With 60% of the votes counted in Nevada, Sanders has matched his 2016 showing with about 47% of the Democratic County Convention Delegates; not-Sanders still wins the state, but barely. Sanders did better in virtually every category than he has done in previous states; particularly well with young voters (which we know) and Hispanics. It is the Hispanic outreach that has been steady and methodical for which the Sanders campaign truly deserves a tremendous amount of credit. Democrats have struggled mightily in national races to energize this growing share of the American electorate and Sanders, at least in Nevada, shows that he can not only appeal to this group but also turn them out to vote.
Again, I’ll point out that caucus states are not primary states and the simple fact is that caucus goers are distinct from primary voters. Primary voters better resemble the electorate in that they have a lower bar to entry regarding participation and are lower-information voters than caucus goers. The Sanders turnout machine did astonishingly, even embarrassingly, well in caucus states post-Nevada in 2016 and the 2020 race is unlikely to be an exception. Primaries, then, are where he finds himself engaged in a differently pitched battle where an ideologically consistent message may turnout a solid base sufficient to overwhelm a caucus, but insufficient to break a majority barrier in a large state.
Sanders’s supporters might, rightly, take some issue with the road I’m heading down – that, in fact, the expansion of the caucus base in Nevada is a harbinger of an expanded primary base in other states. There is certainly evidence to support some of this claim; particularly the claim that Tío Bernie has tremendous support among Hispanics in California and Texas. At least, much greater support than 2016. Indeed, Sanders also did far better than 2016 with voters of color in Iowa and New Hampshire. I visited three precincts as they were cocking-up – I mean, caucusing – in Iowa. By far the most diverse crowds, at least in terms of embodied diversity, were Sanders caucus-goers. So, it could be that there is an actual connection between caucus victories and primary victories that tell a different story than the 2016 primary of Sanders versus HRC, as Loomis argues. South Carolina will tell us more on this front, but Sanders co-chair State Senator Nina Turner (OH) is a political force of nature. I saw Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, and Yang speak in Iowa – Turner’s introduction of Sanders was the most dynamic of the bunch.
Sanders is on a path to consistent 30%-40% finishes in many states; it is looking more and more like he’ll have the delegate lead when the Democrats meet in Milwaukee in July. Whether this lead is a majority or not is the is the $1.2 billion (and counting) question in the Democratic Primary.
While still the vast majority of voters in the Democratic primary (and who knows how much in the general), Not-Sanders candidates continue to play the moles in this game of whac-a-moderate. Biden rose to a campaign saving second; much of this is likely a function of some excellent campaign staff there given that his moderate message isn’t a whole lot different from Buttigieg or Klobuchar. Buttigieg seems to have plateaued, all the while likely siphoning voters from Klobuchar after the Knives Out: Vegas Edition debate on Thursday. While Buttigieg ought to be rising in the polls, Steyer seized a non-trivial percentage of the not-Sanders vote in Nevada. Warren maintained her disappointing presence in the race claiming to be a candidate of unity according to her New Hampshire non-concession speech followed up by a Nevada-appropriate nuclear strike on Bloomberg during the debate. She showered the rest of her opponents with conventional weapons, excepting, perhaps, Sanders. Of all the candidates, she could convince some not-Sanders voters to vote for her, but, also would have legitimacy with many Sanders supporters. Of course, deep-Sanders supporters still might refer to her as Neolibby Warren.
Bloomberg got 0 percent of the vote in Nevada (because he wasn’t on the ballot), but his candidacy was radioactive to the Democratic primary even before the Warren strike. Bloomberg has spent in excess of $450 million on advertising and staff – it is hard to imagine he’ll pull a Giuliani and embrace a nonconventional and expensive strategy of forgoing early states only to pull out after he doesn’t win. First, if memory serves me, Bloomberg will have spent roughly 20 times what Giuliani did on his disastrous 2008 Florida strategy. Second, Bloomberg doesn’t actually need to win to “win” he just needs to win the not-Sanders primary to stay viable. And, indeed, he’s got an excellent chance to do that; he might be the only candidate other than Sanders to actually win a state on SuperTuesday. Warren’s numbers in Massachusetts are below Sanders and Klobuchar is winning just above the margin of error in Minnesota. A South Carolina win is in neither of their futures, Klobuchar especially.
Bloomberg is a terrible presence in the Democratic primary for several reasons, but a big one is that if the race becomes Bloomberg-Sanders it will be two non-Democrats vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. I know that probably doesn’t mean much to many people, but when the nominee enters the general, the DNC and state parties are going to have to work with the candidate to get out more traditional Democratic voters. Neither candidate has a particularly strong history of working with the party. Bloomberg only recently showered the party with money which is not exactly the same as working on the ground and Sanders has been overly suspicious of the party and actively campaigned against incumbents. If one of these two guys win, they’ll lean heavily on their own campaign operations which will likely result in an uncoordinated campaign and more party-drama in the general.
As the race churns on, the addition of Bloomberg will force the remaining Ds to compete with each other because they can’t get the Sanders committed and they won’t be able to compete monetarily with Bloomberg. So, it seems like they’ll continue to go after each other which is exactly the opposite of what should happen. It is possible that there is some value in mining Bloomberg – Warren rightfully dug into him and hit a vein worth $3 million; of course, that is the price of one Bloomberg ad buy. Also, it just about makes up for a $3 million dollar loan she took out in January.
I, along with many Democrats, am starting to come around to the position of Russ Douthat when he suggests that the not viable candidates should just drop in order to get in front of both Sanders and Bloomberg. The only person that could upset the not-Sanders coalition is Bloomberg. I’m not exactly sure what the average Democrat does when faced with the socialist or the 12th richest man in the world as representatives of the Democratic party which has always been a coalition of varied interests.
Concentrated ideology or concentrated wealth?
Bloomberg’s radioactivity might just strong enough to knock some voters into the Sanders camp, though it may make them sick.