By Chris Stirewalt
Published February 12, 2020
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On the roster: Race reloaded - Time Out: Brewing up a revolution - Key Nevada union turns on Bernie - Ceiling badger don’t care
BEDFORD, N.H. — Eighteen days ago, the Democratic nominating contest looked much as it had since the fall: Former Vice President Joe Biden has a modest but stable advantage over Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg were back behind them trying to find their footing.
Eighteen days from now, it will be the day after the South Carolina Primary. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that by then two of those four — including the candidate who was the front-runner at the start of the month — will be out of the race entirely. It’s also quite possible that the race will have been entirely reset again.
Eighteen days is a political eternity, and with a scrambled race and new, front-loaded Democratic calendar, the import of those days is enormous. While the results here in New Hampshire have narrowed choices for Democrats, the number of reasonable potential scenarios for the party has, if anything, grown.
A socialist nominee? A contested convention? The first former mayor to be a nominee since 1968? The first openly gay nominee? The first nominee to win neither Iowa nor New Hampshire since 1992? All very much still on the table.
What’s off the table are a couple of things: The kind of stable, predictable contest Democrats had four years ago and a swift conclusion. Like a jam band concert, this is going to be long, unpredictable and often excruciatingly annoying.
But as we go, there are some general concepts to bear in mind:
- Voter attitudes and candidate approaches can change more sharply than we generally believe. Throw out all the polls from prior to today and start fresh.
- Don’t overestimate the inability of Democrats to fall in line behind Sanders if he keeps winning. It would be easier for Democrats to come to terms with Sanders than it was for Republicans to absorb then-reality show celebrity Donald Trump four years ago. Democrats might roll their eyes and distance themselves from his most radical policies, but #neverbernie will never be a big deal.
- Sanders has a far lower ceiling than he did four years ago. As the only alternative to a widely disliked establishment front-runner in a low-turnout 2016 race, Sanders got about 43 percent of the vote. With high interest in a very competitive race, more mainstream Democrats will show up. That means Sander’s loyalist forces won’t have the same disproportionate impact they did before.
- Michael Bloomberg has so far benefited from his position above the fray, perched high on a stack of cash. That’s going to change quickly. Bloomberg seems likely to make the debate stage in Nevada a week from today. Will he be able to live up the enormous hype? Will the other candidates dog-pile him? Bloomberg may have figured out how a centrist can again win a major party nomination or this may be remembered as his political Spruce Goose. Withhold judgement on his prospects at least until you see him in action.
- How and when the other candidates leave the race will matter — Biden and Warren particularly. They will be thinking about their own reputations and legacies, but the more urgent consideration is the shape of the race on their absence. Biden obviously feels obliged to hang in through South Carolina while Warren doesn’t have a clear pass-fail test. Will Biden be a party loyalist and try to clear the way for Buttigieg. Given his obvious disdain for Buttigieg, might he try to boost third-place New Hampshire finisher, Sen. Amy Klobuchar? Will Warren want to hassle her old frenemy, Sanders, or will she want to restore her left-wing cred by showing unity?
- Don’t overestimate the value of organization. Trump in 2016, Barack Obama in 2008 and Bill Clinton in 1992 all had to begin almost from scratch when their candidacies starting started cooking.
THE RULEBOOK: PRIDE IN CHECK
“The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic concerns of the members.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21
TIME OUT: BREWING UP A REVOLUTION
History: “Sultan Murad IV decreed death to coffee drinkers in the Ottoman Empire. King Charles II dispatched spies to infiltrate London’s coffeehouses, which he saw as the original source of ‘false news.’ During the Enlightenment, Voltaire, Rousseau and Isaac Newton could all be found talking philosophy over coffee. The cafés of Paris sheltered revolutionaries plotting the storming of the Bastille and later, served as the place authors like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre plotted their latest books. History is steeped in ideas sparked over cups of coffee. … Coffee was seen as a patriotic drink in the colonies after the Boston Tea Party, when drinking tea fell out of fashion. At the time, American taverns served coffee alongside liquor… From the Ottoman Empire to England, the United States to France, coffeehouses led to a meeting of the minds that inspired new waves of thought.”
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ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 44 percent
Average disapproval: 51.4 percent
Net Score: -7.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.4 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve - 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; CBS News: 43% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 44% approve - 51% disapprove;.]
