Super Tuesday Shakeup
With three of his former opponents throwing their support to him last night, does former Vice-President Joe Biden have the Joe-mentum to run the table in today’s Super Tuesday Primaries? Read our in-depth feature to learn more about the state of the race.
Today is Super Tuesday where Democrats in 14 States, American Samoa and living overseas (Democrats Abroad) cast their ballots for whom they thing should take on President Donald Trump in November’s US Presidential election. Over a third of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July will be decided today. It is at the Convention that the Democrats will officially vote on their nominee.
Such is the fast-moving pace of the Race for the White House 2020 that I woke up this morning to find that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (pronounced Boot-Edge-Edge), Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke had all endorsed former Vice-President Joe Biden overnight.
The day before, Mayor Pete withdrew from the contest for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. Speaking to a crowd of supporters in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, he said:
“We have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race, any further. Our goal has always been to help unify Americans, to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values. And so, we must recognise that at this point in the race the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our Party and our country together. So tonight, I am making the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the Presidency.”
Yesterday, the 38-year-old former Mayor endorsed the 77-year-old former Vice-President, Joe Biden for the Presidency at a joint appearance in Dallas, Texas saying:
“When I ran for President, we made it clear that the whole idea was about rallying the country together, to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for the values that we share. And that was always a goal that was much bigger than me becoming President and it is in the name of that very same goal that I am delighted to endorse and support Joe Biden for President.”
Thanking Buttigieg for his endorsement Biden emotionally told all those watching across the world that Pete Buttigieg reminded him of his late son, Major Beau Biden, who had served as Attorney General of Delaware, in addition to serving his country for a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. Mayor Pete Buttigieg had not only served two terms as Mayor of the town of South Bend, Indiana, he had also served a 7-month tour of duty in Afghanistan as part of the US Navy Reserve. Biden thanked Buttigieg for his support and said:
"I don't think I've ever done this before, but he reminds me of my son, Beau. I know that may not mean much to most people, but to me it's the highest compliment I can give any man or woman, that is like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod. I really mean this. I think about it."
The Democratic Party is in a phrase which has gained much traction throughout this Primary season, a “multi-racial coalition”. African-Americans are a vital part of this coalition. One of the key reasons behind Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 was that 11% of black Obama voters stayed home instead of turning out to the polls for the former First Lady. Like many other parts of her coalition; Clinton took these voters for granted.
Mayor Pete, the first mainstream openly gay candidate for the Presidency, had gone down exceptionally well with the predominately white Democrat voters of Iowa and New Hampshire but his campaign found him failing to resonate with black voters. This does not mean that the South Bend Mayor did not put in a valiant effort to win them over.
The Sunday before last, some churchgoers in South Carolina found themselves worshipping alongside a Democratic Presidential candidate. That Sunday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg attended a church service at the First Baptist Church of James Island where he addressed the predominantly African-American congregation about how hard won the black vote was and how it was hard won in living memory. Mayor Pete was correct that it was in the living memory of many of the congregation but, given that the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana is only 4 years older than me, it certainly wasn’t in his living memory.
According to a CBS News Exit Poll of South Carolina Democratic Primary voters, conducted on Saturday; 50% of voters had a favourable opinion of Pete Buttigieg with 42% having an unfavourable opinion. As 60% of the Democratic electorate in the South Carolina primary is African-American this figure seems to indicate that whilst black voters might not have cast their ballots for him, Mayor Pete still left the majority of them with a favourable impression.
Mayor Pete came across as far too professorial for his surroundings. The words were fine but there was none of the empathy that someone like former President Bill Clinton had, but at least he made a genuine effort and was sincere. Ultimately, however, it was Pete Buttigieg’s failure to win over black voters that sunk his campaign.
