The Most Important Rule Of Surviving A Political Campaign Is: Don’t Quit!

The final delegate count may well be skewed.

Back in May 2011, Matt Yglesias proclaimed, “The Most Important Rule Of Surviving A Political Sex Scandal Is: Don’t Resign!” He’s been proven right time and again since. Al Franken’s Senate career ended because he resigned under pressure while Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court because he refused to do the honorable thing. And Virginia’s governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all survived scandals by simply going to work every day.

It doesn’t always work, of course. But resigning always results in defeat.

We may be about to see an analogue to that in the 2020 Democratic nomination fight.

More than a dozen candidates dropped out before the voting even started with the Iowa Caucuses. Presumably, it’s because their campaigns ran out of money.

Andrew Yang, Deval Patrick, and Michael Bennet dropped out after the first couple of contests. The race was still pretty wide open at that point, although Bernie Sanders had become the strong frontrunner. But, again, their war chests were likely empty.

After South Carolina’s results came in Saturday night, it was clear that we were down to a two-man race, with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden the only candidates left in the contest with even a mathematical chance of clinching the nomination ahead of the convention.

Vanity candidate Tom Steyer dropped out that night. Pete Buttigieg did so the next afternoon. And Amy Klobuchar did so today. Presumably, they could have afforded to stay in another two days to see what happened on Super Tuesday. Thus, one presumes, they either decided independently or were strongly pressured by party insiders to withdraw to clear the way for Biden.

But here’s what’s interesting: Buttigieg had won one of the four primaries and come in second in another. His 26 delegates was a respectable third.

Elizabeth Warren has finished no higher than third in any of the contests thus far and has only 8 delegates–one more than Klobuchar.

Mike Bloomberg has 0 delegates and zero wins thus far to show for his half-billion-dollar investment. Polls had shown him doing quite well on Super Tuesday but Biden’s surge is likely to dampen his support significantly.

Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race, too, but she’s a vanity candidate with no real expenses and won’t be invited to any more debates, so she’s just an interesting footnote.

Regardless, by not quitting the race, Warren and Bloomberg are likely going to do what Sanders and Ted Cruz did in 2016 (and Mike Huckabee did in 2008): wind up with a lot more delegates than their comparative popularity would otherwise merit simply by refusing to stop running a race they can’t win.

In the cases of Sanders 2016 and Huckabee 2008, it was boorish and weird but seemingly had no value beyond enhancing their ego. But, in 2020, Warren and Bloomberg could potentially wind up with more clout than Buttigieg simply because they’ll have more delegates to bargain with at what increasingly looks to be a contested convention.

In both cases, they’ll siphon votes away from the two dominant candidates.

Bloomberg’s continued presence in the race tomorrow will almost certainly keep Biden below the 15% delegate threshold in a state or two. That doesn’t seem to fit Bloomberg’s long-term interests.

With Warren, it’s harder to say.

Is she trying to become the compromise candidate at the convention? That seems an unlikely outcome but isn’t impossible.

Is she trying to gain leverage with Bernie Sanders, hoping to secure the VP slot or some other perk in exchange for tossing her delegates his way?

Or is she intentionally trying to sabotage Sanders and make it easier for the Establishment to win the nomination? That’s not implausible but would seem to doom her with the progressive wing of the party that she seeks to represent.

FILED UNDER: Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Slugger says:

    I wonder about the economics of running. You get your name and face out there, you attract contributions, and you quit before the contributions are all spent. I am pretty sure that you don’t send the contributions back. My campaign managers, Messieurs Bialystok and Bloom, are helping me on this project.

    4
  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    My guess is that Bloomberg’s vanity wouldn’t let him quit, and that Warren will stay in because it is not inconceivable that Bernie’s health could get in the way of finishing the race. If she’s in the race at the convention, and he is no longer viable for whatever reason, she likely becomes a viable alternative for many of Bernie’s pledged delegates.

    7
  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Wow, that’s a good reason to stay in, which I hadn’t thought of.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    The question is, who will siphon more votes from whom? Warren from Sanders or Bloomberg from Biden? And it’s very interesting how the two-man race that started the primary season has returned to the present moment…it’s like all that stuff between then and now was nothing but a sideshow…

    1
  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    she likely becomes a viable alternative for many of Bernie’s pledged delegates.

