Saturday, March 07, 2020

Race for the White House # 62

This has been a week of much upheaval in Presidential politics, where Democrats have a new frontrunner, who looks a lot like their old frontrunner, and in who in between was thought to be politically dead. This has given the party much more in the way of optimism in terms of beating Donald Trump, but much remains unsettled, before before the delegates cast their votes in Milwaukee and voters across the nation vote in November.

At last discussion, Joe Biden was coming off a big Saturday in South Carolina. He looked to have real momentum, but with so much early voting and so much ground to be covered, just how far could that go? Well, by all intents and circumstances, he truly had a "Super Tuesday." The run-up began with the exit of Pete Buttigieg from the race on Sunday night. By Monday morning, Amy Klobuchar was out as well. These two candidates, who fought for the same share of the vote, both made their way to Texas on Primary Eve to endorse Joe Biden. The endorsements also included that of former candidate Beto O'Rourke, who ran a competitive U.S. Senate race in the Lone Star State in 2018.

The field shrank further after the big night for Biden, with Michael Bloomberg, on the heels of spending over half a billion dollars and merely only winning the Caucus in American Samoa dropping out and throwing his support, and most importantly, his money behind Biden on Wednesday. On Thursday, one time-supposed frontrunner Elizabeth Warren became the last serious female candidate to end her race, although she has yet to endorse anyone. That leaves a field of Biden and Bernie Sanders competing for the right to take on Trump. Technically speaking, Tulsi Gabbard is still running as a Democrat, and by virtue of winning one delegate in her native American Samoa, could possibly lay claim to be included in any future Biden vs. Bloomberg debate. The Republican Party nomination has basically been clinched (even with many contests outright canceled) as Trump rolled up huge margins over Bill Weld and other minor figures on Super Tuesday.

Let's briefly examine the fact though that of all the men running for President, Trump, Weld, Biden, and Sanders, Trump is the youngest at 73. Biden is also the youngest in his field. This is after septuagenarians Warren and Bloomberg were the last to exit. All of these names, except for the once widowed Biden, mentioned in the last two paragraphs, and including the 38 year old Gabbard are divorced. Only Bloomberg is not remarried, although he has been in a 20 year or so relationship.

Looking at Super Tuesday itself, Sanders did manage to win a handful of states, including California, the largest contest in the country. However, Biden surpassed all expectations, sweeping the South, and interestingly enough finally doing what Al Gore had once intended to do on a Super Tuesday 32 years earlier. In addition to winning SEC country, (including delegate rich Texas)on the heels of strong African-American support, Biden also won surprise wins in Maine and Minnesota, where the Klobuchar endorsement proved pivotal in a state that was expected to go to Sanders. Furthermore, Biden even won Massachusetts, where home state Senator Elizabeth Warren finished in an embarrassing third place. While the West has thus far belonged to Sanders, Biden has now won in all other regions of the country and won more delegates and more raw votes than anyone else. Even if he does not get to 1991 delegates before the convention, he is now expected to have the lead. Interestingly enough, when everyone expected Sanders to be in that position, the Vermont Senator said the person in first place should get the nomination while all other candidates insisted on majority rule, which would of course involve "superdelegates" on the second ballot.

The surge for Biden on Super Tuesday was swift and substantial. He won states he never even visited and barely poured any resources into. This does not speak much about the old fashioned concept of campaigning or how Iowa and New Hampshire will even matter in determining how nominations might be determined. I also think these examples of simply peaking at the right moment are a reason why an Independent candidate could theoretically win a general election in this country, even as no such effort (sadly) seems on the horizon this year.

Let's be clear, Biden won, not so much because he is a strong or beloved candidate, but because the fears of nominating socialist Bernie Sanders (and thus losing to Trump) happened earlier and in a more profound way that even I expected. Thus, I am jealous that Democrats acted so strategically to get behind someone to stop Sanders. This is what should have happened with Republicans opposed to Donald Trump four years ago, but it is hard to see which candidate could have been coalesced behind. Plenty of us had our doubts about both the electability and concept of Ted Cruz as President as well.

To the victor go the spoils though, and Biden benefited from angst about Sanders. I still feel the nomination contest is far from over and that Sanders national strength and organization cannot be underestimated. His supporters (to the delight of Trumpland) are angered about how the "moderate" candidates all joined together to prop up Biden.  Sanders is now going after Biden in very stark terms, much further than he ever went in a campaign against Hillary Clinton where he often pulled his punches. He is attacking the former Vice President on his Senate record involving Social Security and Medicare and even on things he was saying about abortion in the 1970s.

This primary campaign has the capacity to get even uglier, even as the field has drastically shrunk. Biden is expected to do very well this coming week in the handful of states that will be voting. The Sanders campaign has shifted resources for example away from Mississppi, which based on Super Tuesday states, should go to Biden in a landslide, and instead to Michigan (which has more urban African-Americans than any state that has thus far voted) and where Sanders won a surprise win over Clinton in 2016 and revitalized his campaign. That can happen again perhaps this week, although if Biden takes Michigan, his past pro-free trade votes and all, it might be seen as some as the final nail in the Sanders campaign.

All the while, the concerns over Covid19 (aka the Coronavirus) continue to ratchet up across America. This is a pretty unprecedented matter for the country and the stock market is continuing to go on a wild ride (although the market seemed to react positively on Wednesday after the big set-back for Sanders.) The actions and statements of Trump about the possible pandemic continue to make people shake their heads. Others are insisting that putting Vice President Mike Pence as the public face of the Administration's response is designed to set him up as the "fall guy" so Trump can dump him from the ticket, perhaps in favor of Nikki Haley.

Even as Americans try to avoid touching their face as much as possible, the campaign will roll on. For Democrats, much was made about how southern Democrats saved Joe Biden's political career over the past week and a half. That is of course true, but the picture is bigger than that. After all, those are the same votes who easily favored Clinton over Sanders the last time. What seems to be happening are upscale, suburban moderate voters are taking part in primaries and helped Biden to big wins on Super Tuesday, after the exists of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and after Bloomberg was heavily harmed by weak debate performances. In many cases, these are usual Republican voters, who are taking part in the first ever Democrat primaries, not because they want to create chaos, but because they genuinely care about who faces Trump and did not want that person to be Sanders. These voters also were a big part of the reason why Democrats won so many battleground House races in 2018 on competitive turf. Biden has continued to rack up endorsements since Tuesday and he and Sanders are both on the airwaves with ads in which Barack Obama speaks of them (from years past) in what sounds like endorsements, but of course are not. (One also has to wonder at this point why Obama is still waiting to formally endorse his former runningmate.)

My state of Illinois votes a week from this coming Tuesday and my hunch is that the state could actually be close between the two Democrats. I am one of those long-time Republicans who is staunchly anti-Trump and sees much benefit in making him a one-term President. However, I am also pretty conservative and principled, which makes it nearly impossible to think I would actually vote for Joe Biden in November. Nonetheless, I will vote in a Democrat primary for the first time ever (mostly to vote against an incumbent in a local race), but as I am doing so, seem resigned to actually voting for Biden as an insurance policy against a Sanders nomination or heaven forbid a Sanders Presidency. There continue to be no good options for me in Presidential politics, but I can at least be strategic when the opportunity presents itself.


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