1/22/2020: State of the Race, pt. 7

Photo (ABOVE): Marcela / Wikimedia Commons

Written by Ben Szioli

With the dust clearing from the January debate, it seems that Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) has emerged unscathed from his fight with Senator Liz Warren (MA), whereas Warren seems to have taken a noticeable hit. Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE) and others have seized on this chance to attack Senator Sanders, or more accurately, to pretend to be attacked by Sanders, in hopes of sinking his chances at unifying the party. Like other manufactured attempts to smear Sanders, it’s unclear if this strategy will work.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg and Buttigieg have moved into a tie for fourth place. Polling has been slow for several days, and when it picks up, it’s likely that Bloomberg will pass Buttigieg. For more on each candidate, see below.


Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE): This week, Biden is imitating the likes of Sidney Crosby, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Manu Ginobili: flopping. Much like a hockey player who grabs his opponent’s stick and falls to the ice in front of a referee (or a child who cries “they won’t stop hitting me!” alone in the back seat of a car), Biden is faking as if Bernie attacked him. I think this plays into what I was saying last week: that everyone knows divisive tactics are a sure loser this year. With Senator Warren attacking Bernie and being quite likely to get burnt for it, I’m sure lots of folks wish Bernie would fight back and ruin his own chances.

Toward that goal, Biden’s campaign cried foul over Bernie’s campaign’s criticisms of Biden’s record on Social Security. Referring to a video that didn’t include the parts they wish it included, Biden’s campaign called it “doctored.” And when they seized on an opinion-editorial by Zephyr Teachout (a dedicated anti-corruption expert and Sanders surrogate) that described Biden as having “a big corruption problem,” Sanders even took the wind out of their sails by apologizing. It seems very unlikely that any candidate will succeed in goading Bernie into attacking them, or painting Bernie as if he is attacking them. Surrogates and staffers don’t count.

In one final bizarre note, continuing his anti-video game rhetoric, Biden called video game developers “creeps” who “teach you how to kill people.” Maybe that kind of stuff was popular with voters back in 1990, but nowadays, everyone knows there is no link between video games and mass violence. Even dedicating a moment to wondering about such a link is a colossal waste of time; which could potentially be Biden’s secondary slogan, after “And Then It Got Even Worse.”

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Senator Bernie Sanders (VT): Bernie is finally averaging 20% in the polls, an all-time high since serious polling began. The magic number is 25%. Biden’s support dipped to an all-time low of around 24% in April. If Sanders can recreate those polling conditions, bringing himself and Biden together at 24-25%, Sanders would likely move into a frontrunner position. Attacks are coming from all sides, but Sanders isn’t biting. With just days til Iowa, there is no need to fight anyone. The voters will hit Bernie’s opponents harder than Bernie ever could. The less he fights, the worse they look, and the stronger he appears.

Just like his heart attack and the attacks by Warren last week, these attacks from Biden and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY) are only likely to elevate Bernie in the final days before voting begins. Sanders came out unscathed from the debate last week after being set up by CNN moderators’ leading questions. He even held his own when Warren ambushed him on stage when they both knew there were hot mics all around them. Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national TV, and Sanders turned the accusation around, pointing out that Warren called Sanders the same. However, showing class, Sanders convinced Warren not to discuss the topic then and there with mics running and Tom Steyer breathing down their necks.

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Senator Liz Warren (MA): Warren is starting to feel the pain from the attacks she made on Sanders. The blowback has been much worse than the gunshot, so to speak. Polling has been sparse in the last week, but preliminarily, Warren could drop as low as 11-12% in the coming weeks. That would put her in a particularly poor position in Iowa. That could result in many of her supporters caucusing with Sanders in Iowa. If he enters the caucus with a lead, that boost could push him over the top and into a strong victory. A loss in New Hampshire would weaken Warren, and then whether she won Massachusetts or not, she would likely be eliminated from contention.

In positive news, Warren received the endorsement of the New York Times editorial board. However, softening that endorsement (which was expected to go to Warren), the editorial board also endorsed Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN). It’s almost a snub, in a way. Warren can’t catch a break.

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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN): You had one job, Pete: to hold fourth place. And Pete is failing. Buttigieg has come into a near-tie with Bloomberg, sitting around 7% in the polls. Give it another poll, maybe two, and he will be knocked out of the top 4. This comes as Buttigieg has lost nearly all traction in the news. Recently, he was pilloried by activists who drowned out supporters at an event, holding signs reading “Pete Takes Money From Fossil Fuel Billionaires.” Buttigieg tepidly informed the crowd that “we want the same things,” before realizing that the protesters outnumbered anyone who would possibly give a damn.

Buttigieg will likely outperform his national polling average in Iowa. He holds a unique support level among early state voters who see him as a totally viable option alongside Biden and Sanders. Still, the caucus format goes against him, as his minority of supporters will have ample opportunity to switch and caucus with other, more viable candidates. Still, Iowa could very well send Buttigieg’s polling average back upward as later-state voters take him more seriously based on his performance in the early states.

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Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (NY): Riding on the strength of his ad campaigns, plus Buttigieg’s struggles, Bloomberg has soared to 7% in the polls, nearly enough to claim fourth place. Bloomberg continues to roll out policy proposal after policy proposal. The constant churn of mundane advertising news, polling updates, and policy packages has done a lot to cover the gaps in Bloomberg’s campaign. He seems like a very normal presidential candidate right now, which is certainly contributing to the increasing number of voters who find him nationally viable.

