote, he can probably reach escape velocity against the rest of the Democratic field. And that’s the key for Sanders. He has to get momentum with minority voters before they’re in a position to seriously consider Bloomberg.
I don’t currently think Biden will win South Carolina, absent an endorsement from Barack Obama. And so far, Obama hasn’t suggested he supports Biden running. Former Obama advisor David Axelrod has spent all his time on CNN blasting Joe Biden, which has always seemed sleazy to me, even if he had a point.
That means, if Biden isn’t going to get a life preserver from Obama or black voters, the million-dollar question is, who do they decide to go with in the general election? I seriously doubt Buttigieg fixes his problem, which is why I think his miracle run is fast coming to an end. Klobuchar is an unknown. That leaves Bernie as the last option. He’s not going to energize black voters or really anyone outside his base. Still, he’s the only one looking like a winner after getting the most votes in both primaries, although technically losing to Buttigieg in Iowa.
The Bloomberg factor
The other unknown factor in all the scenarios is what impact Bloomberg’s money nuke is having on the Democratic electorate. Bloomberg is testing the proposition of whether or not you can buy an election. He may very well spend close to a billion dollars to get to the convention.
He’s buying off everyone from politicians to social media “influencer” accounts — which you may have noticed on Instagram, TikTok, and other places. It’s the most lavish spending we’ve ever seen in American politics — and you can’t even get this kind of money out of politics because it’s his checkbook.
Bloomberg has dumped money in all the Super Tuesday states, the first places where he is on the ballot. He’s going to walk away with delegates. The only question is, how many will he win?
We’re still over a week out from Nevada. But the key things to watch are polls that break out support among different races. Nevada is going to matter this year, more so than previous cycles, and South Carolina is the finish line for a number of these candidates. If Biden can’t right the ship in the days leading up to South Carolina, watch for his staff to start leaking to the press and jumping ship to other campaigns.
Bernie is the only candidate with a plausible path to hitting escape velocity on delegates. If he falters or his coalition doesn’t grow in Nevada or South Carolina, contested convention odds are going to skyrocket.
On that note: in a contested convention, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Sanders gets treated by the establishment. They hate him and don’t want him as their nominee. 2016 proved that Democrats would pull underhanded tactics to shoestring Sanders — it wouldn’t shock me if they tried to keep a contested convention win away from Sanders. And if that happens, that’s when the genuinely wild scenarios can happen, like a return of Hilary Clinton, or some other out of left field contender. If we hit a truly contested convention where there’s a fight — anything can happen.
We haven’t had one of those in a while, which is why I’m rooting for it (I want Democrats to break the record of the 1924 Democratic National Convention where it took 103 ballots to figure out who was going to be the nominee). Fingers crossed!
P.S. Voting is already happening in Super Tuesday states. The time to convince minority voters in some of these states was last week.
Links of the week
Who Will Win The 2020 Democratic Primary? – FiveThirtyEight
Takeaways From New Hampshire – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics
Why Is Warren Struggling? – Perry Bacon Jr, FiveThirtyEight
Democratic Activists Seem Out Of Step With Voters So Far – Seth Masket, FiveThirtyEight
Nevada Democrats Say They’ll Replace Their Caucus App With iPads And A Google Form – Kaleigh Rogers, FiveThirtyEight
Bernie Sanders a limp leader after barely squeaking by in New Hampshire – John Podhoretz, NYPost
The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash – Rebecca R. Ruiz, NYTimes
Mike Bloomberg Is Paying ‘Influencers’ to Make Him Seem Cool: The Bloomberg campaign is trying an ad strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: Paying influencers to make it seem cool. – Scott Bixby, The Daily Beast
The only black man on Eastern Illinois’ swim team was wearing his EIU jacket on a road trip with his teammates when police tackled and handcuffed him. An officer pointed a gun at his head and told him, “If you move, I’ll blow your (expletive) head off.” – Barb Ickes, The Dispatch-Argus
The Dangerous Denial of Sex: Transgender ideology harms women, gays—and especially feminine boys and masculine girls. – Colin M. Wright and Emma N. Hilton, WSJ
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
We are proud to announce that we are placing all of our support behind Mike Bloomberg for president in the 2020 election. He’s the only candidate that can save our country and look cool while doing it!
Sure, he’ll hand out pallets of cash to anyone that so much as looks in his general direction, but we’re not influenced by that. We respect a man of his stature and frankly, all the other candidates come up short in comparison. Truly we couldn’t care less about him paying off our mortgages and buying us an Olympic-sized pool — that’s just what pals like Ol’ Mike do.
Thanks for reading!