On the other side of the professor/empathy spectrum is former Vice-President Joe Biden whose name might as well be a synonym for empathy (one only need watch his eulogy of his friend, and sometime political rival, the late Sen. John McCain). Joe Biden earned the support of African-American voters through years of service. He was the loyal Vice-President to the first African-American President of the United States. He was a frequent visitor to South Carolina for longer that Mayor Pete has been alive. He was not a candidate who only showed up when he needed votes. Although, he did do that too. The Sunday before last, Joe Biden attended church services at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, in North Charleston. The church had a predominantly African-American congregation.
Biden was a great friend of the late Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings and would often visit him in South Carolina. Senator Hollings served as a United States Senator for South Carolina from 1966 to 2005. Like Joe Biden, who was first elected to the US Senate just over 6 years after him; Hollings was a Democrat. Fritz Hollings died last year, aged 97. Joe Biden delivered a moving eulogy at his funeral in South Carolina.
South Carolina gave Biden a running chance at the nomination again. Biden’s campaign has gone from been written off as on life support to pundits speculating about who he might choose as a running mate. There has already been talk of Biden making Buttigieg his running mate. It would be a fitting tribute to his son Beau, who he credits for helping him evolve on the issue of gay marriage, to have as his running mate the first openly gay candidate on a major Party ticket. In 2012 the then Vice-President Joe Biden told Meet the Press, when explaining how his position on same-sex marriage had evolved to one of support:
“as I take a look at when things really began to change, is when the social culture changes. I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody's ever done so far. And I think people fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand
I-- I was with-- speaking to a group of gay leaders in-- in Los Angeles-- la-- two, two weeks ago. And one gentleman looked at me in the question period and said, "Let me ask you, how do you feel about us?" And I had just walked into the back door of this gay couple and they're with their two adopted children. And I turned to the man who owned the house. I said, "What did I do when I walked in?" He said, "You walked right to my children. They were seven and five, giving you flowers." And I said, "I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys. And they wouldn't have any doubt about what this is about."
For those of you unfamiliar with Will & Grace, it is a half hour US sitcom about two young professionals, who share an apartment in New York City. Will is a lawyer, who happens to be gay and Grace is an interior designer, who happens to be straight. In the US it was highest-rated sitcom among adults 18–49 from 2001 to 2005.
Vice-President Biden as is something of a habit of his had gone off script. He had come out in favour of gay marriage before even Obama. Days after this interview President Obama said that he too had evolved on the issue and now supported gay marriage. On Friday 26th June 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal in all 50 States.
Pete Buttigieg would be a historic choice and a strong one but before we make a saint of him, it is worth remembering that he is still above all a politician. Today, Mayor Pete is trying to portray himself as above the politics of the horserace. Before we accept this narrative; we should remember that he proved to be a sore loser when it came to the final results of the Nevada Caucus, held on Saturday 22nd February. Buttigieg came in third with 14.3% of County Convention delegates and 17.3% of the final vote and Biden finished above him in second place with 20.2% of County Convention delegates and 18.9% of the final vote. Sanders came in a strong first place with 46.8% of County Convention delegates and 40.5% of the final vote. The National Convention delegates are then elected by the County Convention delegates later on in the process.
In terms of National Convention delegates, this means, in theory, that Sanders won 24, Biden won 9 and Mayor Pete won 3. The 38-year-old former Mayor did not like this at all. He wanted to be the “moderate alternative” to Sanders and now Biden was getting a second wind at just the wrong time for the novice’s campaign.
As Nevada was a Caucus and not a Primary, the National Convention delegates are primarily apportioned due to the results of the precinct caucuses. This is designed to ensure that more sparsely populated rural areas of a State are represented in addition to the densely populated urban areas. Similar to the Electoral College, which decides the US Presidency, this can give a vote in one precinct greater weight than a vote in another precinct.
