Post-Super Tuesday Thoughts

I have avoided making predictions this election season, given my poor track record in 2016 in regards to both Trump’s nomination and his election. As such, the following is more about assessing what I thought I thought about the 2020 Democratic primaries to date and what I think I think right now.

  • Kind of Where I Thought we Would be. In some ways, we are where I thought we would be: a winnowed field down to two candidates, one from the more progressive wing of the party and one a bit more moderate. However, a few months ago I thought it would be Biden and Warren. I thought Bernie’s ceiling was a little lower than it has turned out to be (although he does appear to have a ceiling).
  • You Can’t Buy the Nomination. Bloomberg spent, at least according to press accounts, roughly half a billion dollars and all it got him was American Samoa and a smattering of delegates in other races. Steyer, likewise, spent a ton of cash and was only able to get 11.3% and nary a single delegate.
  • You Can’t Skip the Early Contests. As much as it makes little sense that IA and NH have the influence that they do, the game is set up wherein one has to play it a certain way. Whether it was Rudy Giuliani starting with Florida back in 2008, Steyer putting all his chips on SC, or Bloomberg’s Super Tuesday strategy, the evidence continues to show that one cannot simply pick and choose when to enter a sequential process. You can’t skip steps.
  • Coordination is a Wonderful Thing. It has been fascinating to watch several of the candidates make clear strategic choices as it pertains to dropping out and endorsing Biden. It will be interesting to learn how that process came to pass. How much was it individual strategic choices and how much was it coordinated in some way?
  • Early Voting and Lots of Candidates. I am, in general, a proponent of early voting, but this contest demonstrates why it isn’t such a great idea in a sequential process with lots of candidates (especially given the 15% viability threshold).
  • Semi-proportional Rules. One thing is for sure, between the high threshold and the district-level allocation of delegates, it is incorrect to call the Democrat’s rules for delegate allocation “proportional.” While more proportional than plurality, they are also far from truly proportional.
  • Veep Thoughts. I think that the veep nominee has to be a either a woman or a minority (or a minority woman). I think more than that, the veep nominee has to be a non-septuagenarian. It, therefore, will not be Elizabeth Warren (that’s as bold a prediction as I am willing to make).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    I think there’s potentially another lesson about how having two caucuses right up front appears to potentially distort results.

    Likewise it’s s reminder of the need to have primaries structured in a way that all key demographic groups within a party’s voices are represented as soon as possible.

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  2. DrDaveT says:

    I for one am grateful to Bloomberg for having conducted the experiment, to see just what money CAN buy for a candidate unwilling (or too late to the party) to slog through a traditional campaign timeline.

    I wonder if the experiences of Yang, Steyer, and Bloomberg will help to put an end to the recent fad for billionaire hubris. (Or will billionaires take the wrong lesson from Trump’s election, and try to emulate his path to “success”?)

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I wonder if the experiences of Yang, Steyer, and Bloomberg will help to put an end to the recent fad for billionaire hubris.

    Yang’s estimated net worth is around a million dollars. And I don’t think there’s any sense in which he tried to “buy” the election.

    What Bloomberg’s huge spend did was allow him to build up a massive campaign organization overnight and flood the airwaves with ads. It got him high into the polls and onto the debate stage. Had he been better prepared to answer the obvious questions, who knows how far he could have gone. And, indeed, he might still have emerged as the non-Sanders alternative if Biden hadn’t done so well in South Carolina.

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  4. Moosebreath says:

    I will add a couple of my thoughts:

    There should have been more time between the last of the early 4 and Super Tuesday. An extra week would have led to a more orderly and less clearly coordinated system of candidates dropping out, which would have helped with early voting. It also would have created time for a debate with only a few candidates who have done well before Super Tuesday.

    On the Veepstakes, if Biden wins, given his weakness with Hispanics, Julian Castro should be high on his list. Moreover, since he endorsed Warren, it could be a way to reach out to progressives. If Bernie wins, I expect him to double down with a progressive, just because that’s the way he rolls.

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  5. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    Yang’s estimated net worth is around a million dollars. And I don’t think there’s any sense in which he tried to “buy” the election.

    Saunders’ estimated net worth is around 2.5 million dollars…
    (Warren? 12 million dollars)

  6. Jen says:

    Steyer putting all his chips on SC

    I agree with “you can’t skip the early states,” but will challenge the suggestion that Steyer did that. He spent a ton of money in NH, and was one of the very few candidates that made a big push via direct mail. He’d been spending serious money in NH from before he was even a declared candidate–my husband and I received numerous of the “Impeach” mailings.