    I have no idea what’s going through Warren’s head but if it were me I would be thinking about the fact that Bernie has already had one heart attack this campaign season and seems intent on ensuring another. I hope to god she doesn’t really believe Bernie’s pretenses that he would make her his VP choice. Bernie would never bring someone onto his campaign that could remotely be considered his equal. I would expect he is currently scouring the International Workers of the World for their equivalent of Dan Quayle

    5
  6. An Interested Party says:

    This sounds about right…an endorsement now will be more powerful than an endorsement at any time in the future…

  7. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party: Thanks for the link. I try not to miss any of Rick Wilson’s articles. Nobody, but nobody, eviscerates Trump quite as well as Wilson does.

  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Yes… Don’t Quit.

    Mind-boggling that Tulsi is still in the game.

    Her nefarious plan: to compete in the brokered convention, and then follow that with a film from Universal: The Invisible Woman.

    1
  9. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Late last year I saw a number of Tulsi lawn signs in northeastern Mass. They’ve all vanished.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    Well. You can’t say this hasn’t been an interesting primary. I liked Pete, sent him a donation, have his t-shirt. I liked Warren, sent her money, have her t-shirt. I was open to Bloomberg until he actually appeared in reality. Secretary of Treasury, sure. And tonight I just gave money to Joe Biden.

    Nate Silver has a brokered convention as the far most likely outcome, 66%, with a clear win by Biden or Bernie at 17% each. Needless to say, Bernie isn’t coming out of a brokered convention as the nominee. What a shame Senator Principled made such a good argument four years ago against the idea that a plurality should mean an automatic win. I wonder how he’ll blame that on billioneahs.

    I don’t think Biden helps much against Trump. He should be able to bring Pennsylvania over. But Biden does a great deal for our chances of holding the House and maybe taking back the Senate, not something Bernie would do.

    5
  11. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: African Americans seem to not take risks with their votes. I don’t know if this is true but I read one time that they didn’t even support Obama until a ton of white people did. They seem to be in Biden’s camp and we shouldn’t overlook that.

    4
  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:

    African Americans seem to not take risks with their votes. I don’t know if this is true but I read one time that they didn’t even support Obama until a ton of white people did. They seem to be in Biden’s camp and we shouldn’t overlook that.

    Absolutely. The Bernie people have their legitimate claims, but African Americans are a quarter of the party, the single most faithful element of the Democratic electorate and they’ve been pretty clear they like Joe. Respect must be paid.

    3
  13. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I hope to god she doesn’t really believe Bernie’s pretenses that he would make her his VP choice.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Needless to say, Bernie isn’t coming out of a brokered convention as the nominee.

    If Warren’s delegates are what is needed for Bernie to get a majority… A Bernie/Warren ticket could very easily come out of the convention. And a competent Warren could be exactly what a shouty Bernie needs to govern effectively (until he drops dead of a heart attack)

    3
  14. Robert C says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Sadly, milk toast Biden will be crushed by Trump. He’s the face of the DNC and, being from Delaware, corporate America. Further, we will her ad nauseam about the grotesque nepotism he showed with his son. Bernie is the only who has a shot. This is a populist election, as was the last election. If the DNC gives us Biden, it’s over. Bernie may have no coattails, but I’ll take him as POTUS with Republican Congress any day over Trump and a Democratic house. Where’d that get us with the Supreme Court?

    2
  15. Robert C says:

    @Gustopher:
    Bernie’s coronary anatomy has been defined. He’s had an angiogram and stent. Big deal. In 2020, take a number. We know nothing of Trump’s or Biden’s cardiovascular fitness, nor their anatomy. I give Trump credit. He looks robust given his age. Biden appears older than stated age.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Teve:

    African Americans seem to not take risks with their votes.

    Yep, that’s why they gave us President Hillary instead of the man with “Hussein” in his name.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    Further, we will her ad nauseam about the grotesque nepotism he showed with his son.

    As opposed to the grotesque nepotism Trump has shown to his sons and daughter…

    I give Trump credit. He looks robust given his age.

    Robust? Ha! I suppose he is as robust as one can look with a spray tan sitting in all those wrinkles and the fake cotton candy hair…

    3
  18. Robert C says:

    @An Interested Party:
    You misinterpret what m saying. I’m not defending Trump. He and family are grifters extraordinaire! Further, I agree with the phony spray on tan. But…his base doesn’t care.
    With Biden, we will sound bite after sound bite of the $500k Hunter earned from Burisma, for a job he was patently unqualified to receive. (BTW, aside from nepotism, it showed terrible judgement from father and son).

    Biden can’t flip Penn/Wisc/Mich. look at the poll numbers.