The Caucus system is not a perfect process and can be manipulated. In 2012 the Republicans found that libertarian Ron Paul had managed to win 22 delegates at the Iowa GOP Convention despite coming third in the actual Iowa Caucus. The winner of the 2012 Iowa GOP Caucus, former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum was not awarded a solitary delegate from the State. This was to add insult to injury for Senator Santorum as the Republican Party of Iowa initially announced former Governor Mitt Romney had won the Caucus by 8 votes, only to find out two weeks later that he actually won the Caucus by 34 votes. It is widely accepted that this blunder deprived the underdog candidate, Rick Santorum of the much needed momentum that a surprise victory in the first-in-the-nation Presidential contest should have given him. This was a pity as I greatly admire the runners-up in that contest, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and believe that either would have made a better Presidential nominee than the robotic Romney. As an aside, it was because of Rick Santorum’s campaign that I discovered sweater vests.
Following Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 Presidential election, Senator Santorum decide to publish his own thesis on where the Republican Party had gone wrong. His formula for success was very different from the post-campaign autopsy prepared by the Republican National Committee under the chairmanship of Reince Priebus. The primary takeaway from the report was that the Republican Party should push through immigration reform similar to that which George W. Bush failed to pass.
As it happened, less than four years later, Donald Trump was to successfully win the Office of the Presidency back for the Republican Party by promising to build an “impenetrable and beautiful” wall across the US-Mexico border and “extreme vetting” when it came to immigration.
Before Donald Trump could bury the Republican autopsy, former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum published Blue Collar Conservatives in April 2014. The book is believed to have assisted future President Trump build his populist policy agenda when he was preparing for his successful Presidential run. According to an article written by Sen. Santorum for the Philadelphia Inquirer when Donald Trump was President-elect:
“In the summer of 2014, Trump asked me to stop by his office the next time I was in Manhattan. Later that summer, I dropped by Trump Towers with my daughter Sarah Maria. When we walked into his office, he was sitting behind his desk holding a copy of my book “Blue Collar Conservatives” that I had published that spring.
The first thing he said was, “I read your book.”
I laughed. “The hell you read my book.”
Trump shot back, “I did; it was great!”
So I quizzed him on the message in my book — that the great middle of America was hollowing out as a result of big government policies that were helping the elites but leaving blue-collar families behind. And to my great surprise, Trump passed my test with flying colors.
The billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump not only got it, he was as upset as I was that these families were being left behind. He said he might run for president and, if he did, he wanted to take that message to the American voter — and did he ever.”
This is highly credible as the unlikely friendship between Santorum and Trump is well-known. Additionally, during a September 2016 campaign stop on behalf of his father, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump Jr. told volunteers, in earshot of the assembled press:
“I’ve always called him the blue collar billionaire because that’s what he is. He is able to talk to those people. He’s not talking at them. He’s talking with them”
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the American punditocracy considered Pennsylvania to be a solidly Blue (Democrat) State given that the last time it had voted Republican in a Presidential election had been in 1988, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis.
The Hillary Clinton campaign had arrogantly considered Pennsylvania to be part of their “Blue Wall“ of “rust-belt” States that they could depend upon to secure victory.
Returning to the Nevada Caucus, one might think it unfair that Vice-President Biden only received 1.6% of the final vote more than Mayor yet was awarded three times as many delegates as many delegates as him; one must recall the 38-year-old’s behaviour towards Bernard Sanders in the Iowa Caucus. In that contest Sanders won more votes but Buttigieg got more delegates. Buttigieg did not make the fact that he received less votes than Sanders stop him from declaring himself the winner in Iowa.
Mayor Pete liked it when the rules worked in his favour, as with the Iowa Caucus, and did not like it when the rules worked to his disadvantage, as with the Nevada Caucus. He had his campaign send a strongly worded letter to the Nevada State Democratic Party despite strongly worded letters seldom ever being effective in politics.
