Saturday, February 15, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If It's Bernie?

There are now two compelling political questions: “What if it’s
Bernie?” and “What if it’s NOT Bernie?”

The answer to each of these questions, while critical to the
outcome of the 2020 presidential, as well as the congressional,
elections, might not be as simple a might be supposed, although
most Republicans would be ecstatically optimistic if Bernie
Sanders were the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialist ideology, while attractive
to many in the liberal party, does not make it likely he would
win in November, but might the outcome be worse if the
Democrats nominate someone else?

The controversial final results of this year’s Iowa Democratic
caucus were a technical debacle, but perhaps more seriously, they
revived the grievance of the 2016 Sanders campaign --- that the
Democratic Party establishment unfairly blocked their candidate
in Iowa and elsewhere from the nomination they believed he could
have won.

This year, in the more transparent but delayed results, Sanders
clearly had a greater voter turnout, but received fewer delegates
than Pete Buttigieg. There is an explanation for this, but many
Democrats, already resentful of  the electoral college election of
Donald Trump in 2016 when he lost the national popular vote,
are unconvinced. Furthermore, many prominent Democrats,
reportedly including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, appear
to be part of an overt “Stop Bernie” movement nationwide.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders played the good soldier and endorsed Mrs.
Clinton. There is polling evidence that some of his supporters did
not vote for Clinton in November or stayed home. If Sanders is
perceived as being unfairly blocked again in 2020, the political
consequences could be major.

The dilemma for mainstream Democrats is that a no-win situation
results. If they don’t block Bernie, they believe they will lose the
election --- but if they do block him, they could also lose the election.

Since 2016, the movement leftward in the Democratic Party grew
significantly, particularly in large urban areas. Not only have older 
liberals such as Elizabeth Warren  joined Sanders on the left, but an
outspoken party group of four young congresswomen known as
“The Squad” are making daily headlines with anti-Democratic
establishment views on the left. Even on local and state levels,
incumbent senior liberal elected officials are being challenged in
primaries by younger fellow Democrats for not being “progressive”
enough.

Nevertheless, a large bloc of traditional liberal and progressive
voters remain in the Democratic Party.  Their early favorite, Joe
Biden, has yet to show his strength among party voters, and should
this continue, an unconventional candidate, billionaire Michael
Bloomberg waits to take his place. Biden and Bloomberg both
emphatically reject the Bernie Sanders policy agenda.

The motif of the Democratic presidential contest is the dissonant
melody of ideological division. How Democratic voters  employ
this motif into the composition of their 2020 ticket should be, when
it finally is presented, rather interesting.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.                                                                                                                                       

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: After New Hampshire

In recent presidential election cycles, there have been customary
nods to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary not only as
kick-offs to pre-convention political party voting, but also as 
credible signals about the outcomes of competitive nomination
contests.

Perhaps not this cycle.

The Iowa Democratic caucus came, but went into a political
purgatory  of mismanagement, errors and delay in reporting
results, and a controversial conclusion when the final count was
made. Bernie Sanders clearly came out on top in turnout, but Pete
Buttigieg got more delegates, reviving a Sanders campaign
complaint from 2016 that the local Democratic Party establishment
had conspired to rob the Vermont senator of an Iowa victory.

The informal Iowa caucus voting was followed by easier-to-report
counting of paper ballots in the New Hampshire primary a week
later. This count was much quicker and more credible, but almost
as inconclusive as Iowa because this cycle’s Super Tuesday, coming
soon after, is front-loaded with so many states, delegates at stake,
and a new major candidate, Michael Bloomberg, on those ballots.

By skipping Iowa and New Hampshire, and already spending $350
million on his campaign so far, Mr. Bloomberg went a long way to
neutralize these traditional first-in-the-nation states --- and making
a contested Democratic national convention in July more likely.

