Until the Democratic TV presidential debates begin in late June,
the most notable political news appears to be the seemingly endless
announcements of candidacies of Democrats with ostensibly
serious credentials. After the entrance into the race by former
Vice President Joe Biden (at gate number 21), it might have been
supposed to be the end of it, but already we have two more,
including Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, and the prospects of
several more. Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Bill Di Blasio of New
York are signaling their interest, as is Steve Bullock of Montana.
Andrew Cuomo of New York is writing op eds laden with hints.
Friends of Michelle Obama say the former first lady cannot be ruled
out. Given the sudden rise of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who
knows what other obscure urban mayors or state legislators are
dreaming of instant 2020 political celebrity.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) now says the first two
debates will have no more than twenty participants, ten on successive
days, in each. It set rather low bars for qualification. Seventeen have
already qualified, two are almost qualified, and each of the remaining,
including all those still unannounced, would probably qualify by the
deadline two weeks before the first debate.
As I wrote previously, the DNC has tied its own hands by declaring a
boycott of the Fox network (for being too conservative), and thus
provides candidates excluded from the debates, and even those included
but low in the polls, with an incentive to remain in the race past their
otherwise normal shelf life --- resulting potentially with an excessively
large number of candidates on the Democratic state primary ballots.
If the latter occurs, the risk is that no candidate will have enough
delegates to secure the nomination before the July, 2020 Democratic
national convention in Milwaukee --- and that a bitter battle there
might split or dishearten the party’s already fractious voter base.
Some might argue that a contested Democratic convention, which
hasn’t happened for more than 70 years, would give the liberal party
much needed TV coverage and inspire voter interest, but the record
shows that large divided Democratic fields in conventions of 1920
(44 ballots) and 1924 (103 ballots) produced losing tickets in
November against the Republican nominees. Moreover, no party
nomination field has ever been as large as the one for the 2020
Conventional wisdom, furthermore, has been mostly wrong so far in
the 2020 cycle. Bernie Sanders, the upstart of 2016, was said not to be
able to hold on to his base, Joe Biden was said likely to fade after he
formally announced. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke was said to be the
“charisma” candidate. A small-city mayor (Pete Buttigieg) was said
to have no chance to gain traction. More radical candidates (Elizabeth
Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker), it was said, would do well in
The current cycle, however, is taking several contrarian turns, with
Sanders and Biden showing resilient voter appeal, Buttigieg stealing
the charisma “show” from O’Rourke, and more radical candidates
(other than Sanders) trailing in the early polls. Some preoccupation
with impeaching President Trump also is not resonating with most
of the liberal party base, nor is much of the issues lurch to the left.
I have previously pointed out that President Trump has serious
problems for his re-election, particularly in the all-important
electoral college, including the rust belt states he won (Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) and southern states he won (North
Carolina and Florida). I said he had few prospects of picking up states
he had lost in 2016. Now, only a few months later, his prospects have
improved in most of the states he narrowly won in 2016 (particularly
Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida), and he has new
opportunities in some states he lost (Virginia, Nevada and Minnesota).
Most polls show Mr. Trump below 45% approval and above 50%
disapproval. Virtually all of the polls, however, are composed of
“eligible” voters or “registered” voters. The major poll which is
composed of “likely” voters shows Mr. Trump at about 50% approval
(currently at 50-47% approve). Polls of likely voters are usually much
more accurate. The establishment media is embracing the former,
and dismisses the latter. (Of course, they were certain Hillary Clinton
would win in 2016.)
Current conditions could easily change, Sanders and/or Biden could
fade. O’Rourke or Harris or another candidate or two could suddenly
catch on. The debates could change the whole picture of the contest.
Disclosures could force a candidate to withdraw. News, domestic or
international, could change the political environment. Trump could
lose some of his support.
But until now, conventional wisdom and establishment media
speculating don’t seem to be working.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.