In their strongly worded letter, the Buttigieg campaign complained about “material irregularities” that had apparently only come to their attention after they failed to get the result they had hoped for. It was the typical behaviour of a politician to change position depending on which position most benefits you. Buttigieg might have thought there was a narrow path to victory after the Nevada Caucus but after his defeat in the South Carolina Primary he knew it was all over.
On Saturday night, Joe Biden won the all-important South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary. Joe Biden won 48.7% of the vote and Bernard Sanders came second with 19.8%. Billionaire Tom Steyer came in a respectable third place with 11.3% of the vote. Given there is no Bronze medal in politics, and he could no longer see a realistic path to the Democratic nomination, Mr. Steyer dropped out of the race, Saturday night. Mayor Pete squeaked a fourth-place finish over Elizabeth Warren with 8.2% of the vote; a 1.1% than Senator Warren. Amy Klobuchar had a bad night gaining only 3.1%. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, whose candidacy is quixotic, at best, won 1.3% of vote.
The totality of the results are interesting but the only two numbers that matter are the ones involving Biden and Sanders. South Carolina’s 54 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention in mid-July, which chooses the Party’s nominee, are allocated on a proportionate basis to reflect the results of the Primary. However, for a candidate to receive any delegates they must pass a 15% viability threshold. Only Biden and Sanders did that, therefore, they are the only candidates who won any delegates in the South Carolina Primary. In terms of delegates, the results of yesterday’s Primary are Biden with 39 delegates and Sanders with 15.
This must be particularly irritating billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent over $20 million in South Carolina and failed to win a single delegate. More irritating will be that, according to the candidate’s filings with the Federal Elections Commission, he had spent $253.7 million on his Presidential campaign by the end of January. All that expenditure would put food on the table for various political consultants but it would fail to win him even a solitary delegate. With Steyer dropping out that leaves former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg as the last billionaire standing in the Democratic Primaries.
There is evidence to show that a number of Steyer supporters in South Carolina jumped ship to support Joe Biden following popular Congressman Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of the former Vice-President, last Wednesday. Clyburn had said that he was not going to make any endorsement until after the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Debate, last Tuesday. Many, including Biden himself have credited Clyburn for the sheer scale of the former Vice-President’s victory in South Carolina.
According to a CBS News Exit Poll of South Carolina Democratic Primary voters, conducted Saturday; 47% of voters said that Rep. Clyburn’s endorsement was important, whilst 39% said it was unimportant. This comes as little surprise give than Clyburn, who serves as Majority Whip in the US House of Representatives, is South Carolina’s most influential Democrat. Majority Whip is the third-highest ranking office in the US House of Representatives.
On Saturday night, addressing a rally of his supporters from the State in Columbia, South Carolina; Vice-President Biden reminded them that South Carolina has traditionally had a good record of picking Democratic Presidents saying:
“You launched Bill Clinton, Barack Obama to the Presidency. Now you’ve launched our campaign on the path to defeating Donald Trump. This campaign is taking off!”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a very strong debate performance in Nevada on Wednesday 19th February. The Massachusetts Senator came close to single-handedly demolishing the candidacy of world’s 9th richest man (according to Forbes), Michael Bloomberg. It was the first time the former New York City Mayor was on the debate stage with his fellow candidates and it is difficult to imagine how it could have gone worse for him.
I have had the misfortune of meeting some of the Senator’s supporters in the past and they were amongst some of the most unpleasant and downright miserable people I’ve come across in over a decade in politics. But then again, the job Senator Warren had to do last week wasn’t very nice.
Her political kneecapping of Michael Bloomberg took her campaign off life-support. She has reported raised over $9 million, in the immediate aftermath of the Nevada debate. A word of warning though which I take great delight in giving to Warren supporters is that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did a similar job on Florida Senator Marco Rubio during a Republican Primary debate in 2016. Rubio’s campaign was fatally damaged, but the ultimate beneficiary was Donald Trump, and not Chris Christie.
