December 6, 2023

B’s and a Dark Horse

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 20 February 2020
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Three B’s and a Dark Horse
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – The Democratic contest for the presidential nomination is shaking out as a race between the three B’s, and we don’t mean Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
          We’re talking about Bernie, Biden and Bloomberg, the candidates most likely to survive Super Tuesday on March 3rd when 14 states, including California, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, will award some 40 percent of the Democratic delegates to candidates who win at least 15 percent of the vote statewide and in congressional districts.
          Of the three contenders, former Vice President Biden is the weakest. After losing the first two contests, his claim of electability has taken a hit and he’s low on cash even as the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds him the only candidate holding an eight-point lead over President Trump in 11 battleground states.
          Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, called Senator Sanders, D-Vt., “the definitive front-runner, and the current numbers do not represent his ceiling, but instead his base with room to grow.”
          How much room Sanders can grow will determine whether he can win enough delegates to claim the nomination. Most analysts are betting he will fall short, and with Bloomberg able to stay in the race because he can –he has the resources – and with Biden possibly hanging on because he polls the best against Trump and has establishment support, the Democrats could well arrive in Milwaukee in July without a consensus candidate.
          Sanders’ fate could fall to the so-called superdelegates, party insiders who are not his natural allies. In 2016, he accused the Democratic Party establishment of working against him, and he successfully lobbied for reforms to limit the influence of superdelegates in 2020.
          There will be some 764 superdelegates, members of the Democratic National Committee, every Democratic member of Congress, governors, union leaders and other party activists, but they will not be able to vote on the first ballot to put Sanders or any other nominee over the top.
          They can vote on the second ballot if the first ballot doesn’t yield a result, and that opens the door for a dark horse candidate to emerge from the back of the pack, or even someone not even in the pack, if that person could forge a consensus.
          This sort of thing hasn’t happened since the nomination of Franklin Pierce in 1852, who won the Democratic nomination on the 49th ballot. His name didn’t even come up until after the 35th ballot.
          We’re not suggesting something that extreme in the Internet age, but these are unique circumstances in the Democratic Party with Sanders, an avowed socialist, Bloomberg, a billionaire former Republican, and Biden, an establishment figure from the past, unable to find consensus in a party divided against itself.
          At the debate in Las Vegas, the candidates were asked if they would support whoever won the plurality of delegates even if he or she fell short of the 1991 delegates needed to secure the nomination.
          Only one candidate said yes: Bernie Sanders. The others said they would not back such a candidate – and with ample reason. Based on the first two contests and polling in the upcoming states, Sanders is best positioned to win a plurality of the vote in a crowded field.
          Combine Biden’s support with the other centrist Democrats, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – add the voters gravitating toward Bloomberg – and you have 65 percent of the vote versus 35 percent for Sanders.
          Bloomberg is not on the ballots in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states to vote, but he has purchased an extraordinary amount of television time in the Super Tuesday states, where voters don’t expect to meet candidates in person and base their decision on the ads they see.
          He may not get enough delegates to win the nomination, but he will likely ensure that Milwaukee enters the history books as the most fractured Democratic convention of modern times.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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