CMTV’s State of the Race: A Pre-Thanksgiving Primary Primer

ABOVE: Photos by DonkeyHotey from flickr.com

Written by Ben Szioli

Once more unto the breach, dear friends; it’s Thanksgiving.

For the majority of Americans, Thanksgiving dinner represents the most diverse range of opinions that they’re exposed to all year long, as well as the most political tension. And for those who don’t fall into that category, the mainstream experience is pretty universally relatable; it’s stressful to be thrown into a public gathering alongside people whose opinions are completely incompatible with your own.

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Your uncle has been binging Dinesh D’Souza, and he isn’t going to miss a beat on his immigration rant. Your aunt just met Michael Moore at a protest, and she can’t wait to tell you about the voter reg’ drive her book club is running with the Warren campaign. You need to study up, too.

For that reason, I’ve put together an introduction to the 2020 presidential election. I’m going to take the uncommon position of handling both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Some relative or another will likely still say you’ve been listening to the crooked mainstream media, but at least you can flex some bipartisan knowledge to head that off.

Just over two months remain until voting starts in Iowa. Nineteen Democrats and four Republicans are still in the running, and here they are.

DEMOCRATS

Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE): After remaining above 30% support in national polls for most of May and June, Biden was wounded badly by Senator Kamala Harris’s attacks during the June debate and then by former HUD Secretary Julián Castro’s attacks during the September debate. Since then, he has struggled to stay above 25% in the polls. Senator Elizabeth Warren briefly caught up to Biden in October at her peak of 26%. He is now trending back toward 30%, as Senator Warren recedes from her peak and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg stalls.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA): In September, after former HUD Secretary Castro questioned former Vice President Biden’s connection to the legacy of former President Barack Obama, Warren began to pick up support, peaking at 26% in October. An inability to deliver on Medicare For All, plus concerns about her scandals, have eroded that support. Warren has fallen back below 20% as Biden and Mayor Buttigieg coalesce around attacking Warren.

Senator Bernie Sanders (VT): After his heart attack at the beginning of October, Sanders has picked up endorsements from Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar. Supporters are feeling the urgency, and Sanders’s polling has surged to 18%, a support level not seen by his campaign since before the debates began.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN): With donors and centrist media clamoring for an establishment alternative to Biden, Buttigieg has risen to the occasion, attacking Medicare For All proposals by Senators Warren and Sanders, but in particular Warren. He is now back up to around 10% in polling aggregates, surpassing the 8% high water mark left by his initial rise to prominence in June.

Senator Kamala Harris (CA): Harris’s June attack on former Vice President Biden went well at first, but the media backlash caught up. The Harris spike came and went, and she has fallen to 4% support. Mayor Buttigieg is working hard to present the impression that he has replaced Harris as the final serious candidate, but both are likely to be hanging on in the debates for the foreseeable future.


Andrew Yang: Having begun around 1% in the polls for a few months, tech CEO Andrew Yang has been running 2-3% consistently, while the cutoff for the debates has been trending toward a requirement of 4% in certain polls. He may soon be excluded, as his donor base is limited to a cult-classic following of sorts, and he is not picking up traction with sane people.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY): Bloomberg said he wasn’t running, but he might, but he didn’t want to, but he was considering it… if former Vice President Biden flopped. Now that Biden is flopping, all eyes are on Bloomberg, and oh lawd he comin. Clocking in at 2-3% support, Bloomberg seemed to actually consider withdrawing his campaign for a few days in November, delaying filing paperwork. He even floated his Alabama ballot registration in the news to gauge hype. Something in his internal polling numbers is adding up, so Bloomberg decided to fully launch his campaign on November 24th. Polling I have seen indicates that if former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry entered the race, it would propel Senator Sanders into first place. Interesting.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI): Stymied around 1% support for a while, Gabbard has surged to 2% after former Secretary of State Clinton implied that Gabbard was a Russian asset being groomed to run third-party. Gabbard now represents a lightning rod of conflict between progressives and the centrist wing of the DNC that was spurned by Gabbard’s 2016 resignation from the organization in order to endorse Senator Sanders. Gabbard is likely to make one or two more debate appearances after this, which promise to remain fiery.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): Klobuchar is mired at a polling level of 1-2%. Her continued presence in the debates reflects the general centrist clamor for a Biden replacement, but it is clear that the establishment isn’t considering Klobuchar seriously.

Senator Cory Booker (NJ): Short on both cash and enthusiasm, Booker’s campaign has been living fundraising call to fundraising call. His polling is down to 1-2% from a high of 5%, and it’s likely that he will pack it up soon when debate requirements are raised.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (TX): Castro did a good thing, attacking Biden, but he also flew directly into the sun. Democratic voters want a uniter, and attacking Biden excluded Castro in the eyes of many primary voters. His campaign has threatened to fold at least once unless a fundraising goal was met, so the end should be coming.

Tom Steyer: What a bizarre campaign. Steyer is the billionaire who bought his way into the last debate and is going to try to continue buying his way into debates. I’m really not sure why. I guess because he already put so much legwork into becoming a very visible critic of President Trump that now he has to go through with running even though the support isn’t there and probably never will be. Sunk cost fallacy.


Senator Michael Bennet (CO): I have no idea how this guy is still running. No one likes him, he was never well-supported, he debates with the authority of a camp counselor, his ideas are boring, no one listens to him… surely it’ll end soon.

Former Representative John Delaney (MD): Stephen Colbert said that Delaney looks like a real-life version of that guy who’s friends with Hank from King of the Hill, and truer words have never been spoken. He made a great backboard for Senator Warren to dunk on during the earlier debates, with his “we can’t do it” attitude. Another hopefully soon-to-be-dead campaign.