It appears that Senator Sanders could possibly win the Democratic Presidential Primary in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday. If this happens, it will be a cause of great embarrassment for Senator Warren as she should be a “favourite daughter” candidate; given that she serves as the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts. According to a Boston Globe/ Suffolk University poll released Saturday; the two left-wing Senators are currently locked in a statistical tie with Sen. Sanders appearing to have a slight edge.
It is rare but not unheard of for a candidate to lose their own home State in a Presidential Primary; Donald Trump handily defeated Senator Marco Rubio in the Florida GOP Primary in 2016. Senator Rubio dropped out of the race that very evening. This is likely to be the fate of Elizabeth Warren, if she fails to carry Massachusetts on Tuesday.
Democrats in Massachusetts have traditionally been extremely supportive of home State candidates in their Presidential Primary. In 1980, Senator Ted Kennedy, as part of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to wrest the Democratic nomination away from incumbent President Jimmy Carter, won the State’s Primary with 65.07% of the vote. Governor Michael Dukakis won with 63% in 1988. He would also go on to receive the Democratic nomination that year and lose to George H.W. Bush in the general election. Former Senator Paul Tsongas had the support of 66.3% of Massachusetts Democrats in 1992, although he would lose the nomination to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. He remained universally popular in his home State and respected and well-liked across the US until his untimely death, aged only 55, in 1997.He died due to complication from pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Senator John Kerry received support from 72% of Massachusetts Democrats in 2004. Kerry had replaced Paul Tsongas in the United States Senate in 1985; following a two-year stint as Lieutenant-Governor under Michael Dukakis. He won his Party’s nomination and lost the general election to George W. Bush. Kerry remains the only Democratic Party candidate for Presidency, since Michael Dukakis in 1988, to have lost the popular vote in the general election. The most significant decision Kerry would make in his run for the White House was the decision to have a State Senator from Illinois who was running for the United States Senate deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention, held that year in Boston, Massachusetts.
I remember watching Barack Obama’s speech at the time and telling my Dad that we were watching the next President of the United States. My Dad laughed and confidently told me the next President would be Hillary Clinton. Still he did remember my prediction and was kind enough to give me a copy of Obama’s recently released book The Audacity of Hope for Christmas in 2006; meaning I have a first edition.
In a case of history repeating I would go on to tell my Dad, on the day in 2015 when Donald Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower, to announce his White House bid, that Trump would be the next President. This time, he laughed heartily and told me with absolute certainty that the next President would be Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, I have yet to be given any Trump authored books as Christmas presents yet. He has not warmed to this President in the same way that did the last one. One of the reasons why I am able to separate my politics from my personal relationships with people is that I would have no one in my family to talk to if I weren’t.
I would be reminded at last year’s Conservative Party Conference by my friend and former Conservative Future colleague, Thomas Turrell, I had told him that Donald Trump would be the next President back in August 2011. My new outlier prediction is that if the Democrats fail to win back the White House this year; they will nominate Meghan Markle as their “celebrity candidate” for the Presidency in 2024 and she will win.
This is not as ridiculous as it first might appear. Markos Kounalakis, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, recently wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald urging Meghan to place her hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination this year.
John Kerry would continue to make history after losing the Presidency to George W. Bush in 2004. He endorsed then-Senator Obama, whom he had first thrust into the national spotlight, for President during the 2008 Democratic Primaries and would go on to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of State during his second term. He played pivotal roles in securing both the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran Nuclear Deal. As President, Donald Trump would withdraw the United States from both. In the 2020 Democratic Primaries, Secretary Kerry endorsed his old friend Joe Biden, as opposed to Senator Warren, with whom his career in the Senate overlapped for just under a month.