    1
  19. charon says:

    Is she trying to gain leverage with Bernie Sanders, hoping to secure the VP slot or some other perk in exchange for tossing her delegates his way?

    Or is she intentionally trying to sabotage Sanders and make it easier for the Establishment to win the nomination? That’s not implausible but would seem to doom her with the progressive wing of the party that she seeks to represent.

    Perhaps the pundit theory of “lanes” that you have bought into is overly simplistic and a bit bogus. She has plans to wind up with leverage and do something with it, she probably even has options.

    1
  20. mattbernius says:

    @Robert C:

    Bernie may have no coattails, but I’ll take him as POTUS with Republican Congress any day over Trump and a Democratic house.

    Bernie’s problem isn’t just coat-tails — he’s yet to deliver on his promise of bringing significant numbers of *new voters* out to the primaries and ultimately the general.

    Yes, without a doubt he excites the far progressive and younger aspects of the party. However, both of those have yet to demonstrate that he excites them enough to actually show up and vote. Elections are won on turnout. And like it or not, but all of the election statistics demonstrate that the minority vote is far more important to Democrats than the young white voter vote.

    4
  21. Kathy says:

    Corollary: any corrupt, criminal, immoral, stupid, moronic, or plain bad actions undertaken in public and/or offered up as “right” without shame or apology, won’t hurt you with your core supporters, hangers on, assorted sycophants, or the great, uninterested masses.

    2
  22. mattbernius says:

    @Robert C:

    Biden can’t flip Penn/Wisc/Mich. look at the poll numbers.

    Ok, let’s look at poll number. Biden consistently leads in Michigan (though by a tight margin)
    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/michigan/

    In PA and WI Biden and Trump are neck and neck. However, Sanders wasn’t exactly running away with it either:
    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/pennsylvania/
    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/wisconsin/

    Bottom line, all three remain Swing States. And I expect that once we’re dealing with presumptive nominees (be it Biden or Sanders) we’ll see some real shifts in the numbers. But either way, none of those showed a particular clear and consistent leader for the Dems.

    Ultimately if Dems care about winning (and in particular the Supreme Court) then they need to support whom ever the candidate is and turn out in greater numbers than 2016. And I honestly do believe that a lot of that may come down to the VP choice.

    2
  23. al Ameda says:

    @Robert C: didn’t Republicans control both the House and the Senate for the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh nominations?

  24. Robert C says:

    @al Ameda:
    With a Republican President. That’s my point. To stop this we need a Democrat President.

    Biden is uninspiring with too much baggage. In bed with segregationists. In bed with corporate America. 8 years as VP and not one peep about holding anyone on Wall Street accountable for the subprime meltdown. His son working for Burisma, though legal, at a minimum is distaasteful. “Flyover” country rejected Clinton, for many reasons, including centrist DNC policies that didn’t help them. Biden embodies those policies.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    To stop this we need a Democrat President.

    Hmm…”Democrat” seems like a tell…

    2
  26. Robert C says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Oh please…you’re as conspiracy minded as a Trump supporter….hell, I friggin voted for Dukakis.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Oh please…you’re as conspiracy minded as a Trump supporter….

    Or a Bernie supporter…

  28. Robert C says:

    @An Interested Party:
    I’m not a huge Bernie guy, just think he can beat Trump, and have no hope that Biden can. But, just to clarify one point: it’s not conspiracy that the DNC actively worked against Bernie in 2016. It’s fact. D. Wasserman resigned because of this fact. It’s right there in Wikileaks.

    1
  29. An Interested Party says:

    …it’s not conspiracy that the DNC actively worked against Bernie in 2016.

    Cry me a river…Bernie isn’t even a Democrat so he has no basis to be upset about forces allegedly conspiring against him…I’ll bet that there are a lot of Republicans who wish that their party closed ranks around a non-Trump candidate in 2016 the way that moderate Dems are for Biden now…

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    I’ll bet that there are a lot of Republicans who wish that their party closed ranks around a non-Trump candidate in 2016

    Spineless cowards could still act against Trump today. They won’t though.
    Republican Man aspires to be a sexual pervert like he is.

    According to the criminal complaint released by the district court in Albuquerque, the accused told police “that the President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts”
    BBC

  31. Robert C says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Just like moderate dems closed ranks around Hillary.
    Fool me once…

  32. An Interested Party says:

    Just like moderate dems closed ranks around Hillary.
    Fool me once…

    Except for the fact that Biden has a much higher favorability rating than Hillary did, sure…