- California senator Kamala Harris has ended her presidential bid.
- Support for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has fallen from a high of 26 percent to under 15 percent since she announced her Medicare-for-all plan.
- Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is officially in the race and trying an unconventional strategy: bypassing the first four primary states.
- Former vice president Joe Biden remains at the top of the field with 25 to 30 percent support.
Harris drops out
There are many retrospectives. I recommend Damon Linker’s, who argues Harris was a candidate “made by committee”.
By which I mean that she talked, looked and acted like she was grown in a top-secret high-tech lab deep in the bowls of the Democratic National Committee.
Harris looked great on paper. Elite-educated, but the daughter of immigrants. A former prosecutor, but a progressive.
A tough-as-nails, law-and-order black woman to take down President Trump: What could be better than that?
I thought so too, writing in January that Harris was “ideologically right where many Democrats want their candidate to be” and that she appealed to key Democratic constituencies: “women, voters of color, party loyalists and West Coast progressives.”
This advantage, according to Linker, became her liability:
Harris tripped over her own two feet trying to dance to the clashing beats of the Democratic Party’s many restive factions.
She ran away from her record as a prosecutor, which could have appealed to conservative Democrats and Romney-to-Clinton voters in a general election. She embraced Medicare-for-all — and still the woke left didn’t warm to her, but it did cause center-left voters to look elsewhere.
Warren is the same story.
By July, I thought she was the strongest candidate, and in my defense she went up from around 15 percent in the polls when I wrote that to 26 percent in October, tying with Biden.
Then she made the mistake on doubling down on left-wing policies that got her applause on Twitter and The Daily Show, but gave many primary voters pause.
Abolishing private health insurance, decriminalizing unsanctioned border crossings and government-funded abortions may be today’s litmus tests of the woke left, but they are hardly the new consensus in the rest of the country.
Health care is a particularly salient issue. Most Americans want the government to do more. They trust Democrats, not Republicans, on this. But tell them Democrats want to replace their health insurance with a one-size-fits-all, government-run system and that advantage goes away.
Rightly so, in my view, because abolishing private insurance is the last thing American health care needs.
Warren tends to be get lumped in with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. They are the two most left-wing candidates, but their supporters are different. Sanders’ are either young, politically active college graduates or non-college-educated working voters; a typical socialist coalition. Warren’s are more middle-aged and middle-income.
Those voters are now eying South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been going up from around 7 to 10-11 percent in the polls.
But if you want a centrist mayor with racial baggage, why not go for the one who has money and experience? South Bend is the seventh largest city in Indiana. New York is the most populous city in the country and Bloomberg governed it for twelve years. (Buttigieg is criticized for belatedly recognizing that schools in his city were still segregated. Bloomberg has apologized for a “stop and frisk” policy that targeted black and brown men.)
Bloomberg is polling in the single digits and trying to win in a way no candidate ever has in the modern primary era: by skipping Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and betting on a large delegate haul on March 3, “Super Tuesday”, when fourteen states, including California and Texas, as well as American Samoa vote.
Many politicos are skeptical, but Bloomberg does have two advantages.
One is money. The media magnate could self-fund his campaign many times over. Unlike Donald Trump, Bloomberg really is a billionaire. Unlike Trump, he is self-made.
Second is that his views line up with voters in the middle, who currently prefer Biden and who could decide the outcome of the 2020 election.
Jeff Greenfield writes that while the calm, reassuring, almost boring Bloomberg might reduce Democratic margins in California and New York, he could bring back enough voters in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for an Electoral College majority.
Bloomberg’s lack of ideological purity might even make the progressive policies he does support more palatable to the center: measures against climate change, stricter gun laws and higher taxes.