Bah Bah Democrats — Will Primary Voices Be Heard or Herded?

Who’d have thunk the Democratic Party establishment could be this well-organized? Or is the establishment simply on a sugar high? Joe Biden just broke his “oh fer” streak of losing every Presidential primary on his third try at the nomination. Now, Joe’s the next new thing.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar raced to Texas to join Beto O’Rourke on the eve of Super Tuesday to endorse Biden. Pete and Amy are in it for the long game, and are using, while they can, whatever leverage they have left.

Biden had a phenomenal showing in South Carolina, with lots of credit going to Congressman Clyborn’s endorsement. Our last blog talked about how Elizabeth Warren helped Biden get his groove back with her thorough thrashing of Mike Bloomberg in the Nevada debate. Biden had his best debate yet in South Carolina, although that bar was set incredibly low. Once he stopped yelling at his victory speech, Biden brought people, and himself, to tears as he talked of meeting family members who lost loved ones at the Emmanuel church shooting, and how those congregants helped him heal from his own losses.

That heart inspiring moment, showing vulnerabilities and relating to people, may just be what Democrats need to beat Trump. It reminded us of the Joe Biden we know. Tearful moments have ended previous campaigns, Muskie in 1972 for example. Were a women to shed tears on the presidential campaign trail, she would be knocked out of the race.

Then There Were Four

Where will people who supported Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer go and will they break in any noticeable direction? Polls have consistently shown Elizabeth Warren to be leading as a second or third choice candidate. This probe on second choices can be wildly inaccurate. Respondents are answering in a completely different campaign reality. Is there enough of a political landscape left for Warren to win over these voters? Past polls have shown demographic common ground between Warren and these former candidates’ supporters — white, college educated somewhat liberal voters. Will female Klobuchar supporters who want to elect a woman as President be drawn to Warren?

These former supporters of dropped out candidates have little in common with Sanders. Up to now, they were not swayed by Biden. Bloomberg would appear to have little appeal in capturing these votes. Will these suddenly undecided voters go with their original candidate rankings and have their voices heard, or will they let their former candidate herd them like sheep into the Biden corral?

Bernie Rails Against the Establishment

Sanders has seen this movie before and no doubt expected to see the sequel this week. His rails against the corporate Democratic establishment and power elite were a pre-emptive strike.

However, he is noticeably silent when it comes to Warren’s candidacy. No calls yet from Bernie for her to step aside, even though Warren is in competition for some of his voters. Bernie benefits In the scramble to pick up Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer voters, since Warren will keep some from going to Biden.

Warren, with her loyal backers who still have a horse in the race, should remain stable in the polls with a chance for gains if she picks up freed up voters. With only four candidates, the chances on Super Tuesday of being viable in a majority of states, just went up for Warren.

Warren is going to have to become viable not only in states where she has over 15% — California, Colorado & Massachusetts, but in states like Texas, Utah, North Carolina and Virginia where she is on the bubble. With Klobuchar out in Minnesota, does a lane open up for Warren reach the threshold. Maine presents another opportunity for Warren. If she fails to reach viability in most of these states, it’s hard to see Warren surviving March.

The one thing Warren does bring is mobilizing some of the hardest worker bees, primarily women, in the party. If my Facebook feed of political organizers is any indication, Warren hands down has the best volunteers who are willing to give it their all for the eventual nominee.

The Plurality Convention

In South Carolina, Sanders lost ground to Biden’s surge. Will Biden continue his growth on Super Tuesday in spite of having little paid media or a campaign presence in the 14 states. Sanders has the better operation while Bloomberg dominates in paid media.

Sanders should be able to best Biden in California and Texas, in part due to his strength with Latinos and come out slightly ahead of Biden in total delegates on Super Tuesday. If Warren can remain viable in many states, Bloomberg risks coming in fourth on Super Tuesday in the delegate race.

It’s highly possible that no candidate will have a majority of delegates at the national convention, with Sanders and Biden jostling for the lead. If Warren makes it to the convention with 15–20% of the vote, things could get really interesting. For a variety of reasons, superdelegates are likely to overwhelmingly back Biden over Sanders on the second ballot.

But what if Sanders comes in with 35–40%, and as the only movement organizer left in the field, sees the inevitable and has a backup plan to stop superdelegates. He could outmaneuver his Democratic Establishment nemesis by throwing his support to Warren on the first ballot. Stranger things have happened.

Scott Adams is Creative Executive Director at award winning Green Alley Strategies,