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Andrew Yang: Yang’s debate status going forward is in serious jeopardy. While he is polling at an all-time high, he has not broken 5% in his polling average, and that could be the end of his campaign. Yang is hoping to maximize his delegate count in the first few contests, which will allow him to reevaluate his campaign as the race reorients itself. It will be interesting to see who he endorses, ultimately, since those delegates are going to be… pretty weird delegates. It stands to reason that many may vote for Sanders, but political considerations may see Yang endorsing someone else over Sanders, in search of a cabinet position.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): Klobuchar is still in the race, relegated to mostly agreeing with other candidates in the debates. There has always been a sort of “traveling circus” vibe to Klobuchar’s campaign. Along those lines, the show must go on, and Klobuchar continues to find ways to chime in and stick with the pack. Fittingly, the New York Times endorsed Klobuchar alongside Warren, with Warren’s endorsement overshadowing Klobuchar’s. Overperforming in Iowa could change the calculus for Klobuchar, but that looks unlikely to happen.

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Tom Steyer: Steyer played a pretty funny role in the Sanders-Warren spat, accidentally walking into the middle of the two candidates’ post-debate catfight.

Besides that, Steyer is doing pretty well in polls, especially in the early states. He also has attracted attention in straw polls online and was viewed as a debate winner by some, a result of the thinning field of candidates. His policies are to Bloomberg’s left, his ads are everywhere, and he has higher favorability than Bloomberg, so the surge isn’t surprising. It also just isn’t good enough to take to the bank.

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The Curious Case of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY): Clinton is almost certainly not running for president (thank God), but she is hamming it up to the press in support of her stupid documentary. Her latest stunt is that she blatantly attacked Bernie and his supporters, and stated that she would not necessarily support him as the Democratic nominee. She and her circle may hate Bernie, but it is straightforwardly delusional to tell yourself that “nobody likes” the most beloved politician in America.

This mirrors her actions in 2008, when she lost to Former President Barack Obama (HI) and then sat back as a quarter of her base voted for the late Senator John McCain (AZ). “Party unity, my ass” was Hillary’s motto then, and whether she and her supporters say it or not, it remains her motto this year. After Bernie literally nominated her for president at the Democratic National Convention and then campaigned for her energetically, Hillary is basically throwing it all back in his face. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s not a war going on here.

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Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI): Tulsi’s polling has been flat for a long time now. She is basically excluded from voters’ consideration, and her soapbox platform is seeming less and less formidable every day. As I’ve said several times, Gabbard needs to drop out and make an endorsement while that endorsement might still be meaningful.

Gabbard also pressed a $50 million lawsuit against Clinton today, for defamation relating to Clinton’s accusations of, basically, treason from a few weeks ago. Between Sanders and Gabbard, Clinton’s attacks have boosted her opponents by 5-10% in the polls. Between that and the lawsuit, obviously this isn’t working for Hillary.

She did win a pushup contest this week, at least. Army Strong?

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Former Representative John Delaney (MD): Disappointingly, Delaney hasn’t posted a new workout video in a while. The Atlantic put out a damning piece about him this week, questioning, as I have for weeks, why Delaney is still running. According to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (which states that any headline asking a yes or no question can be answered “no”), we would expect that Delaney, or at least the author of the article, doesn’t know why Delaney is still around. I find that a pretty shallow analysis. The man is a millionaire. The best reason why he is still running is that it hasn’t become costly for him yet. Why stop if you’re not losing anything in the process?

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Senator Michael Bennet (CO): Bennet is still hanging around in hopes of getting “a second look” from voters. He did reach a $750,000 fundraising goal in New Hampshire, where he needs to place quite high in order to justify continuing his campaign. With impeachment preliminarily limited to a two-day affair, there’s no reason why Bennet should miss time on the campaign trail. Only his momentum (or lack thereof) is limiting him now.

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Former Governor Deval Patrick (MA): After doubling down on visiting his home city of Chicago, Patrick is riding hard on a reparations policy he just rolled out. This makes him the only candidate in the running who has committed to supporting reparations before studying their effects. Patrick promised previously that he would make waves this week. While this is a dramatic policy position, it’s also not a policy position that the average voter will ever learn about. Patrick’s media footprint is way too small to be seen here. The field may have thinned out, but it was lack of enthusiasm, not a large field, that hampered Patrick.


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Incumbent President Donald Trump (FL): I never have any idea what to say about this guy. Still President. Still polling above 90%. Nothing changes til Iowa. And even then, probably not.

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Former Governor Bill Weld (MA): Weld and company continue to poll in the cellar with Iowa just around the corner. While Iowa hasn’t been polled on the Republican side since October, Weld’s high water mark of 10% in the state doesn’t look achievable anymore. He and Former Representative Joe Walsh (IL) are mired at around 2% in the polls, with neither of them clearly outpacing the other. Barring some dramatic outcome in Iowa, the Republican Party has probably succeeded in shutting down its primary. While depressing to see, this is not without precedent. The same was done in 2012 with Obama, as well as for other past incumbents.

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Former Representative Joe Walsh (IL): Walsh wasn’t even able to get into the Republican National Convention headquarters to deliver a complaint he wrote up about ballot access. They won’t even let him into the building to discuss being on the ballot. That’s sort of an exaggeration, but not really.

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Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente: De la Fuente has settled in, with no more ballot access to obtain. He has a new campaign manager, and will likely go quiet for the rest of the election, as voting is about to begin.

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The Curious Case of Senator Mitt Romney (UT): Romney is back in action, working in private to try to avoid a kangaroo court in Trump’s Senate trial. Romney has apparently gathered enough support to ensure that at least some witnesses are called, despite the wishes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Trump himself. While that may sound very minor, and it requires little from Romney, it’s also very important. If witnesses are called, the chance of Trump being convicted goes from 0% to… not 0%. If the Democrats parlay that into public testimony from Former Ambassador John Bolton, that chance goes up even more. It’s something to keep an eye on.


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