1/27/20: State of the Race, pt. 8

Photo (ABOVE): US Senate / Wikimedia Commons

Written by Ben Szioli

Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE) is drifting in first place as Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) closes in from behind. Senator Liz Warren (MA) is falling off quickly, as Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg hits rock bottom and is passed in the polls by Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Polling is beginning to fall into place in the week before Iowa. The pre-voting period of the election is nearly over. Soon, we will have not just polls to sort through, but also delegate counts and an election calendar. For final pre-election analysis of every candidate, check out the list below.

DEMOCRATS

Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE): Crickets from Biden this week. Biden’s numbers aren’t falling overall, but he has suffered in the early states, and Senator Sanders is hot on his heels. Currently, Biden is slated to receive 22% in Iowa (tied for first), 17% in New Hampshire (second), 24% in Nevada (first), and a whopping 37% to take the lead in South Carolina.

A poor showing in New Hampshire could chip away at the Biden campaign’s appearance of inevitability and diversity. Biden could potentially be held off the board in NH, receiving no delegates, whereas Sanders is likely to collect delegates in all four early voting states. Biden is hoping to ride to victory on the strength of his polling, but that is a dangerous game. Polling will be totally reshaped in just a week when the results are announced in Iowa.

However, while Biden is polling in a tie for first place in Iowa, his support comes from disproportionately older voters. According to the New York Times, older voters are less likely to make it out to a caucus to begin with. They are also less likely to stay and caucus with a new candidate if their candidate falls through. Because of that, the normally high-turnout senior vote means ever-so-slightly less in Iowa and Nevada, and that could provide an opening for Sanders to make up ground.

In other news, according to the Washington Post, the idea of using Biden’s son Hunter as a sacrificial lamb in the impeachment trial has been thrown around in the past few weeks. Apparently some Democrats are considering allowing lawyers from President Donald Trump (FL) to cross-examine Hunter Biden. In exchange, they seek potentially damning testimony from Trump Administration figures, in particular, Former Ambassador John Bolton.

It’s hard to imagine the impeachment issue festering long enough to impact the general election, even if Hunter Biden did testify for the impeachment trial. In Joe Biden’s case, however, impeachment highlights an issue that is not going away. President Trump will use these accusations against him, no matter what happens between now and then. The uncertainty is whether Biden has the resiliency to respond to those accusations without tanking a presidential campaign. With his tendency to double down on his own gaffes, it’s not clear that he does.

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Senator Bernie Sanders (VT): As I predicted, Sanders’s polling has continued to soar. Attacks from Senator Warren’s supporters and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY) herself rolled off Bernie this week like sea spray off the wing of a gull. Bernie refuses to take the bait from a furious centrist establishment that wishes Bernie would sabotage his own chance to win.

Instead, Sanders intends to keep his head up and enter Iowa strong, where he is tied with Biden at 22% for first place. A win there could easily put him into first place overall. A win in New Hampshire, where Sanders is alone in first place with 21%, would do a lot toward those ends, as well. Sanders is also likely to pick up delegates in both Nevada and South Carolina, where he holds 21% and 16% of the vote, respectively. This makes him the only candidate besides Biden that is expected to collect delegates in all four of the early states.

The political establishment is losing their minds, with corporate rag news outlets publishing piece after piece about how Bernie is racist, is sexist, can’t win, is just like Trump, and hates puppies. There were even calls for Sanders to denounce former Fear Factor host Joe Rogan, who endorsed Sanders this week – well, actually, no, he just publicly stated that he would vote for Sanders. In the eyes of centrists, this in itself warrants a disavowal from the campaign, apparently.

The journalistic integrity in this pattern of reporting is lacking, to say the least. This is coverage of narratives about Sanders, not reporting of events or facts. Coverage that qualifies as opinion writing is rarely marked as opinion, and even more rarely is it read that way.

While Sanders may not end up winning the whole election, the attacks on him at this juncture are ridiculous, and that is why they aren’t working. The depiction of Sanders as a scheming party-wrecker has no validity with anyone who isn’t absolutely lit on DNC Kool-Aid. If you could possibly believe this stuff about Sanders, you’d already believe it without the media feeding it to you. It’s propagandizing to the choir.

So in this last week, Sanders will try to collect as much momentum behind him, whether that be in the form of polling, donations, or rallies. Riding the energy into Iowa, he just might win.

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Senator Liz Warren (MA): Since attacking Sanders during the last debate, Warren has plummeted below the 15% threshold to receive delegates in any of the first four primaries and caucuses. While she still has a chance to salvage some delegates in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she sits just below 15% support, victory looks further out of reach in Nevada and South Carolina. With national polls only worsening for Warren this week, it will take a lot to turn her fortunes around. Going through four contests without picking up a delegate would ruin Warren. The endorsement of the Des Moines Register may be too little, too late, with just a week left to change Iowans’ minds.

Souring that Iowa endorsement was a viral exchange between Warren and a man who reportedly paid his daughter’s way through college without taking loans. When asked if the man would get his money back under a debt forgiveness plan, Warren replied tactlessly, “Of course not.” This only further enraged the man, who Warren shrugged off with a “thanks for your input” sort of response. Icing on the cake: the man refused Warren’s handshake. What goes around comes around, I guess.

There are many different ways to respond to this man, and none of them are ideal during a noisy campaign stop. But “of course not” is conspicuously absent from the metaphorical list of good responses. You could discuss the difference between predatory lending and price hiking. You could discuss disparities in loan access. You could point out that his daughter could more easily attend graduate school if college costs were brought down. You could point out that when someone gets screwed over, in no other domain than education do we say, “Yeah, but fixing that would be unfair to everyone else who suffered from it in the past.”