The results in New Hampshire gave Bernie Sanders his second
straight narrow popular vote win over Pete Buttigieg, but each of
them now heads into several larger states where they might not be
frontrunners. Elizabeth Warren came in fourth in her neighboring
state, and although her poll numbers in recent weeks have fallen,
she has a national base with which to recover. The same is true
for Joe Biden, fifth in New Hampshire and fourth in Iowa, who also
has a loyal base in states ahead. Warren and Biden, however, need
to begin to win some states and accumulate delegates.

Although late polls predicted Amy Klobuchar would come in third
in New Hampshire, she did better than expected. On the other hand,
she did poorer than expected in her neighboring Iowa where she
finished fifth. Her poll numbers in most upcoming states are not
strong. Her home state of Minnesota votes on Super Tuesday, and
she faces serious efforts by Sanders (who won there in 2016) and
Bloomberg. She will need to win Minnesota, and do well in
neighboring Wisconsin to remain viable.

Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet have now dropped out. Deval
Parick is likely out soon. That leaves eight candidates --- and six
major ones, including Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, Klobuchar
and Bloomberg.  The latter enters the race formally on Super
Tuesday, March 3. He is already a big shadow on the race, spending
that $350 million and registering third in some national polls. Like
Donald Trump he is a billionaire, and not historically a member of
the party he  is running in. He is a self-described moderate who
explicitly opposes the ideology of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth
Warren.

After New Hampshire, the big question marks now are Michael
Bloomberg, whether Joe Biden can recover, and can the Democratic
Party establishment block Bernie Sanders?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Iowa Caucus Finito

The Iowa Democratic caucus (1972-2020) will be the last of its kind.
Iowa doesn’t deserve what was allowed to happen on February 3;
it is a good place (full disclosure: I went to graduate school there),
but its role in first-in-the-nation presidential voting is over.

It has been a source of controversy for several cycles, most
notably in 2016 when the Bernie Sanders campaign alleged that
the Iowa Democratic Party establishment helped Hillary Clinton
narrowly defeat Sanders in that year’s caucus using the very
complicated Iowa procedures.

It was to make those procedures transparent that caused Iowa
Democrats to seek a method that would report each phase of the
caucus, but apparently the method was not tested prior to the
event, resulting in a disastrous delay for any returns, frustrating
the candidates who had put so much time and effort campaigning
in the state, the media which had assembled to report and analyze
the vote, and of course the local and national public eager to know
who had won or lost.

As of this writing, 100% of the returns have not yet been officially
reported, but what we do have is almost complete (albeit not yet
error-free). Bernie Sanders had the largest turnout, followed closely
by Pete Buttigieg. Also relatively close to the top, in third, was
Elizabeth Warren. These three met the 15% minimum, and will
receive most delegates. In fourth, just below 15% was  Joe Biden,
followed by Amy Klobuchar. No one else of the eleven active
presidential candidates had more than a limited turnout.

If there were any mild surprises, it was that Mr. Buttigieg did
somewhat better than expected,  Mr. Biden somewhat worse, and
that Mrs. Klobuchar (from neighboring Minnesota) failed to rise
above fifth place, despite a big effort of time and money.

All five will now go on to New Hampshire and Super Tuesday with
the other six candidates.  Mr. Biden particularly hopes to revive his
frontrunner status with wins in Nevada and South Carolina. Michael
Bloomberg, who skipped competing in states before Super Tuesday
in March hopes his strategy and heavy spending will put him near
top. Mr. Buttigieg hopes his Iowa showing can be repeated in later
contests. Mr. Sanders hopes to win New Hampshire, and create
a momentum taking him to clinch the nomination before the July
Democratic convention.

But hopes and dreams are fragile in presidential politics, and there
are now many obstacles in the way of avoiding a contested party
convention in Milwaukee. A serious “Stop Bernie” campaign is
underway led by the Democratic Party establishment (including
reportedly former President Obama). Joe Biden still inspires support
from all-important black voters in large states.  Mike Bloomberg’s
unprecedented costly ad campaign has already elevated him in the
polls. Andrew Yang has a following, and could do better than expected
in primaries ahead.  Elizabeth Warren might revive her  prospects ---
although she needs to do well in New Hampshire, her neighboring
state.