It should be noted that former Democratic Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick also briefly flirted with a Presidential run, this year. This was at a point when Senator Warren was already an active Presidential candidate. Gov. Patrick would drop out of the race following an abysmal showing the New Hampshire Primary. That John Kerry did not decline to endorse anyone out of respect for someone who held an office he once did and that Deval Patrick still put his name forward even though Elizabeth Warren had by that point being campaigning for months indicates that the Senator is not the most beloved person within the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
Governor Patrick was not the only former Massachusetts Governor to perform poorly in the New Hampshire Primaries. The Republicans help their primary on the same day as the Democrats. This is standard practice. Former Massachusetts Governor, Bill Weld was on the GOP ballot as a challenger to President Trump. Given that in New Hampshire, voters registered as Independents are allowed to vote in the Republican Primary and Gov. Weld’s candidacy was relying on them to cross over, in order to cause a stunning upset by exceeding “expectations by a wide margin” just as Senator Eugene McCarthy did in with his challenge to sitting US President, Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Inter-Party challenges to incumbent Presidents have proved to be useful bellwethers in American politics. Alabama Governor George C. Wallace relatively strong showings in the 1964 Democratic Party’s Primaries illustrated that whilst the States of the old Confederacy were becoming more like their Northern counterparts; States which had fought for the Union were also becoming more like their Southern counterparts, particularly when it came to issues of race. This was became starkly obvious when the segregationist Wallace won over a third (34%) of the votes cast in the Midwestern State of Wisconsin and the support of almost a third (29%) of Democrats in Indiana, also in the American Midwest.
An excellent contemporaneous account of George Wallace, the sociological trends of the 1960s and the political realignment that followed can be found in An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968. The book has the advantage of coming from a perspective of outsiders looking in and, for British readers, having been written by three Sunday Times journalists; Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodgson and Bruce Page.
The 1976 challenge by California Governor Ronald Reagan to incumbent President Gerald Ford would see Ford beat Reagan, but only just. The threat Governor Reagan proved to President Ford had as one result, Vice-President and New York City billionaire, Nelson Rockefeller withdrawing his name from consideration for the 1976 GOP Vice-Presidential nomination; so as to give Ford a free hand in the selection of a running mate.
After securing the Republican nomination, President Ford would select 53-year-old United States Senator for Kansas, Bob Dole. He picked Dole in part because he was a nominee that Reagan, and therefore Reagan’s supporters, could get behind. In announcing his selection of Dole, President Ford made a point of stating that Reagan had endorsed his choice. Dole would go on serve as Senate Minority Leader from January 1987 – January 1995 and Senate Majority Leader from January 1995 – June 1996. Senator Dole would also go on to be the Republican Presidential nominee in 1996; losing the general election to incumbent President Bill Clinton.
This was Reagan’s second attempt running for the Republican nomination. In 1980, he would prove that third time’s the charm by winning not only the nomination but the Presidency too. In vanquishing Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan also called time on the so-called Rockefeller Republicans. Gov. Weld is in this tradition when he calls himself “a New England Republican”.
What Bill Weld has shown through his challenge to President Trump is that the Trumpification of the Republican Party has even reached the traditional heartland of “liberal Republicanism” that is New England. One need only look at the data. Weld received only 9.01%, in the Republican New Hampshire Primary and a WBUR poll of Massachusetts Republican Primary voters, released Friday, has Weld on only 14%, in a State where he had served as its Republican Governor.
One bright moment for Governor Weld’s quixotic campaign was when, on Saturday 15th February, he received the endorsement of the Republican Governor for Bernard Sanders’ home State of Vermont. This should not be surprising as any Republican who could get elected to state-wide office in a State which also sends a self-professed Democratic Socialist to the United States Senate is unlikely to be from the same wing of the Republican Party as Donald Trump.
Additionally, Weld and Vermont Governor Phil Scott are virtually neighbours, as the States of Massachusetts and Vermont literally neighbour each other. This has also worked in Senator Sanders favour as it means Massachusetts is easy for him to get to.
