Not a Front-Runner Yet

12 February 2020

 

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Bernie Barely Wins New Hampshire Primary

 

Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary yesterday. Pete Buttigieg finished a strong second, and Amy Klobuchar a surprisingly healthy third. Joe Biden lost badly ending in fifth. Elizabeth Warren lost almost as badly with her fourth place finish. Andrew Yang and Michael Bennett withdrew from the race in the aftermath of the count. The pundits are declaring Mr. Sanders the front-runner, and they have decided that the looming Mike Bloomberg campaign is the only thing standing between the democratic socialist from Vermont and the nomination. They are being a bit hasty.

First and foremost, Senator Sanders underperformed. He is a well-known Senator from next-door Vermont who took Hillary Clinton apart in New Hampshire last time around with a 22% margin of victory. This time, he secured just 25.8% of the vote. That should have the campaign strategists worried. He scored a similar amount of support in the Iowa caucuses. If he can't start putting up results closer to 50%, his only hope is that the field remains crowded, and his 25-35% support is a plurality. In a 6-candidate race, such a result is a win. In a 2-candidate campaign, it is a disasterous defeat.

Second, the game is not about the popular vote, nor is it about the number of first place finishes one has. The game is to assemble a majority of convention delegates. On the first ballot, that is 1991. Thus far, 64 delegates have been selected. That is hardly enough to matter. Nevertheless, Pete Buttigieg has 22 pledged delegates while Mr. Sanders has 21. In other words, the media's front-runner is behind on the only scoreboard that matters.

Third, the campaign now moves onto Nevada's caucuses and the South Carolina primary. These states are less white than Iowa and New Hampshire, and the changed demographic of those electorates will matter. The fact is that Messrs. Sanders and Buttigieg as well as Ms. Klobuchar do not have much support among black and Latino voters according to the pre-New Hampshire polls. Mr. Biden expects to do well among them in both Nevada and South Carolina as the same polls suggest. Mr. Biden has never impressed as a campaigner, but until Super Tuesday when California and Texas vote on March 3, he remains a huge factor among ethnic minorities. They make up a large part of the Democratic Party's primary and caucus voters.

Fourth, above all, the small campaigns of Iowa and New Hampshire are over. Nevada and South Carolina remain warm-up acts, but in truth, the campaigns have less than 3 weeks to assemble effective operations in some of the largest states in the union. There are 16 races on March 3. Although Mr. Sanders has a healthy warchest of roughly $35 million, that is not enough to make much of a dent in the larger media markets. In fact, he may not be able to field a large and effective operation in every one of the states involved. The same is true of the others. There will be strategic picking and choosing that will matter a lot. It is simply too early to know which candidate will focus where and how effective each will be.

As for Bloomberg money assault that all the other candidates will face, Mr. Bloomberg is not particularly good on TV when there is no script. He is vulnerable on his record as New York City's three-term mayor. He may well trip up when he doesn't control the event, and the debates ahead may be his undoing.

Simply put, if anyone claims to know who is ahead and who is destined to win, that person is either lying or deluded.

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.


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