With the Trump impeachment failing in the U.S. senate, a rallying
State of the Union speech, rising poll numbers, and the Iowa
Democratic caucus debacle, the president’s re-election prospects
are now brighter than ever, but those prospects for an election day
about eight months away could change quickly if the currently
soaring economy should suddenly sputter or international
developments intervene.

Right now, however, most attention is aimed at the Democratic
nomination contest. If the 2020 Iowa experience, aside from the
numbers, reveals anything, it is that the party challenging the
president and seeking to keep control of the U.S. house needs to
get its act together.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Race To Date

The 2020 presidential race, and especially the Democratic
nomination contest, is about to enter an important new stage
when some actual preferences of voters are counted in primaries
and caucuses.

Until now the process has been organizational, promotional  and
speculative with the Democratic field initially stuffed with 28
candidates of various former and current political officials,
including a vice president, governors, senators, members of
Congress, mayors --- as well as two self-funding businessmen.

The 28 initial aspirants are now reduced to 11, with two frontrunners,
two reasonably close to the frontrunners, two hoping for a breakout
moment, and two billionaires spending unprecedented sums with
unconventional strategies.

The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary
are imminent. They have often been important in the past,  but are
less likely to be so in this cycle following a Super Tuesday when so
many states and delegates have been front-loaded into the process.

Iowa might be less about determining the winner and more about
who withdraws next. Pete Buttigieg needs to revive a sagging effort,
and Amy Klobuchar (from neighboring Minnesota) has to show new
strength in her own region. Polling in Iowa is very inexact because
of the nature of the caucus, but 4-5 candidates seem able to win
delegates, and there might be multiple claims of victory. Unless
there is a surprise result, Iowa could be inconclusive.

New Hampshire is eight days later. Again, it more likely will
produce more losers then winners. Elizabeth Warren is from
neighboring Massachusetts (as is Deval Patrick). If Bernie
Sanders from next-door Vermont does well in Iowa, he will need
to do so in New Hampshire as well.

Joe Biden will need to do well on Super Tuesday and in South
Carolina where he has had a large polling lead. Michael Bloomberg
has taken a pass on Iowa and New Hampshire, and bet his political
megafarm on Super Tuesday. He is spending enormous sums, and
seems to be getting some results in new polling. He could be the
wild card of 2020.

The impeachment trial had sidelined the four senators running
for president, but after Iowa and New Hampshire the full field will
be on the campaign trail, and impeachment controversies will no
longer dominate media coverage and distract the Democratic race.

There are announced opponents of President Trump for the
Republican nomination, but if he is acquitted in his impeachment
trial, there is no serious contest. Whether or not the unsuccessful
Democratic impeachment effort produces their desired impact of
hurting the president’s re-election --- or backfires to help him ---
will be a major factor in this cycle, but this lies ahead.

Iowa and New Hampshire might signal that no Democrat will
clinch his or her nomination before the party’s Milwaukee national
convention in late July.

There are a great many maybes and ifs ahead in this election cycle,
but it has now begun in earnest, and there is no going back for
either party to try to do it differently.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senators In Their Seats

The U.S. senate is in extraordinary session, an impeachment
quasi-trial of President Trump, following the actions of the U.S.
house indicting the president on two counts.

There is much speculation about this highly-politicized event
which can be described as a media melodrama, particularly
about which, if any, senators might fail to vote on strict party
lines. The ultimate outcome is not now in much doubt, especially
considering that Republicans control he U.S. senate. 53-47,
and 67 votes are required to remove the president from office.

The Democrats control the U.S. house, and chose to shut out the
president’s party members from nearly all of the impeachment
proceedings. Speaker Pelosi seemed in a hurry at first, but then
delayed transmitting the two counts to the senate until public
pressure forced her to do so. Her reasons for the delay are not
clear, although many have speculated her purpose was to help
one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Whether or not
that is true, two of the frontunners she is known to oppose are
temporarily sidelined from campaigning just before the initial
voting in Iowa and New Hampshire by the mandatory
requirement that they sit in their senate seats throughout the
senate impeachment proceedings.