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    @DrDaveT: I wouldn’t put Yang in the same category as Steyer and Bloomberg either. Yang had a specific policy that he advocated for: UBI. That was the reason for his candidacy. That was the reason people donated to him, to get that message across. I think he was successful. Not that people are clamoring for it, but I bet a lot more know what it is, and compare it to Alaska rather than to the Soviet Union now than did 2 years ago.

  8. al Ameda says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I wonder if the experiences of Yang, Steyer, and Bloomberg will help to put an end to the recent fad for billionaire hubris. (Or will billionaires take the wrong lesson from Trump’s election, and try to emulate his path to “success”?)

    Not sure why you include Yang here? I’ve read (in Newsweek, the WSJ) that Yang’s net worth is estimated to be anywhere from $800,000 to $4 million.

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  9. Fortunato says:

    Re Veep slot.
    Based on their performance I think we can be pretty sure it won’t be Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand.

    Not a clue where Bernie would go with it but I’d personally be thrilled with a Joe & Amy ticket. Screams of Americana, something I think many people are right now longing for – sanity, thoughtfulness and actual governance.
    Winning would be a nice change.
    Working Class Real World Values.
    The exact opposite of Trump’s gangland, money laundering, Cirque du Carnage oligarchy.
    Plus Amy would bring to the ticket the gnads that Joe is too often lacking.

    And an out the the box pick – Oprah.
    Really.
    Why not.
    She’s clearly brilliant, she’s tough, she’s a legitimate boot-strap billionaire and she’d absolutely guarantee a victory come November.

  10. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Moosebreath: Earlier today, responding to a friend on Facebook, I listed Klobuchar, Harris, and Booker as potential veep candidates for Biden. But Castro could also add some strength to the ticket.

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: @Fortunato:

    Klobuchar was my first choice for President, and I think she will get a serious look from Biden. I just think Castro is a better choice for keeping the progressives on board. Harris and Booker don’t do as much for the ticket, as they reinforce the bi-coastal orientation of the party and don’t appeal to the swing states as much.

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  12. Hal_10000 says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Klobuchar is young, popular, female and delivered Minnesota, showing that her boasting about the Midwest is more than just words. I’d feel a lot better about her being a heartbeat away than Harris.

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  13. An Interested Party says:

    I just think Castro is a better choice for keeping the progressives on board.

    I agree about picking a VP that appeals to the left wing of the party, after all, if Sanders does lose, they’ll be a lot of embittered potential Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters who’ll need some kind of solace…

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  14. Gustopher says:

    Bernie needs a Veep from the establishment to be a successful president. Someone who has built the relationships that Bernie has railed against. Someone who gets things done. Someone close enough politically that they won’t just be sidelined

    And he needs someone for the general election who can calm voters concerned about his “revolution.” Someone who can support his positions while saying that the world isn’t going to change overnight.

    And, frankly, he probably needs that person right now, if he has any hope of growing past his base and getting the nomination.

    I think he should make a VP announcement now. Someone who will give his most fervent supports heartburn, while helping his detractors get over theirs. Warren or Castro.

    Worry about Black voters after getting the nomination. Every candidate is going to have to work hard to pull some part of the coalition together, and he’s not going to pry them from Biden right now.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: Is Veep any kind of solace? Does anyone vote for the Veep?

    (Ok, McCain voters did, but that was scary)

    There’s a strong division in the party, so someone is going to have to just eat the shit sandwich. I’m a lefty, and I expect that I’ll have to eat that shit sandwich and smile as I do it, and I’m ok with that.

    The Veep needs to add something, but I don’t think having the most left-wing person ever in a job with no defined responsibilities is going to fool anyone.

    Better to compensate for weak skills.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    The Veep needs to add something, but I don’t think having the most left-wing person ever in a job with no defined responsibilities is going to fool anyone.

    It doesn’t have to be the most left-wing person ever and Biden could work with the person to define responsibilities for him/her and make sure that is known to voters…in the end, though, some people probably will have to eat that shit sandwich, unless they want to help to contribute to the reelection of Trump…

  17. DrDaveT says:

    @al Ameda:

    Not sure why you include Yang here?

    Out of ignorance?

    Thanks to all who corrected me here; I had really misunderstood his candidacy.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Jay L Gischer: The self-identified NEETs over at Reddit have been posting “when UBI gets implemented…” fantasies for months now. Yang has supposedly started a non-profit devoted to pushing UBI.

    Given NEET inability to leave their rooms and deal with real life I would caution against any politician planning on NEETs as being a dependable voting block. I doubt they’d have the gumption to get down to the voting booth. And the rest of the population despises slackers, which is what they’re identified as.