The Iowa and New Hampshire results have begun to clarify the choices Democratic voters will have in trying to pick a candidate to challenge President Donald Trump in November.
The grueling process of the last year has already eliminated several interesting and attractive candidates, including senators from New York, New Jersey, and California. The primary race is an endurance contest — like a marathon made up of a series of 100-meter dashes.
The biggest loser so far is not one of the younger senators who couldn’t break into the final circle.
The biggest loser has been Vice President Joe Biden. As in his first two runs for the presidency (both of which he ended early), Biden once again proved he is not an effective campaigner. The skills that worked in a small state with limited competition such as Delaware simply were not adequate for the harsh glare of the national media, the attacks from his opponents and the tough questioning by voters.
When he called the college-aged woman, “a lying, dog-faced pony soldier,” for challenging him on his performance in Iowa, it felt like he was genuinely unraveling from the pressure, exhaustion and frustration.
A weak showing in Iowa became a disaster in New Hampshire. You can’t come in fifth and claim to be the front runner. And if Biden isn’t the front runner, he has no explanation for his candidacy.
Everyone has talked about South Carolina as “Biden’s firewall,” but in modern presidential campaigns firewalls disappear if the candidate can’t win. Rudy Giuliani kept looking for a firewall until it was obvious he simply was not going to be competitive. The polls in South Carolina already show substantial slippage for Biden. If the intervening Nevada caucus becomes yet another defeat (and the evidence so far leans toward Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and maybe Elizabeth Warren having an advantage over Biden) then the South Carolina firewall will go up in smoke.
After South Carolina, the race turns to Super Tuesday – when the nation’s two largest states, and a number of others are at play. California and Texas are so big and expensive that it is hard to imagine Biden, Amy Klobuchar, or Buttigieg having the resources to compete. They would have to pick states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, or Oklahoma, and focus their time and money hoping to get some delegates and move toward an open convention.
However, in an ominous report Wednesday, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg came in first in a poll in Arkansas. No one has yet assessed the sheer amount of money he is spending. He may spend more on Facebook than Klobuchar will spend on her entire campaign. His huge, paid staff (already more than 2,100 people) is creating a new Bloomberg party which is run along the kind of tight management he used to make his billions.
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