Having shut the Republicans out of the house impeachment, the
Democrats are now complaining that they can’t control the rules
in the senate trial where the Republicans have the majority,
particularly in bringing in new witnesses the Democrats did not
call to testify when they were in control. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell says this is blatant hypocrisy, and will have none of it.
The Democratic prosecution have now presented their case, and
the president’s defenders are now presenting theirs. If no new
witnesses are called, the trial could soon be over and a vote taken.
If new witnesses are called, the trial could go on for many more
weeks --- sidelining four  senators who are presidential candidates
from Super Tuesday and other key primaries as well as distracting
the Democratic presidential campaign altogether.

Barring the ubforeseen, those wishing  to remove the president are
far short of the 67 votes they need. They might well not even have
a majority for either count.

For the actual voting, speculation centers around about a dozen
senators. On the Republican side, media pundits have suggested
that Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, retiring
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Alaska Senator Lisa
Murkowski, Arizona Senator Martha McSally, Maine Senator
Susan Collins, and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner might vote
to convict.  That speculation, however, ignores the fact that any
GOP senator who would vote against the president would almost
certainly lose his or her re-election by massive desertion of angry
GOP voters. Only Senator Alexander is not in that position. Most,
if not all, Republican senators are expected to support the
president --- even those who are not very fond of him.

On the Democratic side, it could be speculated that West Virginia
Senator Joe Manchin, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, Michigan
Senator Gary Peters. Maine (Independent) Senator Angus King,
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Minnesota Senator Tina
Smith, and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema might vote against
conviction. Manchin and Jones are the most likely to break with
their party. Peters is facing a tough re-election in a state where
impeachment is reportedly not popular.  King can be very
independent The others are more likely to vote with their party
on this issue.              

The purpose of the Democrats’ impeachment was to severely
diminish Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election --- or to undo his 2016
election.  It’s too late to do the latter, but the jury has not yet
returned  its verdict for November, 2020.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2020 Democratic Race Takes Shape

With only days to go before the first actual vote counting (in the
Iowa caucuses), the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
contest is taking some shape, albeit one made of mostly political
shadows.

It is now likely (but not certain) that the eventual nominee will have
the surname of Biden,  Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg.  These four
candidates have survived the early phases of the campaign, and
consistently hold a clear lead in most poling so far. Two liberal
billionaires, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, entered the race
late, but have already spent enormous sums to gain recognition.
Of the other six candidates, only AndrewYang appears to have
created a notable (but small) grassroots base. the remaining five
have low single-digit polling support in most states.

One major caveat to the above is the growing possibility of a
so-called brokered convention. If that happens, current bets
would likely be off the table. Strange things can occur at such  an
event. (A case in point is he 1924 Democratic convention when,
after 103 [!!!] ballots, a very dark horse candidate, John W. Davis,
was nominated, defeating the two frontrunners and the rest of
the field. He then went on to a big defeat by the Republican
incumbent President Calvin Coolidge.)

Deals and delegate trading are routine at brokered conventions,
and while today’s delegates are much more independent than in
the past, almost anything could result, given the wide current
divide in the Democratic Party.

On the other hand, the primaries and caucuses could determine a
nominee before the convention. A reasonable case could now be
made for the four leading figures previously cited.

Two figures from previous and unsuccessful runs , Joe Biden and
Bernie Sanders are considered the frontrunners  Biden, the more
moderate liberal, and Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist
progressive, each have a loyal base who don’t seem to care about
their candidate’s foibles. Each of them will likely accumulate
serious numbers of delegates in the primary/caucus season 
between February and June. So should Elizabeth Warren, a
first-time candidate, but also someone with a loyal national
following.

Depending on how newcomer Pete Buttigieg, the surprise so far
of the campaign, does --- and mega-spending Michael Bloomberg
and Tom Steyer do --- in winning delegates, the contest could go
into the July convention in Milwaukee undecided. Other
candidates such as Yang could win numbers of delegates.
Democrats have a  history of convention surprises, including
William Jennings Bryan, and Davis.

