Can Biden And Warren Survive?

February 13, 2020

Give this to New Hampshire: At least it got the vote tabulation right. The rest of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, however, remains a muddle.

Bernie Sanders again narrowly won the most votes—76,324 (25.7%) to Pete Buttigieg’s 72,457 (24.4%) at press time. But four years ago the Vermont democratic socialist carried New Hampshire with 60%. This time, his first-place share of the vote was 12 points below Hillary Clinton’s second-place finish in 2016. Messrs. Sanders and Buttigieg walk away from the Granite State with nine delegates each.

There was also a surprise: Amy Klobuchar’s momentum from her impressive debate performance Friday won her a close third, with 19.8% of the vote and six delegates. She may now receive enough donations to compete through the Super Tuesday contests on March 3.

Joe Biden was one of the night’s biggest losers, staggering to a fifth-place finish with 8.4%. He’s hoping for a turnaround in South Carolina, but his campaign is in intensive care.

Things look even worse for the fourth-place finisher, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who got 9.2% in her neighboring state. She has money to play through Super Tuesday, but Mr. Sanders dominates the party’s left-winger lane, and Sen. Klobuchar seems to have taken control of the female lane. Ms. Warren now needs a miracle.

As for delegates, Mr. Buttigieg has 22 of those selected so far, good for 34%. Mr. Sanders has 21, and the three others split the remaining 21. But Mike Bloomberg looms. He’s spending gobs of cash in the Super Tuesday states and could grab a big chunk of the delegate total. At least six candidates are likely to have delegates after those 16 contests are tallied.

The front-loaded primary schedule means nearly 40% of all delegates will have been selected by March 4. Do the math. Say the front-runner after Super Tuesday has 35% of the delegates selected that far. He must then win 60% of delegates in the remaining contests to have a first-ballot victory at the Democratic convention. That’s not impossible, but it’ll be hard to do.

Another realization this week: Mr. Sanders wields a sharp blade in hand-to-hand combat. On “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace asked Mr. Buttigieg about the Vermont senator’s attack in the Friday debate that the South Bend, Ind., mayor had “40 billionaires” contributing to his campaign “from the pharmaceutical industry” and Wall Street. Mr. Buttigieg responded meekly that he wants the support of everybody who shares his vision.

Mr. Sanders appeared next, so Mr. Wallace asked him what was wrong with the view that “you’ve got to build a coalition and accept money from all sources if you’re going to beat Donald Trump.”

Mr. Sanders responded that “billionaires and the big-money interests” control “what goes on politically, what goes on legislatively,” and castigated Mr. Buttigieg for taking money from a list of villains: fossil-fuel financiers, insurance companies and Wall Street. He hit hard on the CEOs of major pharmaceutical companies supporting Mr. Buttigieg, calling their firms “extraordinarily greedy” and “corrupt.” He linked them—and by implication Mr. Buttigieg—with the opioid epidemic, saying they sold “a product that they knew was addictive and killing people.”

Meanwhile, the $124,850 that billionaires and their spouses gave Mr. Buttigieg as of the last reporting cycle was less than 0.2% of the $76 million he has raised. Besides, a Forbes report from December found that not one of Mr. Buttigieg’s billionaire donors was a drug-company CEO. Team Trump should take notice of Mr. Sanders’s skill with the drive-by smear.

Sometimes Mr. Sanders disclaims the need for facts at all. When asked a few weeks ago by CBS’s Norah O’Donnell how he’d pay an estimated $60 trillion over 10 years for his free-stuff agenda, America’s leading democratic socialist confessed that “nobody knows” how much his plans will cost: “This is impossible to predict.”

Asked in New Hampshire if the party has room for pro-life Democrats, Mr. Sanders said no. Answering the same question at a different event, Mr. Buttigieg couldn’t bring himself to say yes. And when pressed by Mr. Wallace on his support for decriminalizing drug possession, Mr. Buttigieg defended doing so not only for marijuana, but for meth and heroin as well.

A spirited primary contest is standard for the party out of power. What made this week particularly good for Republicans is the Democrats’ lurch to the left, which shows no signs of abating. As famed Democratic strategist James Carville said after the Iowa caucuses, “We don’t need to become the British Labour Party.” If it does, the Democratic Party risks squandering its chance to win the White House.


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