Creating Social Security? Unfair to everyone who’s already retired. Water regulations? Unfair to everyone who already drank dirty water. Finding a cure for cancer? Unfair to everyone who already died of cancer.

You could attack these ridiculous lines of argument in many ways, but Warren did not. She just told the guy “of course not.” And that is why “I’ve got a plan for that” isn’t good enough if you can’t explain the moral backing behind your plans or, worse, if there is no moral backing behind your plans at all.

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Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (NY): Though Bloomberg has risen to 7.5% in the polls to pass Former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg, he isn’t polling above 5% in any of the early voting states. When Super Tuesday rolls around, Bloomberg will be off the board as far as delegates go, and he should become a non-factor in the election.

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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN): Buttigieg’s national polling average just keeps falling and falling, as his own surrogates acknowledge that the campaign is “on life support” in South Carolina, where Buttigieg is polling at 5%. His 7% polling average in Nevada would also not be good enough to earn him any delegates. Though he is polling at 17% in Iowa and 15% in New Hampshire, Buttigieg will likely enter Super Tuesday without a single delegate from the third and fourth contests of the primary season. Unless he wins Iowa or New Hampshire, Buttigieg is unlikely to climb any further than his former fourth-place spot, if that.

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Andrew Yang (NY): Yang is polling between 3% and 4% in the first four states to vote. So while he may have just qualified for the February debate, he should be nearly out of contention by the time that debate occurs. Whatever momentum Yang has nationally, he isn’t being taken as seriously by early voters as Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) below.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): Klobuchar may be a debate mainstay, but she isn’t polling as a serious option. In a reverse of Yang’s situation, Klobuchar’s 9% and 7% averages in Iowa and New Hampshire are promising, but besides the horse-race followers in the first two states, voters don’t seem to be giving Klobuchar a chance. She is polling at 3% in Nevada and just 2% in South Carolina. A good piece of news, however small, is that the impeachment proceedings are not slowing Klobuchar (or any of the other Senators) down on the campaign trail.

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Tom Steyer (CA): Steyer is outperforming his 2% national polling average in all four of the early voting states: 3% in Iowa, 3% in New Hampshire, 7% in Nevada, and 8% in South Carolina. However, with the most promising polling concentrated on the third and fourth contests, Steyer is likely to take a hit when he finishes poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. And even if the current polling held, he would not receive a single delegate before Super Tuesday. Popularity with black voters is buoying him, but won’t push him to victory.

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The Curious Case of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (NY): After Clinton claimed last week that “nobody likes” Bernie and that she wouldn’t necessarily support him as nominee, there was a big blowback. On the 21st, Clinton pledged in a tweet to support the Democratic nominee, no matter who they are. This is why even if you do not support a politician, you need to push them to do the right thing. They very often will, surprising as that may be. While politicians are by and large corrupt, they are accountable in the form of elections. Even a retired politician like Clinton has a lot to lose at the polls.

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Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI): Gabbard was nearly silent this week after announcing her lawsuit against Clinton for defamation. With just a week remaining until voting, Gabbard is still sporting an expiration date.

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Senator Michael Bennet (CO): Bennet has doubled down fully on New Hampshire, pledging to spend all his remaining time campaigning there. This puts him out of contention in Iowa for certain. And with Bennet polling below 1% in NH as well, it puts him out of contention there, and everywhere else. And saying it “puts” him there is too generous, since he was already there.

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Former Representative John Delaney (MD): Staying out of the news this week, Delaney continues to run a campaign that is of no interest to anyone but himself. And no new workout videos, either.

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Former Governor Deval Patrick (MA): Amid hometown speculation that Patrick is only in the race to seek a vice presidential spot, the candidate has announced a bus tour of New Hampshire that will keep him, like Bennet, out of Iowa until voting begins. If you see Gabbard’s campaign as having a shelf life, you have to admit that Bennet and Patrick’s campaigns have much shorter shelf lives.

REPUBLICANS

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Incumbent President Donald Trump (FL): Trump is still cruising to an easy primary victory. Iowa will be a certain victory for him, and it seems that so will every other state after that. Impeachment is still not a relevant issue in the presidential race, nor should it be. Regardless of legal proceedings, Trump has done what he has done. He is who he is. Impeachment should provide accountability to Trump and future presidents, but it isn’t meant to provide election leverage. Voters can judge Trump on anything they want, whether he is impeached or unimpeached; convicted or acquitted.

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Former Governor Bill Weld (MA): Governor Weld got one last glimmer of hope in the week before voting begins. Weld received support from 6% of the vote in a national poll run by Emerson between the 21st and 23rd of January. This is perhaps the strongest polling number of the entire election for Weld. While he has basically no chance to win, if someone had a chance… it would be him.

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Former Representative Joe Walsh (IL): A Midwesterner, Walsh has just days to finish making his case to Iowans that somebody ought to challenge Trump – specifically Walsh. If or when he’s unable to do that, Walsh will be effectively eliminated from contention.

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Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente: De la Fuente? More like “de la ¿Quien?-te,” am I right?

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The Curious Case of Senator Mitt Romney (UT): Just today, Politicoreported that Romney and others were gathering increasing support to bring Former Ambassador Bolton before the Senate to testify. That could potentially change the impeachment from a guaranteed dismissal to a real trial. Whether that translates to legal jeopardy for Trump depends on what Bolton might have to say.

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