Until now, the loudest voices in the Democratic Party presidential
nomination contest have been mostly those of the party’s neo-left
activist base promoting more radical issues articulated by certain
candidates --- all of this taken up by a sympathetic media which has
given an impression of solidarity and inevitability for these
candidates and issues.
I have suggested that the bulk of Democratic Party voters, while
unquestionably liberal on public policy and solidly anti-Trump, are
likely skeptical at the least to the most radical ideas --- and likely
not that much attracted to most of those who espouse them.
Current polling seems to bear this out, if we are to assume it reflects
likely Democratic voters. There is also the contention that current
polling simply reflects name recognition and pre-TV debate season
lethargy, and does not reflect voter assessment of the candidates seen
and heard on a stage together.
I have also argued the latter point, both based on experience and
common sense. Of course, both these assertions might be true, and
I think they are. In any event, the presidential campaign is about to
enter an important new stage: the increasing participation of the
mass of the liberal party’s voters into the nomination contest.
With 24 notable candidates in the competition now weeks before the
first debate in which most have qualified to participate, the
Democratic National Committee (DNC) has just taken steps to make
this large field smaller for the third debate by raising the bar in poll
and donor numbers. This action will likely deter the very weakest
candidates in these categories, but since most of the 24 aspirants will
be seen and heard in the first two nationally-televised debates, it’s
just a guess how many will make it to the next stage that begins with
the third debate.
It’s guesswork because, once the debates begin, so many more
Democratic voters will begin to be heard from, culminating with
actual voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and the mega-(Super)Tuesday
in early March.
The 2020 cycle has, so far, defied most conventional wisdom. Bernie
Sanders, it was said, would not keep his base from 2016; Joe Biden
would not keep a big poll lead after he formally announced; Kamala
Harris and Elizabeth Warren would start strong, as would Cory
Booker; Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s “charisma” would quickly make
him a leading candidate; Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, a small
town mayor and an unknown businessman; would not get much
attention; and so on. These predictions have failed to happen.
The DNC and party elders might want a much smaller field of
candidates as soon as possible, but Democratic Party voters might
not cooperate. Getting 2% poll numbers might not be so difficult after
national TV exposure --- nor, considering how easily most candidates
reached he 65,000-donor mark, should obtaining another 65,000 donors.
On the other hand, Democratic voters might solidify around one, two
or three candidates right away. Or general party voters could act in a
permutation of other ways. The point is that no one knows what’s
going to happen, and the reason is that no one knows what Democratic
Party voters are going to think and do once the campaign begins in
Wait and see.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.