Swing State Pres

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

BTRTN 2020 Vision: Biden Surviving and Mayor Pete Rising

Tom with our BTRTN monthly feature on the 2020 Elections, with all the latest numbers.

Image result for 2020 visionThe Democratic field keeps growing, up to 18 strong, and still without Joe Biden.  And the GOP field is almost certainly set, with the emergence of the Barr summary of the Mueller report, and its announced larger truths that no one disputes:  that Mueller found no evidence of criminal conspiracy, nor could he bring himself to declare there was obstruction of justice (though he also fell short of exoneration).  There will be no impeachment hearings during the balance of Donald Trump’s first term, and no challenger (other than Bill Weld) will emerge to “primary” Trump from among those who might have been waiting for a more damning verdict.

But the most consequential developments of the past month for the 2020 presidential race were not these developments, but rather those involving Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, as we shall discuss further on.

THE FIELD

In the last month, there were three more entrants to the Democratic field.  You may have missed the late March announcement of the “other” mayor now in the race, Wayne Messam, who presides over Miramar, Florida, with a population of 140,328, larger than Buttigieg’s South Bend (102,245) and dwarfing Wasilla, Alaska (which was about 8,000 when Sarah Palin was on the GOP ticket in 2008).  But you’ve probably heard about Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Eric Swalwell of California, who both entered in April.

Remarkably enough, the field may not yet be complete, even apart from Biden.  Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (who is, of course, considering an independent run) remain potential entrants.  Grumbling Democrats may not consider this a swell field, on the whole, but it is certainly a swelling one.

Thus the entire Democratic field, as of now (that is, the announced candidates plus Biden) looks as follows, ranked by the average of the national polls over the last month (more on the polls below): 
  


Potential Candidates
Age
Announcement  Date
Credentials
Joe Biden
76
TBD
Former VP, Former Senator, Delaware
Bernie Sanders
77
2/19/2019
Senator, Vermont
Kamala Harris
54
1/18/2019
Senator, California
Beto O'Rourke
46
3/14/2019
Former Representative, Texas
Elizabeth Warren
69
12/31/2018
Senator, Massachusetts
Cory Booker
49
2/1/2019
Senator, New Jersey
Pete Buttigeig
36
1/22/2019
Mayor, South Bend, Indiana
Amy Klobuchar
58
2/10/2019
Senator, Minnesota
Jay Inslee
67
3/1/2019
Governor, Washington
Kirsten Gillibrand
51
1/15/2019
Senator, New York
John Hickenlooper
66
3/4/2019
Former Governor, Colorado
Julian Castro
44
1/10/2019
Former Secretary, HUD
Andrew Yang
43
11/6/2017
Entrepreneur
John Delaney
55
7/28/2017
Representative, Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard
37
1/11/2019
Representative, Hawaii
Marianne Williamson
66
1/28/2019
Self-help author
Eric Swalwell
38
4/8/2019
Representative, California
Tim Ryan
45
4/4/2019
Representative, Ohio
Wayne Messam
44
3/28/2019
Mayor, Miramar, Florida

THE MONTH

The month was dominated by a gut-check for Biden and the rise of Buttigieg.  Biden became embroiled in controversy when a Nevada assemblywomen, Lucy Flores, accused him of inappropriate physical contact with her when he was campaigning in 2014.  This charge was quickly followed by other women coming forward, and video emerging that quickly confirmed Biden’s traditional use of an old school, touchy-feely brand of retail politics.  Biden was slow to respond, did not get it “right” off the bat, and was clearly reeling from the charges.

None of these charges were “#MeToo”-esque in nature; none of the women who came forward were accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior.  And while there were some who called for Biden to not enter the race, plenty of others were willing to cut him some slack, and not anxious for a repeat of Al Franken’s swift expulsion.  There is little question that Biden was hurt by the issue, since, at the very least, it hit him in his biggest area of vulnerability, that he is old and out of touch with today’s values. 

Pete Buttigieg, quite simply, has broken through.  And while he has a fascinating resume, as impressive as it is, it is not the resume that is causing the fuss.  It is the man himself, how he speaks, his common-sense, straightforward take on the issues, his personal appeal, that is driving the “Mayor Pete” wave.

As is well chronicled by now, Buttigieg is young, the youngest candidate in the field, at age 37, barely eligible to run for the office.  As Mayor of South Bend, he has among the slimmest portfolios among the 18 candidates.  But he has packed a great deal into that short life, as a Rhodes Scholar and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who served in Iraq (as well as an undergraduate diploma from Harvard and a stint at McKinsey).  Add into the mix that he is openly gay, and you have an utterly unique candidate who may be as right (or ahead of) the times as Biden appears to be a relic of the past.

Buttigieg made his formal announcement this past Sunday, and the reaction has been astonishing.  The talk is of JFK and Obama, two previous winners who ran, respectively, on “the torch has passed to a new generation” and “hope and change” messaging.  Both were young, fresh and credentialed, and astonishingly different from their opponents in both the primaries and in the general election.

