And it’s Biden’s to lose

Despite a strong start for Bernie Sanders and his revolution, the establishment forces have convincingly coalesced around Joe Biden.

Facing non-viability on the eve of Super Tuesday, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both suddenly ceded their campaigns to endose Joe Biden. Rumors circulated that Obama had nudged some reluctant competitors toward accepting their fate.

Regardless of who called the shots and who pulled the strings, the sudden alignment of such seemingly bitter rivals helped to propel Biden toward a significant lead over both Bloomberg and Bernie. While Sanders managed to hold an edge in California, his margins were ultimately slim, and Joe carried the night in most of the other contests.

Tonight wasn’t much different. Bernie seems to have small leads on the west coast, but the prospect of a united Democratic front has won over swing voters and the once-mythical “Never-Trump Republican.” These oft-discussed but rarely seen conservatives believe in right wing values like limited government and economic non-intervention, but they draw the line at the crass and brutal methods that a populist like Trump carries them out with. Unsurprisingly, these voters are just fine with Biden while fears of Bernie keep them up late at night.

Biden seems immune to criticisms on policy, competency, or even basic awareness of his surroundings. It has been suggested that we wouldn’t see much of him during his administration, while various factions of the old Obama coalition wage a sort of civil war for influence behind the scenes.

Voters seem to hope that he is a figurehead – a blank slate and symbol of, well, decency? Joe might not be the smartest guy in the room, or the hippest, or the most connected, or the coolest… but dangit, he’s probably a good guy and he’s been through some shit.

That might be exactly where the median voter is right now, so if this race is anybody’s, it’s Joe Biden’s to lose.

Polls show Bernie surging into Nevada

The final state-wide polls for the Nevada primary caucus have shown a huge surge for Bernie: from 25% to 30% in just the last week. Individual polls have shown numbers as high as 35%, but there aren’t enough samples to know if these are outliers or indicators of a strong upward trend.

Entrance and exit polls – although notoriously unreliable – are also showing a strong Bernie performance:

Beyond early guesses at who will win tonight, and with what margins, there are some other interesting data points we can clean from the flurry of polls aimed at primary participants:

Conservative Democrats have long cited the large number of Democrats who identify as conservative and moderate in their opposition to Bernie (ie: strong liberals do not have a majority).

But what this really shows (and it can also be derived from support for M4A) is that a lot of Democrats who call themselves moderate also favor progressive values and politicians. The reality of 2020 is that moderate Democrats are, for the most part, progressives. Of course, I’m talking about voters & not representatives, because we’ve still got a bit of a gap there.

New Hampshire Coming Down to Pete vs. Bernie

Based on the current polling averages at 538

While the deadline for candidates to contest results in Iowa still isn’t here yet, New Hampshire almost is. Voting will occur on Tuesday – and we’re hoping the results will actually be available in a timely fashion.

Iowa is a complete dumpster fire right now, and the failure of the state party echoes the many failures of the national party over the last decade: most notably, the failure to stop Trump’s ascent to national political supremacy.

While the party admits that many of the results are faulty or based on flawed mathematics, they also appear to be taking a stance that their count is final and cannot be contested further. The acceptance of formal complaints appears to be a mere formality at this point. If I’m wrong, I’ll be pleasantly surprised…

Anyway, these Iowa results seem to have two major winners and one big loser.

The winners are Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, and the loser is Joe Biden. Both Pete and Sanders are seeing significant gains in last-minute New Hampshire polling, while Joe’s prior standing has utterly collapsed. Just as many on the left predicted, Biden’s campaign relied too heavily on the idea of electability. As soon as he suffered his first defeat, there was no charming personality or popular policy to fall back on.

Pete now has the mantle of electability among centrist Democrats – and he seems to have plenty of allies on non-Fox cable news outlets, as well. He’s exactly the kind of candidate that the op-ed pages at the New York Times and Washington Post have been waiting for. Whether or not he has a fan base beyond that demographic is yet to be seen. There haven’t been a whole lot of national polls since then, but the distribution of the numbers in NH and SC seem to indicate that Pete’s support remains regional (and by regional, I mean that he only does well with white people).

Bernie has also received a modest boost from his strong finish in Iowa. He seems to have picked up some of Biden’s prior supporters – people who liked Bernie’s ideas but feared he couldn’t win elections. Seeing him then defeat their exemplar of electability probably converted at least a few.

Warren’s campaign appears to have run out of steam. Some of her tactics have been questionable at best, and it just doesn’t seem to be working out for her. In particular, she attempted to approach the debate with a fiery tone but moderate solutions. That’s backwards: if your tone implies urgency, then the solutions must be urgent.

Amy Klobuchar appears to have played the act a little better – at least at the debate – as her poll numbers are actually up a little bit despite her poor ranking in Iowa.

New Hampshire is just around the corner, and hopefully in a few days we’ll have new insights in to the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Right now it definitely looks like a contest between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, but Pete has big weaknesses once we leave the midwest and rural New England. In the national rankings, Bernie looks increasingly dominant – and his path to nomination seems to be laid out with little to stand in his way.

All eyes on Iowa

After many years of anticipating a challenge to Trump, all eyes have turned to Iowa for the opening caucus of the 2020 Democratic primary season.

Recent polls have shown a bit of a last minute surge for Bernie Sanders while Biden has slipped to second. Pete and Warren have held steady so far, but they’ll need to do better than that if they want to pick up the win each campaign desperately wants. And a win in Iowa can be a major moment for any candidate. People like to back a winner, and as of tonight only one candidate will be able to claim that mantle.

If Bernie does win tonight, he’s likely to also pick up the win in New Hampshire next week. The polls there show him with an even larger lead than current indicated in Iowa. Two early victories are still a long way from winning the nomination, but it puts a serious damper on Biden’s electability argument and it would effectively eliminate Pete Buttigieg who has, so far, bet big on those early victories and the implied momentum they bring.

Surprises and last minute attacks

A few odd events have transpired in the last few days. The Des Moines Register poll – considered the gold standard – has broken with its 76 year tradition and pulled their results instead of publishing. Some concerns had arisen that not all choices were read to all participants, and the decision was made at the last minute to bail on the poll rather than publish results that may have tarnished their long established reputation for accuracy.

Biden has also continued waffling along in his own weird way. After aggressively turning away potential supporters who asked for clarifications of his stances, he is now lowering expectations for Iowa performance. The rumor from the trail in Iowa is that his volunteers are mostly no-shows and his campaign has been struggling to provide transportation to the polls. Everyone seems to want the assistance, but no one is willing to lend a hand.

John Kerry was also overheard in Iowa suggesting that he might just have to run for president, himself. While there’s something deeply ironic about the guy who lost to Bush thinking he’s the only one who can stop Trump, he’s attempted to quash these rumors publicly by reaffirming his support for Biden.

Project Veritas has also launched an attack on Warren, but that’s hardly worth mentioning and it’s unlikely that it will have much impact (given both the reputation of the source and the thin nature of the attack content).

Just the first step

Regardless of who wins tonight, the primary nomination process has a long way to go. But for now, all eyes are on Iowa. Pundits will fill volumes tomorrow analyzing and interpreting what happens tonight, and many may even be filling out updates resumes and job applications.

While it’s unlikely that any candidates drop out immediately in response to Iowa’s results (New Hampshire is just next week, after all) it could provide a big clue as to who will be forced to drop within the month. Pete and Warren, in particular, could be extremely vulnerable to lost momentum in the case of under-performance.