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KEY NEVADA UNION TURNS ON BERNIE
The Nevada Independent: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would ‘end Culinary Healthcare’ if elected president, according to a new one-pager the politically powerful Culinary Union is posting back of house on the Las Vegas Strip. The new flyer, a copy of which was obtained by The Nevada Independent, compares the positions on health care, ‘good jobs’ and immigration of six Democratic presidential hopefuls who have come to the union’s headquarters over the last two months to court its members. But the primary difference outlined in the document, which is being distributed in both English and Spanish, is in the candidates’ positions on health care, taking particular aim at the Vermont senator over his Medicare-for-all policy… The language it uses to describe the position of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also supports Medicare for all after a transition period, is much gentler… The Culinary Union, which provides health insurance to 130,000 workers and their family members through a special trust fund, strongly opposes Medicare for all…”
Biden faces grim facts in South Carolina - WaPo: “Joe Biden flew [to S.C.] unexpectedly Tuesday night before New Hampshire votes were even counted, seeking to save his faltering campaign in a state he must win… But some people close to the operation have grown worried that Biden is no longer a sure bet in [S.C.’s] Feb. 29 primary and that his uneven performances on the campaign trail could dampen support. … ‘Black voters in South Carolina really like Joe Biden, trust Joe Biden and respect Joe Biden,’ said Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia and a Bloomberg supporter. ‘But they are pragmatic and want to win and beat Trump.’ … Biden’s biggest challenge in the state has come from billionaire Tom Steyer, who is also betting his campaign on a strong showing here. While Biden has been trying — and failing — elsewhere, Steyer has been blanketing South Carolina with ads and organization.”
Warren memo ignores reality - NYT: “In a lengthy Election Day memo outlining their path forward in the fractured Democratic primary, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign manager drew the sharpest contrasts to date with her leading rivals, arguing that Bernie Sanders has a political ‘ceiling,’ Joseph R. Biden Jr. is at risk of having his support collapse and that Pete Buttigieg will struggle as the primary moves on to more diverse states. The nearly 2,000-word memo describes a ‘volatile and unpredictable’ 2020 race that they expect to remain muddled through Super Tuesday… The memo provides, by far, the most detailed projections released by any campaign of delegate viability heading into Super Tuesday, predicting a ‘three-way race’ between herself, Mr. Biden, the former vice president and Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator. She omits Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., even though he received more support than her in Iowa and could do so again in New Hampshire.”
Buckle up, Bloomy - NYT: “A recording of Michael R. Bloomberg in 2015 offering an unflinching defense of stop-and-frisk policing circulated widely on social media Tuesday, signaling that the former New York City mayor is about to face more intensive scrutiny as he rises in the polls as a Democratic presidential candidate. … Material like the audio recording is certain to continue surfacing as the campaign advances: Mr. Bloomberg has not been shy about expressing his views since leaving office in 2013, often at elite conferences before friendly audiences. But he is seeking to win over a different audience now, making significant inroads among Democratic primary voters thanks to a massive and largely unanswered blitz of television advertising. It remains to be seen whether the appeal he has demonstrated so far can survive a more searching examination of his record.”
Deval Patrick suspends notional candidacy - AP: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the last remaining African American candidate in a Democratic presidential field once defined by its diversity, ended his 2020 campaign Wednesday after his late bid failed to catch fire or resonate with voters. ‘The vote in New Hampshire last night was not enough for us to create the practical win at the campaign’s back to go on to the next round of voting.’ Patrick said in a statement. Patrick came in second-to-last in New Hampshire on Tuesday with just over 1,200 votes, after ignoring Iowa and focusing most of his time and resources on the first primary. … It brings the number of Democrats in the presidential primary race to eight.”
Social media junkies less likely to accept election results - Pew Research Center: “Many political issues are highly polarized across partisan lines, but Americans’ confidence in the public’s willingness to accept election results regardless of who wins – a fundamental underpinning of our electoral system – is only modestly tied to party identification. Instead, it appears to have a closer relationship to how intensely U.S. adults engage with political and election news, according to a new analysis of data from Pew Research Center’s Election News Pathways project. The more closely someone follows political news, the more confidence that person has that election results will be accepted. And those differences cross party boundaries. … Reliance on social media for political news also appears to be a factor in someone’s confidence in the acceptance of election results. Americans who get most of their political news on social media display less confidence in the public’s acceptance of election results…”
Trump makes a general election play in New Hampshire - Fox News
New poll shows Jeff Sessions leading tight race for Alabama Senate seat - Alabama Daily News
AUDIBLE: IT BERRRRRRRRNS
“They’ll run away from Bernie Sanders like the devil running away from holy water.” – James Carville, a Democratic strategist who helped Bill Clinton get elected in 1992, describing the problem Sanders would be for down-ballot Democrats to the WaPo.
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CEILING BADGER DON’T CARE
UPI: “Animal rescuers in Britain were called to a drug store to rescue a badger that fell through a ceiling panel and went into hiding inside the business. The Northamptonshire Badger Group said personnel were summoned to the Superdrug store in Northampton, England, about 9 a.m. Monday to capture a badger that fell through the ceiling into the store. Sally Jones, a member of the group who responded to the store with her team, said the badger landed behind a counter and ransacked a perfume display before finding a hiding place underneath a shelving unit. …[The] badger was lured into a net and placed into a cage for transport to a veterinarian. ‘We assessed the badger for injuries but she was in perfect health. The fall might have shocked her but thankfully badgers have thick skulls,’ Jones said. … The badger was released Tuesday morning in a wooded area away from the town center.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“To hear your child repeat to his friends, verbatim and with utter assurance, something that he heard from you, is to feel the power, and weight, of absolute trust. Such innocence is moving. I feel obliged to meet it with nothing less than the absolute truth that it assumes.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 23, 1990.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.