Democratic Primary News

Sanders is ahead in the polls. Bloomberg disappoints in his first debate.

Michael Bloomberg
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg attends a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, October 10, 2019 (Mike Bloomberg 2020)
  • Bernie Sanders is now faraway the frontrunner with recent polls giving him 27 to 32 percent support nationally. Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg are vying for second place with an average of 16-18 percent support each.
  • Sanders also leads in the few polls that have been taken in Nevada, where Democrats caucus on Saturday.
  • Biden is still ahead in the endorsement primary, winning nine more endorsements from prominent Democrats this month, but Bloomberg is catching up fast, with twenty endorsements in February.
  • Bloomberg is also making inroads with black voters. He has been endorsed by three members of the Congressional Black Caucus. A Quinnipiac University poll (PDF) gives the former New York mayor 22 percent support from African Americans, trailing only Biden, who has 27 percent.
  • Bloomberg is spending more money on television commercials than all the other candidates combined.
  • Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick and Andrew Yang have ended their presidential bids after failing to qualify for delegates in New Hampshire.

National polling averages

270toWin FiveThirtyEight RealClearPolitics
Sanders 28.1% 25.3% 27.8%
Biden 17% 16.6% 17.8%
Bloomberg 16% 16.2% 16.1%
Warren 11.9% 12% 12.3%
Buttigieg 10.4% 10.6% 10.3%
Klobuchar 6.4% 5.6% 6.44%

My take on the debate

I’m probably willing to cut Bloomberg more slack than Democratic voters, because I share his centrist instincts, but Wednesday’s NBC debate in Las Vegas was rough. The media tycoon was simply unconvincing when Elizabeth Warren pressed him on nondisclosure agreements Bloomberg has signed with women who have accused him and his company of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

But I also think some of the headlines in the left-wing media (“Despite His Billions, Bloomberg Busts“, “Mike Bloomberg is a disaster“) are over-the-top.

Political scientist David A. Hopkins believes this may have something to do with the press being “stung” by accusations that it didn’t give Warren the attention she deserves in the last few weeks and Bloomberg “facing the difficult task of living up in person to a set of rising poll numbers fueled by an unprecedented advertising blitz.”

He had better answers on climate change and his wealth. Bloomberg pointed out that he is the only candidate who has started and run a business, although when he tried to talk about encouraging entrepreneurship — which Warren rightly pointed out is more difficult for black and Latino Americans — the moderators cut him off and it was the last time anyone said anything pro-business in the debate. Not a good look for Democrats.

Biden has figured out that the way to put in a solid debate performance is to shout every answer. Sanders has been doing that for months.

His response to questions about the cost of Medicare-for-all was again that Americans pay more for health care than Canadians and Europeans. Which is true, but not an answer.

Many of those watching may also have learned from the debate that Sanders doesn’t intend to put only the 600,000 Americans who work in health insurance out of a job, but the 1.2 million who work in fossil fuels as well.

Warren had a good night until she insisted Biden was pro-Mitch McConnell. It’s fair to question the former vice president’s assumption that Republicans will be more willing to compromise once Donald Trump is defeated, but to accuse him of wanting McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, to win reelection is bizarre.

The sight of her and Sanders constantly waving at the moderators to try to get a word in became a little unseemly as the debate went on.

Amy Klobuchar had a fair rebuttal to Pete Buttigieg, whose hasn’t led anything bigger than a town of 100,000 but still thought he could mock Klobuchar, a three-term senator, for not remembering the name of the president of Mexico in an earlier interview and representing a state (Minnesota) that has never produced a president. With four relative moderates competing to become the anti-Sanders, I doubt Buttigieg did himself any favors dismissing their combined experience and wisdom — especially when he made the only woman among the four his primary target.

Read more

  • Jonathan Bernstein on thinking about the primaries from the perspective of the party, not the candidates: “For the media and the campaigns, and for most voters, the nomination process is all about which candidate wins. But for the party, what’s more important is making sure that whichever nominee is chosen … would be bound to the party’s policy positions and priorities and otherwise support the party from the White House.”
  • Jonathan Chait argues Biden’s weak campaign has hurt both his personal legacy and his political agenda: “If not for Biden, a mainstream liberal Democrat might well have begun to consolidate support of a party establishment that is not looking for a candidate who will embrace wildly unpopular policies and a wildly unpopular socialist label while emphasizing transformative economic change in the midst of the best economy in a generation.”
  • Uri Friedman on Sanders’ foreign policy.
  • Ezra Klein is impressed by Buttigieg’s commitment to political reform — abolishing the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster, expanding the Supreme Court — in order to translate Democratic majorities into policy.
  • Jonathan V. Last sees Sanders’ popularity as a sign that the Democratic Party could collapse like the Republican Party four years ago.
  • Noah Rothman cautions against assuming black voters all share the same priorities.
  • Martin Wolf on the consequences of a Trump reelection: “The notion of the West as an alliance with some moral foundations would evaporate.”
  • Matthew Yglesias argues mainstream Democrats don’t need to be afraid of Sanders: “On the vast majority of issues, a Sanders administration would deliver pretty much the same policy outcomes as any other Democrat.”

What’s next?

  • February 22: Nevada caucuses
  • February 25: CBS debate in Charleston
  • February 29: South Carolina primary
  • March 3: Super Tuesday

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter