State of the Race: Team Afterthought

With Bill deBlasio’s departure, there are 19 declared candidates. We covered the Big 2.75 on Monday. Then we explored the Next Five, who will either form a single contender by the end of Iowa caucus proceedings or all fade into the mist. This leaves 11 others, none of whom will be the Democratic nominee, all of whom are persisting for one reason or another.

The Disruptors: Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard

Both are good candidates. Both are better, more interesting candidates than Amy Klobuchar. There’s a very narrow path for Klobuchar to contend for the nomination. There are a couple of scenarios where she’s somebody’s Veep.

Neither Yang, nor Gabbard are going to be on the 2020 Democratic ticket. Neither are likely to hit 15% in enough Iowa precincts to be a true factor in the caucus, though who their supporters would turn to as a second choice could impact a close contest.

But they’re both very interesting to me. Beyond having unique messages and being good at conveying them, they have youth and New Hampshire in their corner. Yang is 44. Gabbard is 38. We don’t know what direction the party will take over the next decade. Either or both could well find themselves viable next time, or the time after.

In the short run, both are polling better in New Hampshire than nationwide, and stand to benefit greatly from the large percentage of independents who will participate in the Democratic primary. Gabbard has pulled 6% in two of the last three surveys listed on Real Clear Politics.

She’s now in the October debate after missing September. Yang qualified for both. Multiple candidates from the second tier will drop out after Iowa, if not sooner. Booker and Klobuchar are both more likely nominees, but they’re also way less likely to make it to New Hampshire than Gabbard and Yang.

At least one of Beto, Buttigieg, and Harris won’t make it to New Hampshire. That’s going to create some space. While several campaigns are focusing on Iowa, none are going all in on New Hampshire, the way John Kasich did in 2016, or John McCain did in 2000 and 2008.

I think it would be very wise for Gabbard to do this. Yang is seemingly resistant to giving up on Iowa, and he could hit at least the 15% requirement in college precincts. Especially if she’s the only candidate all-in on New Hampshire, she could finish ahead of a couple contenders and set herself up well for the future.

Swung and Missed: Julian Castro

I guess he could still wind up on the ticket, maybe as Warren’s age/gender/ethnicity balance. He’s shown willingness to attack. That’s a traditional VP candidate responsibility. Maybe Little Julian (he’s the same height as Rubio) goes after Trump while Warren tries to remain above the fray.

He did qualify for four debates. That’s further than most other candidates with similar political experience got. As the only Latinx candidate in the contest during the Age of Intersectionality, his performance is disappointing. It’s particularly notable that he trails Beto O’Rourke among Latino voters in Texas, as well as all Texans.

But Pete Buttigieg stole his place. Beto’s too so far. It was possible for a young candidate who doesn’t have the normal resume of a presidential candidate to make an impact. Castro just wasn’t the best of those options.

Others with similar backgrounds will try next time. Perhaps even his twin brother Joaquin.

The Gadflies: Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson

Tom Steyer is in the October debate. A ton of elected officials, popular with their home state voters are already out of the contest, or on the outside looking in at the qualifying group. He’s not getting nominated.

We won’t know until he debates whether he can take up any space. He could. Steyer got in based on running a pile of ads in early voting states, correctly surmising that’s easier than making it through national polls.

He’s not hitting the 15% threshold in more than a few Iowa caucus precincts, even under his best scenario. But he could divert enough voters in New Hampshire to change who wins. Or who places close enough to continue. Emphasis on could. We’ll review this later with more evidence.

Williamson made the first two debates. She won’t make another. Unlike everyone listed below her, she does have a single qualifying poll, just not enough of them to make the stage.

Her previous presence was motivation for the DNC to tighten the rules. As such, she may have impeded someone else. Williamson won’t influence the 2020 campaign whatsoever going forward.

However, she will impact who decides to run in 2024 and 2028. She’s an author who got to appear in two debates. This will help her career going forward. A lot. The list of people thinking “if she could get on stage, maybe I could” is very long.

Find a Time Machine: Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet

Dem voters say they care about beating Trump. These guys probably would beat Trump. Especially Bullock. A few problems though, none of which have too much to do with the oversized field.

First, part of believing a candidate will beat Trump is familiarity. Voters have seen enough of Biden, Sanders, and increasingly Warren to think they can hang in against the political equivalent of a guerrilla fighter.

Sure, “won twice in Montana sounds great.” But it also reminds voters that nobody outside of Montana has taken Bullock’s measure. There isn’t enough safety in an unknown, regardless of how good a candidate looks on paper.

Neither has the charisma of a breakthrough candidate, though Bullock has the bigger personality of the two. Bennet is really dry. That’s fine for a senator in a purplish state. It’s really difficult for overcoming several better known candidates.

The biggest problem is Democrats haven’t lost many elections lately. To get someone as moderate as Bill Clinton nominated, Democrats had to watch Republicans win 400+ electoral votes three times in a row. And he still needed several other candidates to decide Bush 41 was an insurmountable target.

Republicans have won the popular vote once since 1988. Even that one (2004) was close. Democrats did very well in the 2018 midterm. Few voters think it’s necessary to choose someone like Bullock in order to win. Just ask Amy Klobuchar’s pollster.

It doesn’t mean they think anyone will do. They’re worried general election voters might not pick a woman of color, might stay away from a gay candidate, etc. That said, Biden’s time in the arena and willingness to take some progressive stands is seen as more important than Bullock’s centrism and lack of noticeable baggage.

Nope: Tim Ryan, John Delaney

Bullock and Bennet showed up at the wrong time in the wrong party, but have resumes that have worked in the past and will again in the future.

Neither Ryan, nor Delaney had any business running for president. Delaney was first out of the chute, declaring his candidacy back in 2017. So the stream of Moulton, Swalwell, et al is sort of his fault. The “if Delaney can run, so can I” barrier is pretty low.

The presence of so many congressmen in the campaign contributed to the debate qualification rules and may have inadvertently caused the scenario where Biden, Warren, and Sanders are out in front, with limited opportunity for others.

It truly doesn’t matter how long these two stick around now. They’ll be gone after Iowa. They won’t qualify for any future debates. They’re not keeping voters from other candidates. Think of them as ghosts in the machine.

Knew I Forgot Someone: Joe Sestak, Wayne Messam

These two are candidates in name only. There’s no other year, circumstance, or scenario that makes either of any relevance. Messam leads a city that has 20,000 more residents than South Bend, IN. This shows how remarkable the Mayor Pete candidacy is. It’s not an invitation for every mayor of a micro city to run in 2024 or 2028.

Sestak last failed at winning a Senate election in Pennsylvania. If each House member who couldn’t move to the upper house ran for president….

If either of these two got any traction, we could have seen 500 candidates next time. And I’m only slightly kidding. It will be interesting to see if their experience prevents a trend, or if others think “hey, I can’t do any worse than Joe Sestak.” Personally, I’m hoping for the former.

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