Last week Mike Bloomberg seemed poised to take control of the party’s center lane, creating a potential face-off with Bernie Sanders, fresh off having consolidated the bulk of the party’s left flank. Then the debate happened and oh well. Back to the drawing board for anti-Sanders forces.
1. Bernie Sanders ⬆️⬆️⬆️ (Last week: 1)
I just invented the triple-up arrow for today’s addition, because a singular one wouldn’t do Sanders’ justice, having taken about half of delegates available in Saturday’s Nevada caucus. His total percentage of the (second-round) vote, 39.3% with 60% reporting, puts him close to where he needs to be to be able to demand convention delegates fall in even if fails to reach 50% of the required delegates (which seems more and more likely by the day). His opposition remains fragmented and divided, giving him the chance to score big victories despite having a solid majority of the party preferring someone else.
The Sanders campaign, early in the cycle, gamed out a path to victory that required only winning about a third of delegates. I mocked it then, but it’s become a legit threat to the nomination. And if Elizabeth Warren can’t catch a break somewhere and is knocked from the race, he’d pick up enough of her center-left support to make him impossible to beat. He has to like her electoral difficulties.
On the flip side, Sanders is on track to once again get less votes than he did in 2016, suggesting that he isn’t growing from last cycle’s baseline. But at this point, who cares? It’s not keeping him from victory.
Ugh, who to put at second?
2. Joe Biden ⬆️ (last week: 5)
Biden moves back up to second-spot, where he was two weeks ago, not because of any particularly strong performance, but because everyone else has faltered so terribly. He did get close to 20% in Nevada, which is a strong performance given circumstances, and word out of the caucuses is that he did so by winning over a significant portion of the Black vote. That means his demographic firewall is still in place, and could deliver him a victory next Saturday in South Carolina, where he still retains a small lead over Bernie in the polling aggregate.
Biden’s immediate challenge was resisting the Bloomberg charge. He still hasn’t faced a ballot with Bloomberg present (won’t happen until Super Tuesday, the first week of March), but if he can keep that Black vote intact, it gives him moral authority to stay in the race and try to consolidate the center-left vote.
I’m not saying it’s likely. He is a weak candidate, performing weakly given his name recognition. His debate performances are weak. His campaign is weak.
But in a field where no one has blown things wide open, he has an excuse to stick around a little longer.
3. Pete Buttigieg ⬇️ (Last week: 2)
Sanders finally put some distance between him and small liberal college-town mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose run of “momentum” from white non-urban states finally ran out. He’s not looking good in South Carolina, and there aren’t any obvious wins for him on Super Tuesday. Given he’s in a crowded lane with Biden, Bloomberg, and Klobuchar, he’s run out of place to differentiate himself. The big questions now are 1) when does he run out of money, hence 2) when does he drop out.
4. Elizabeth Warren ⬇️ (last week: 3)
Warren can’t catch a break. A lack of early voting in New Hampshire hurt her ability to “bank” votes before Amy Klobuchar swiped a significant chunk of her support after the New Hampshire debate. Now, early vote (with over 2/3rds of the vote already banked) reduced her ability to take advantage of her blockbuster debate performance last Wednesday. In the end, she’ll end up with an anemic 10% or so of the vote. She needed better for a real shot in the arm. South Carolina isn’t looking much better.
On the plus side, Warren went from being broke at the end of January, with just slightly more than $2M in the bank, to having raised over $22M in the month. Last week’s debate gave her a new lease on life, but it’s a limited one. If she can’t make a move in the delegate count on Super Tuesday, I’m afraid her ride will be over. And if her ride is over, you can go ahead and crown Bernie the nominee.
5. Mike Bloomberg ⬇️ (last week: 4)
What a piece of shit debate performance for a piece of shit human. He could make amends for his terrible choices in life by funneling his money into worthy causes (as he was doing, prior to joining the race). He’s only this high because he has unlimited cash, but it’s not going to get him the nomination.
6. Amy Klobuchar ⬇️ (last week: 6)
Klobuchar got the least number of votes out of the remaining “serious” candidates, and somehow decided to declare victory. Whatever. The only question left is where her supporters will go. I won’t pretend to know.