Our Monthly Handicapping of the Democrats’ Field — Biden, By Default, with Bloomberg Lurking
Author: Greg Valliere
December 12, 2019
THERE’S BEEN SOME MOVEMENT in the leader board, starting in Iowa, but the big shift among Democrats is their realization that Donald Trump has a very plausible path to re-election as the economy stabilizes and a Senate acquittal looms. So the focus is on who, if anyone, can beat Trump.
HERE’S OUR MONTHLY HANDICAPPING of this weak field; we’ll skip the candidates with no chance of winning the nomination — Andrew Yang, intriguing but mired in single digits; Cory Booker, always solid but can’t make the sale; Julian Castro, staying in the race as a prelude to 2024; Tom Steyer, what a waste of his money; Marianne Williamson, Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick — nope. We’re down to the following group:
5. AMY KLOBUCHAR: There’s been a little stirring in the Iowa polls, with Klobuchar rising to the high single-digits. She needs a stellar debate performance on Dec. 19 and, of course, a weak performance by Joe Biden. If there’s one last surge in Iowa, it could be toward Klobuchar but, realistically, she’s running for the VP nomination.
4. ELIZABETH WARREN: She took withering fire during the fall from her rivals and may be losing the battle for the left wing to Sanders. She stumbled on health care, watering down her proposal, which turned off the activists. A stunning descent — and a very positive development for the financial markets, which were increasingly nervous this past summer that she could be the nominee.
3. BERNIE SANDERS: Surprise — Bernie is still very much in the running. The hard-core left, perhaps a third of the party, views him as the real deal. Sanders still has the energy and authenticity to propel him to strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the first three races. Three months ago the consensus was that Sanders would drop out in the spring and endorse Warren. That seems less likely now; he wants to offer an unapologetic socialist agenda to the voters, and he’s not going anywhere.
2. PETE BUTTIGIEG: He leads, narrowly, in the RealClearPolitics average of all Iowa polls, but reaching this level has made Buttigieg a target. His detractors say, correctly, that Buttigieg he has virtually no African-American support and apparently hasn’t been transparent enough about his past jobs. But he has enough money to last well into the spring, and some Democrats may think — if they’re going to lose to Trump anyway, why not lose with a young candidate who lays some groundwork for 2024?
1. JOE BIDEN: He has worked hard this month, criss-crossing Iowa, holding dozens of town hall meetings and keeping the gaffes to a minimum. He has stabilized in Iowa, now effectively tied with Buttigieg and Sanders, with Warren perhaps in fourth. We’ll keep Biden in first place, because voters genuinely like him (far more than the pundits), but of course Biden is just one terrible debate performance or a bad winter cold away from free-fall.
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ISN’T THERE ANYONE ELSE? That’s the mantra from most Democrats, but they’re having a hard time warming up to Mike Bloomberg. We think his ads are very good, and everyone will get to see them dozens of times. Bloomberg is a steely pro with an outside-the-box strategy to skip the early primaries. And, unlike most of this weak field, he has a chance to beat Trump.
BLOOMBERG HAS PLENTY OF FLAWS: He’s
not a dynamic speaker, he’s far to the right of the party, he’s a Wall Street guy, and he’ll turn 78 later this winter. But our sense is that Democrats are willing to listen to him and could be persuaded. He’s assembling a first-rate team and has a well-funded organization in the key states. It’s way, way too early to write off Mike Bloomberg.
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