It is even possible that the party’s nominee could be someone
not even a candidate before the convention  (as Bryan was in
1896).

Twenty-six men and women have sought the Democratic 2020
nomination.Now there are only twelve left. The impeachment
melodrama remains to be concluded. The Democratic Party
voters, and not just ambiguous media polls, remain to be tallied,
and the secret code of this critical election cycle remains to be
deciphered.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry  Casselman. All rights reserved.                                          

Saturday, January 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Update On 2020 House And Senate Elections

The impeachment carnival and Democratic presidential nomination
contest have seemed to crowd out news of the critical election cycle
this year for control of the U.S. house and senate.

As the immediate past sessions of these two legislative bodies have
so dramatically demonstrated, with each party controlling one of
them, significant actions other than legislation, can and do take place.

In he Democratic-controlled U.S. house, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after
first hesitating to do so, has led a partisan effort to pass two articles
of impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Republican-controlled U.S. senate. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell has led a partisan effort to confirm a record number of
conservative federal judges, most of whom with lifetime
appointments.

With the two major parties so politically divided at this time, very
little bipartisan compromise and legislation is taking place, but the
politicalization of the impeachment process and the stacking of
the courts have important political consequences,

No matter who is elected president, the two bodies of the Congress
can continue their  extra-legislative functions, especially if control
remains in the same  hands. Although impeachment will almost
certainly fail in a U.S. senate trial this year, theoretically a new
Democratic-controlled U.S. house could impeach the president
again next year following his re-election, If he loses, however, and
Republicans win the house, they might decide to impeach the new
Democratic president.

Likewise, if he GOP wins senate control again, and Mr.. Trump is
re-elected, conservatives would likely fill more than half the federal
judiciary for decades. Even if a Democrat is elected president,  a
GOP senate could block many of his judicial nominees, particularly
to the U.S. supreme court.

There are other permutations of these scenarios, including a
Democratic takeover of the senate, but the vital point is that the
outcome of these elections is VERY important.

So what are their prospects with under ten months until election
day?

In the U.S. house, the Democrats were heavily favored to keep
control even if President Trump were re-elected, but the
impeachment activity seems to be changing that. Although the
media is making the large number of GOP incumbents retiring a
big story, most of those are in safe Republican districts,  Perhaps
the bigger story is the one being told by former Speaker Newt
Gingrich who, in a recent column, cited the record number of
GOP congressional candidates, including women and minorities,
already running in 2020. With more than 30 seats won in 2018 by
Democrats in districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, the current
backlash to the impeachment, and the strong recruitment of
GOP challengers, the early odds favoring the Democrats, Mr.
Gingrich contends, are diminishing.,

In the U.S. senate, Democratic hopes were buoyed by the fact that
twice as many GOP incumbent seats than Democratic seats were
up for re-election this cycle. But this was illusory since so many
Republican seats were in conservative states. Nevertheless, a
number of GOP senators are potentially vulnerable, particularly
in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, and a path to
Democratic senate control exists. On the other hand, the
Democratic incumbent in Alabama is very vulnerable, as are, to
a lesser degree, Democratic incumbents in Michigan, New
Hampshire and Minnesota.

The presidential election seems more likely to affect the   
congressional elections outcomes than usual in 2020. Both party
bases seem to be aroused this cycle, but Democratic turnout
could critically depend on their nominee ---and when that
nominee is chosen. Donald Trump remains so far the  central
figure of 2020, both positively and negatively. And, as always.
election-year economics and international events will be key
factors.

Most party nominees in competitive races are now known,
although a few key races, including the Kansas and Alabama
senate races, and two Minnesota potential GOP U.S. house
pick-ups in Minnesota, have yet to be determined.

These and other close races, plus the uncertainty of the
Democratic presidential nomination, will require resolution
before any credible assessment of the 2020 national elections
can take place.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.