One of the reasons for Sen. Sanders to have spent what appears to be a disproportionate amount of time in Massachusetts last week is that of all of his primary challengers; Sen. Warren is the only candidate who cuts into his support. The remaining candidates, with the exception of Tulsi Gabbard, are all competing to be the candidate of the “moderate wing” of the Democratic Party and divide the “moderate” Democrat vote in doing so. This is why Pete Buttigieg withdrawing from the race is good for Biden and bad for Sanders.
The Sanders campaign would greatly benefit from Elizabeth Warren leaving the race as she is proving herself to be a drag on his momentum and is dividing the vote of the Democratic Party’s “progressive wing”. If Senator Sanders can claim a victory in Massachusetts, on Tuesday, it is likely going to push Senator Warren out of the race.
Senator Warren’s candidacy as benefited Bernard Sanders in one way. On the debate stage, she proved an effective prosecutor from the case against Michael Bloomberg receiving the Democratic nomination. Indeed, it could be argued that Sen. Warren did a better job making the case against Bloomberg rather than the case for herself and she was more passionate in doing so.
Mayor Bloomberg has been in the Democratic race since November 25th and has already spent over $1billion in campaign advertisements in the pivotal Super Tuesday States. This was after deciding that he would skip on the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. The South Carolina Primary was held two day ago. The next 16 contests, including those in New York, Texas and California take place tomorrow on what is known as Super Tuesday.
All the other candidates, with the exception of Tom Steyer, have spent the majority their capital in those first four States in the hope of gaining momentum, but nothing in the far more delegate-rich Super Tuesday States, which account for almost 40% of all delegates. Bloomberg is not a people’s politician like Trump. Like his business, Bloomberg is fundamentally driven by data. He will have only entered this race after crunching the numbers with his team and seeing a realistic path to his getting the Democratic nomination.
Mayor Bloomberg holds a lopsided advantage in terms of campaign infrastructure over his rivals for the Democratic nomination. Campaign aides who found themselves out of work when Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris dropped out of the race have found Michael Bloomberg’s late entry into the Presidential Race to have been an early Christmas Present (although Bloomberg himself is Jewish). Many have migrated to the Bloomberg campaign and unlike most Presidential candidates, Mayor Bloomberg pays well.
Another major advantage in working as a campaign aide for the 9th richest person in the world is that you know you will be paid on time. Most Presidential campaigns end with the campaign owing former staff significant amounts in back pay.
He is well aware than money is the mother’s milk of politics and he has deeper pockets than most. He is providing a $10 million financial life-preserver for endangered House Democrats. Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was delighted with the donation. This is not the first gift that House Democrats have received from Mayor Bloomberg. He spent around $100 million on House races in the 2018 US Midterms, which saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. Half of that went on female candidates in an election with a significant gender gap.
One of the other reasons that Mayor Bloomberg might have had to use his political donations in 2018 to make the point that he is progressive, in relation of equitable gender representation in public life, might be that his business dealings have not always been perfect, in this regard. Issues brought up when he first ran for Mayor of New York in 2001, in the aftermath of the Lewinsky scandal, might not be so easy to dismiss in the #MeToo era. This is another reason for the Mayor to keep pumping those advertising millions into the big media conglomerates; whether consciously or unconsciously, they are always going to give their clients an easier ride.
Media conglomerates might have some control over what their anchors say on air, but they can do nothing about what candidates say on the debate stage. Senator Elizabeth Warren was a woman with a mission when it came to the debate in Nevada, the first where Bloomberg had qualified to be on the debate stage with his fellow candidates. Warren’s mission was to torpedo Bloomberg’s candidacy and one of the ways she did this was to bring up Bloomberg’s women problem up during that debate.
Mayor Bloomberg entered the Nevada Democratic Presidential debate as the candidate that the other candidates were most afraid of. However, it turned out the idea of Michael Bloomberg was far more of a threat than the actuality of Michael Bloomberg.
