We have arrived at the first rest stop on the road to the presidential election 2020. With Iowa* and New Hampshire in the rearview mirror, we can all catch a collective breath before the next event, the Nevada caucuses on February 22nd. (BTW, don’t look for a footnote at the bottom of the page connected to that asterisk after Iowa*. It just seems fitting that Iowa*’s 2020 Democratic caucuses deserve a permanent asterisk, like the one given to Roger Maris when he hit 61 home runs in 1961, beating Babe Ruth’s record. But I digress.)
The whole Iowa* event is a travesty, but nonetheless actual Democratic Convention delegates were selected in that state. Pete Buttigieg received the most, and given the way that Iowa* has treated their results in the past, that is the criterion of the winner. Bernie Sanders supposedly ran ahead of the pack in the first round of go-stand-in-the-corner-and-raise-your-hand “voting,” so he is claiming victory too. But how do we know that people were actually voting for a candidate or just wanting to ask a question or wanting to use the restroom?
New Hampshire actually counted their votes last week and the results were known at the end of the evening. We know that Sanders eked out a small victory over Buttigieg, with Amy Klobuchar close in third place and Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden far behind.
So two states are done with the delegate selection process and 1.6 percent of the national delegates have been selected as follows:
- Buttigieg 23
- Sanders 21
- Warren 8
- Klobuchar 7
- Biden 6
So where does all this leave things?
Well, for openers, the field of candidates got smaller. Michael Bennet, Andrew Yang and Deval Patrick dropped out last week.
Bernie Sanders appears to be the frontrunner at this point with his two or perhaps one-and-a-half wins so far. He has a loyal base, but it doesn’t look like it is growing. You could argue that it is shrinking. Where is the revolutionary army he is supposed to be leading?
His New Hampshire vote was less than half of what he received in 2016. He defeated Buttigieg by about 1.3 percent compared to his 22 percent victory margin over Hillary Clinton, receiving half the number of votes he collected in 2016. Polling nationally and in certain upcoming states seems to indicate that he may be plateauing at around 25 percent of the Democratic electorate.
Buttigieg has made substantial progress with his one contested win and a second place finish. Second place finishes will not win him the nomination. The question is what states can he win, and what will his delegate hauls be?
Klobuchar’s strong New Hampshire debate performance and primary vote have given her a significant boost. But like Buttigieg, the question with her is where, other than in Minnesota, can she win? She has the same issue Mayor Pete has concerning the lack of support among people of color.
Elizabeth Warren did poorly in the first two states, and the fourth place finish in New Hampshire particularly hurts since she represents a neighboring state in Congress. She has plans for everything, but the most important one at the moment is the one labelled “getting back into the race.”
Joe Biden’s campaign is spinning every which way, but the bottom line is that they are in trouble. South Carolina has long been described as Biden’s “firewall,” and indeed it could be, but polls show a tightening race there, where he was once assumed to be invincible. A loss in South Carolina could be fatal to the former Vice President.
My thoughts go back to Republican primary in South Carolina in 2016. I traveled the state that year to observe the goings on, but one of my most vivid memories was the sight of the Bush campaign bus heading south toward Florida the morning after Bush lost and he pulled out of the race. Bush, of course, was the perceived frontrunner when that year began. Just ask Chris Collins.
The question for all of the above candidates, except perhaps Sanders, is whether they can raise the money they will need to compete in the remaining 48 states?
And then, of course, there is Michael Bloomberg, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to raise his standing in the polls. He is now taking heavy incoming from the other campaigns. He has yet to be tested by voters on the national stage. How they will vote is more important than if they have heard his name. The former Mayor of New York can undoubtedly take inspiration from other former Big Apple mayors – President John Lindsay, President Rudy Giuliani and President Bill DeBlasio.
With the large number of candidates still in the running, and with one-third of the Convention delegates likely to be divided up multiple ways on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, it looks more and more like we could have a contested Democratic convention for the first time in nearly 70 years.
The New York primary on April 28th
All the above factors will add interest in the New York Democratic primary on April 28th.
The State Board of Elections describes the process as follows:
The Democratic Presidential Primary is really a “dual primary.” Candidates for president run against each other in a statewide primary, and delegates run in each congressional district and are allocated based on the performance of the presidential candidates within the congressional district. Delegates are either committed to a particular presidential candidate or uncommitted.
Besides the 184 delegates chosen in congressional districts, the State BOE goes on to explain:
Additional pledged, pledged-at-large and unpledged delegates and alternates will be selected as outlined below:
- the 23 members of the Democratic National Committee from New York, and 21 Democratic Members of U.S. Congress, one Democratic Governor and one Distinguished Party Leaders shall be automatic unpledged delegates (46);
- the state convention shall elect 29 pledged delegates who qualify as party leaders or elected officials;
- the state convention shall elect 61 pledged-at-large delegates and 24 pledged alternate delegates.
In the Presidential candidate contest, a Presidential candidate must receive a threshold percentage of at least fifteen (15%) of the votes cast for all Presidential candidates according to the vote they receive in a Congressional District. If only one Presidential candidate reaches the threshold percent in a Congressional District, then that candidate shall be entitled to all district delegates in the Congressional District.
And then there is this: If a candidate for president withdraws or elects not to have his or her name appear next to any delegate, the delegates pledged to that candidate will not appear on the ballot.
Eleven candidates originally filed statewide petitions, but since February 6th three of the candidates have dropped out, leaving:
- Joe Biden
- Michael Bloomberg
- Pete Buttigieg
- Tulsi Gabbard
- Amy Klobuchar
- Bernie Sanders
- Tom Steyer
- Elizabeth Warren
It is quite possible after the Nevada caucuses, the South Carolina primary, and the 14-state Super Tuesday contests that additional candidates will drop out, thus removing themselves from the New York ballot. March 4th is the last day for the State BOE to notify party committees of candidates who will appear on the ballot, which will then be certified on March 6th.
Drilling down further, delegate candidate petitions have been filed in Western New York’s 26th and 27th congressional districts for Biden, Buttigieg (only in the 26th district), Sanders, Warren and Yang.
Yang has dropped out and his delegate candidates will not appear on the ballot. Might the same fate await the Biden and/or Warren delegates? The next month will tell the tale.