Governor Steve Bullock (MT): Somehow this dude has a donor base; I guess because he’s a serving governor. It’s not large enough for him to stay in the debates or polls. It’s all over for him, essentially, but since there is still a need for an establishment candidate, he’s still here hoping, I guess.

Marianne Williamson: Somehow, New Age author Marianne Williamson was a nice addition to the debates. A shame that her campaign is reduced to a protest vote situation. She’s talking about a lot of interesting issues right now using the small platform provided by being a bottom-tier presidential candidate.

Former Governor Deval Patrick (MA): When Bloomberg’s campaign appeared to backfire, filing for the ballot in Alabama and then halting, Deval Patrick sprung into action. I had only heard of him because I had the pleasure of living in MA under his administration, and that might explain why he is polling at 0%. Patrick gained absolutely nothing from Bloomberg’s fumble, and it seems like Patrick made a mistake in entering the race.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam (FL) and former Representative Joe Sestak (PA): It’s easy to forget that these guys were ever in the running. Neither of them appeared in a debate and neither of them polls above 0%. I think they may only still be running because it would be more embarrassing to end the campaign and remind people that it ever existed, rather than simply allowing it to be forgotten.


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY): Apparently, Clinton still thinks she could win and that running might be a good idea. As former Vice President Biden flounders, Clinton and former Secretary of State Kerry have been thrown out as possible replacement candidates for the establishment. As I mentioned earlier, I saw polling indicating that if those two candidates joined the race along with Bloomberg, Senator Sanders would take the lead.


REPUBLICANS

Incumbent President Donald Trump (FL): Yes, for those of you who may have missed it; Trump is now a Florida resident. He has fittingly been run out of a city that never really liked him that much. That’s beside the point. Currently Trump has the nomination locked down, with four states canceling their primary contests to try to ensure his victory. Impeachment has Republican voters tenuously doubling down on the President, anchoring his approval rating and by proxy, his political survival, for now.

Former Representative Joe Walsh (IL): Former talk show host who has admitted he was wrong about President Trump. He has the attitude to oppose Trump from within the GOP, but does he have the support? Polling shows him as high as 5% in one poll… but Trump is averaging 80-90%.

Former Governor Bill Weld (MA): Former Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate. Not taken very seriously among Republicans even though his conservatism is very strict. He’s signed up for the NH primary. This makes him somewhat of a favorite son in that race, being a New Englander.

Roque De La Fuente: Literally never heard of this guy in my life, but apparently he runs frequently for public office. He managed to file for ballot access in Alabama, which is clerically very difficult to do, given that Alabama is strongly pro-Trump, the state party is not interested in a primary challenge, and none of the Republican challengers has what could be seen as a “ground game” to file those kinds of papers on their behalf. Still, he doesn’t poll above 0%.

The Curious Case of Senator Mitt Romney (UT): He says he isn’t running, but yet, he also wants to do something about the corruption President Trump embodies. The press keeps running tales of glory about how Mitt is raring to go. This could turn into an impeachment drive, or it could turn into a presidential run. It will be interesting to see which it is.

EULOGIES

Former State Senator Major Richard Ojeda (WV) 1/25/19: This guy started running and stopped running all before anyone else started. That’s a feat.
Representative Eric Swalwell (CA) 7/8/19: Swalwell was like having a designated frat member on the debate stage. He was the establishment’s first attempt to sell a cheerful near-millennial candidate face to older voters. That combined with his extremist assault weapons ban views led to him quickly running out of rope and having to drop out.
Former NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio (NY) 9/20/19: De Blasio just never really took off. I heard him speak a few days before his campaign folded, and he sounded invigorated, but sometimes the money just isn’t there.
Former Senator Mike Gravel (AK) 8/6/19: Gravel ran as an issues candidate, trying to push his way into the debate. He was the only candidate to meet the donor requirement for the second Democratic debate but miss the polling requirement and be excluded. After failing to make that debate, Gravel dropped out, and his proxy campaign endorsed Senator Sanders.
Former Governor John Hickenlooper (CO) 8/19/19: Hickenlooper’s campaign was bizarre, beginning with an anecdote about watching porn with his mother and devolving into a man with hungry eyes ranting about how we can’t afford things we need to survive. Seriously, look at his eyes when he speaks publicly. He’s just way too excited about centrism.
Governor Jay Inslee (WA) 8/21/19: Inslee tried to be a one-issue climate candidate, and as far-reaching an issue as climate is, that was a losing strategy. It was only a matter of time before Inslee was rejected for more well-rounded candidates.
Representative Seth Moulton (MA) 8/23/19: After missing the first debate, Moulton stayed in the race impressively long… not sure why. He missed the second debate and dropped out when it became clear he would miss the third debate as well. Truth be told, I can’t say a thing about the guy, positive or negative.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) 8/28/19: Gillibrand’s campaign misfired from the start, taking flak for very early advances toward donors who were fleeing the collapsing Clinton 2016 campaign. Then, ethics concerns arose, and polling stalled. She dropped out the day she missed the deadline for the September debate.
Representative Tim Ryan (OH) 10/24/19: God, this guy was really annoying. Once Ryan missed the fourth debate qualifications, he dutifully suspended his campaign rather than continuing to concern troll about what conservatives and racists might do to us if we try to do the right thing. His “forgotten” voters are a euphemism for angry white people, and his advice about issues is typically focused on corralling those voters.
Former Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX) 11/1/19: As polling stalled, O’Rourke did what former Representative Swalwell did and went off the deep end with an extreme gun control proposal that was extremely poorly received. After attempting dialogue with gun owners and mostly being mocked, O’Rourke faced the music and closed up shop.

Howard Schultz 9/6/19: The CEO of Starbucks tried running for President while his company was in the middle of a wage fairness controversy. When he was rightfully criticized every single day for the actions of his company, he was driven out of the race.

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