But all of this visceral reaction has translated into an impressive jump in the polls, more so in Iowa, where it seems almost everyone is paying very close attention.  Quite simply, none of the other candidates have generated anything approaching Buttigieg’s appeal.  He has surpassed Beto as the shiniest new object of the race.

The only thing hotter than Pete Buttigieg on this planet is James Holzhauer.  And if you have never heard of him, you simply have not been paying attention.



There have been few GOP polls, but the smattering out there indicate that Trump would crush a GOP challenger, with the margins between him and, say, Romney, at 50+ points.

THE NUMBERS

The Democratic race remains in three tiers now, both nationally and in Iowa.  We have ranked the candidates by their Iowa poll numbers, which we consider the most important right now.  There has been limited New Hampshire polling, but the most recent is quite similar to that of Iowa.

Biden and Bernie Sanders remain firmly alone in Tier One, with Biden materially ahead.  (You may have seen an omnious Emerson poll earlier this week, showing him trailing Sanders 29/24 nationally, but another poll just yesterday by Morning Consult had Biden up 31/23 over Bernie.)

Buttigieg has jumped into Tier 2, leaping from 0% to 11% in Iowa, and from 0% to 3% nationally.  No other candidates showed any similar movement up or down.  Amy Klobuchar fell from Tier 2 to Tier 3, her candidacy sinking under the weight of negative press on how she treats her Senate staff, and her moderate message that may be well off the party’s lefty tendencies.  Kristen Gillibrand has yet to make a mark, and she too finds herself struggling with the governors, the representatives and the offbeats that are filling out the field right now.

"Tiers"
Candidates*
Iowa Polls

Average of Naional Polls
Tiers
Emerson Jan 3 - Feb 2
DM Reg Mar 3-6
Mar 16 - Apr 15

Jan 16 - Feb 15
Feb 16 - Mar 15
Mar 16 - Apr 15
Tier 1
Biden
29
27
26

29
29
31
Tier 1
Sanders
15
25
20

17
23
23
Tier 2
Buttigeig
0
0
11

0
0
3
Tier 2
Harris
18
7
10

11
11
9
Warren
11
9
9

7
7
6
Booker
4
3
6

4
5
4
O'Rourke
6
5
5

7
6
8
Tier 3
Klobuchar
3
3
2

2
4
2
Tier 3
Castro
2
1
1

1
1
1
Inslee
0
1
1

0
0
1
Gillibrand
1
0
0

1
1
1
Hickenlooper
0
0
0

1
1
1
Gabbard
0
0
0

1
1
1
Delaney
0
0
0

0
0
1
Yang
0
0
0

1
0
1
Williamson
0
0
0

0
0
0

Other/NA
11
19
9

18
11
7

* Chart includes all announced candidates except the just-announced Messam, Swalwell and Ryan;
includes only Biden among the unannounced

Also worth commenting on this month are the fundraising figures announced by the candidates for the first quarter, a perhaps even more important scorecard than the polls.  It is fairly easy to tell the winners from the losers.


First Quarter Fundraising
$ Millions
Sanders
18.2
Harris
12.0
O'Rourke
9.4
Buttigeig
7.0
Warren
6.0
Klobuchar
5.2
Booker
5.1
Gillibrand
3.0
Inslee
2.3
Hickenlooper
2.2
Gabbard
2.0
Yang
1.8
Williamson
1.5
Castro
1.1
Delaney
0.4
Messam
0.1
Swalwell and Ryan announced after
April 1; Biden has yet to announce


The next Democratic candidate to make a buzz?  Look for Andrew Yang.  For a total unknown, the social entrepreneur raised a decent amount at $1.8 million, and he has made a minor mark in recent national polling.  Those are signs that portend a rising profile.

WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?

There have been several polls that pose the central question for Democrats in the 2020 primary process:  are you going to vote for the candidate that best matches your policy views, or the one that you think is most likely to beat Donald Trump?

One such poll, by USA Today/Suffolk University, shows Democrats more inclined to back the one who can beat Trump over their ideological twin by a 55-35 margin.

And so Democrats will be paying attention to head-to-head polling, and at this early stage of the game, that is a plus for Joe Biden.  There have not been a ton of these polls, nor do they cover each of the Democratic candidates, but we have combined the results of two recent ones (Emerson and PPP) that cover a half-dozen candidates.   Biden easily outpaces Trump in them, while Bernie is even. 

This outcome would seem to reinforce a fear within the Democratic Party that veering too far to the left – toward Bernie or, say, Elizabeth Warren – for the nominee would give Trump a better chance to win. 

Dem
vs. Trump
Biden
+10
Harris
+4
O'Rourke
+4
Warren
+1
Buttigieg
+1
Sanders
0

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