Outside of the environment of controlled campaign events and scripted TV/online advertisements; Mayor Bloomberg came across as a candidate who was not ready for Prime Time. On the debate stage, Mayor Bloomberg seemed taken aback by just how willing his opponents were willing to political hardball. It appeared to the audience that no one had given the New York City billionaire the memo that Presidential politics was a full contact sport.
Bloomberg’s performance had much improved by the South Carolina Democratic Presidential debate but this only seemed to result in Elizabeth Warren upping the ante with the level of pure viciousness of her attacks. Warren repeated an unpleasant story that had been doing the rounds in some media since his first run for the New York City Mayoralty; namely that he had said to a female employee who had told him she was pregnant to “Kill it”.
Many thought Warren had gone too far especially as Bloomberg has strenuously denied ever making such an awful statement. Bloomberg had responded to Warren’s criticism in the Nevada debate by releasing three women from non-disclosure agreements in which they had criticised comments he had made that had caused them to feel uncomfortable. He also showed regret for making the offending comments.
At present, I suspect Mayor Bloomberg ‘s campaign is relying on two things for him to ultimately win the Democratic nomination.
The first is that if there is a brokered convention. In this scenario, Senator Sanders receives a plurality of the delegates but not a majority; the establishment of the Democratic Party will unite behind Bloomberg as their standard bearer in order to stop Sen. Sanders. If there is a second ballot at the convention suddenly “super-delegates” (party bosses) also get votes and Bloomberg has always been more skilled at backroom deals in comparison to retail politics. It was backroom dealing that enabled him to change the rules so that he could run for a third-term as Mayor of New York City.
The second is that because of the potential public emergency the coronavirus might cause, Democrats will turn to him as the manager’s manager. Being that made him the world’s ninth richest man. He now thinks it will make him President of the United States.
Bloomberg’s campaign is currently running an ad called “Fix the Chaos” in those Super Tuesday States, which decide a third of the delegates for the Democratic National Convention in mid-July.
The ad touts Bloomberg’s success in rebuilding New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. It goes on to rattle off some more of his achievements and make some broad-brush campaign promises before closing with the key message of the ad “Fix the Chaos in Washington. Get things done.”
If Michael Bloomberg becomes the presidential nominee, then the American public will be faced with a stark choice between one billionaire who is the literal embodiment of Wall Street, in candidate Michael Bloomberg and a blue-collar billionaire with a bold and brash message of populism, in President Donald Trump.
To illustrate just how much Michael Bloomberg is of the 0.1% his company even runs its own billionaires index, which provides a daily ranking of the world’s richest people. The one wrinkle in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index is that Michael Bloomberg is not considered for the rankings.
Given the potential he has to be characterised as a creature of Wall Street it is surprising that no one on his campaign released how the optics of Michael Douglas stumping for the Mayor during campaign events in Massachusetts might look. Douglas played greedy Gordon Gekko in the 1987 Wall Street. Gekko is best remembered for a speech given in the film where he says “Greed - for lack of a better word - is good”
If Bloomberg does badly today there will be incredible pressure for him to get out of the race. It remains to be seen whether the money he has spent on infrastructure developing a strong ground game in the Super Tuesday States will pay off. He might be helped if early voting helps to blunt Joe Biden’s South Carolina momentum. As things stand the Democratic Party establishment looks to be rallying around Biden after his victory in South Carolina in much the same way they rallied around John Kerry after his victory in Iowa in 2004. Kerry also saw off a left-wing Democrat from Vermont, Howard Dean.
Warren’s role in Super Tuesday is just that of a spoiler. I expect her to drop out of the race tonight or tomorrow. It is currently a three-horse race between three white men in their late-70’s – Bernie, Biden and Bloomberg. If Bloomberg fails to pull a rabbit out of the hat tonight the race will become a two-man street fight between Bernie and Biden for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Patrick Sullivan is the Political Editor of The Commentator and was Research Director for a US Congressional Campaign in 2012 @PatJSullivan
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