We are now at the quarter pole to the first primary contest. It seems way too premature to make judgments on the status of the race at this point, but most that are running have been raising money, organizing campaign staff and giving their stump speeches. The field is metastasizing and will probably stay relatively static until the debates begin in June. That is probably when you’ll see the greatest movement between candidates as more Americans pay attention, but until then, you’ll probably see the pattern below hold barring major events.
Unlike CNN, the Washington Post and others who create “Power Rankings” (which are ridiculous on their face– their methodology is more guessing and bias than anything objective), we’re adopting a Tier system, where candidates are within particular groupings. Candidates can move between tiers but the candidates within tiers are largely tied.
Lastly, with the exception of Joe Biden, who commands a nationwide base of support and leads in every poll, we are assuming nobody else gets into the race at this point. When others announce we will place them in the appropriate grouping weeks later accommodating for the bump and subsequent post bump periods.
Joe Biden & Bernie Sanders. Both of these septuagenarians lead in every poll and between the two of them have almost 50% of the democratic voters currently. Most of this is on name ID, but they also have the benefit of having run before, having on the scene organization structures in all of the early voting states, and a sort of brand loyalty that will be hard to break. People feel comfortable with them, and their ability to raise money on the fly is difficult to understate.
However, there are a few things working against them this time around. Their age is a question (both would be the oldest first term president) particularly at a time when the Democratic Party is trying to appeal to a younger demographic. This also manifests itself in how they campaign; their generational mindset is very different from today’s social justice warriors in the age of Twitter. Just look at how Biden has been perceived lately for doing what was considered standard practice in campaigns in the ’80s. Lastly, when the debates start, will they look like seasoned statesmen, or cagey old coots next to the younger candidates? Can they maintain the early leads they benefit from? Only time will tell.
Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg. This tier is reserved for the upstarts who are building solid organizations, energizing their crowds and perched to make a move to the upper tier if things go right or Biden/Sanders support wanes. What is interesting is that each of these candidates are here for wildly varying reasons.
Harris has proven to be a notable establishment candidate (yes, she is– she’s clearly appealing to the existing democratic structures and groups), an impressive fundraiser with a solid base of support. She’s probably the closest to breaking through, as she’s probably the least known with the biggest upside. Outside of NY and CA, she’s not as well known; that is why her path to the nomination right now focuses primarily on CA which has moved up its primary date. This strategy did not work for Rudy Giuliani when he focused on Florida instead of Iowa and New Hampshire; it will be interesting to think if it can work here. Otherwise, Harris will have to improve her Iowa, NH and SC field organizations.
Warren comes with a lot of baggage, being the target for many of Donald Trump’s attacks. Nonetheless, her crowds have been the most energetic and she has proven to be a true rabble-rousing activist candidate. Having grown up in Oklahoma, she connects with Iowa voters, and living in Massachusetts means she has a leg up in New Hampshire. Her supporters are true believers and she has positioned herself well in the early goings. Should Bernie’s support collapse, she is in the best position to pick off those voters.
“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg is indeed having a moment right now. He has proven to be an articulate, knowledgeable candidate who has distinguished himself from the next tier of candidates. He’s raised a considerably amount of money the past month, and he’s been garnering most of the free press coverage that comes when the news media covers you more frequently. That attention probably won’t last until the debates, but he’s making the most of his moment in the sun. Interestingly, as a married homosexual, he’s taken the language of the GOP “family values” crowd and turned it to his advantage. If this message continues to resonate, he may connect with those midwesterners the Democrats need, even in red Iowa.
Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’rourke. These are the three candidates who have been doing a fine job of fundraising, building national campaigns and organizations in the early primary states, and have huge upside that can easily move into the upper tiers if things go right. For practical purposes though, they just haven’t broken through as the other candidates above them have (not counting their campaign launch “bumps”). Much of their ability to shoot up depends on other candidates faltering. If Biden chooses not to run, Klobuchar has positioned herself to benefit probably the most. If Buttigieg runs out of steam, Beto can move up. If Harris or Warren fade, Booker can make his move. I wouldn’t put anything past any of them at this point. An impressive debate showing could launch them and build huge momentum.
Julian Castro, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillebrand. These are the candidates that either are more niche candidates or haven’t managed a way to break through quite yet. In Castro’s case, he hasn’t caught fire quite like the others in the tiers above him. Inslee, Hickenlooper and Gillebrand all got somewhat late starts and are a little under the radar right now. These campaigns have upside, but at the moment seem stuck in neutral territory. It will take a “moment” for them to get them in gear and move upward.
Eric Swallwell, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Marrianne Williamson. Right now, these have the organization, money and momentum of also-rans. They rely almost entirely on free media from cable news appearances and are on the outside of typical democratic campaigns. It does not mean they can’t move upward if things align; for instance, Andrew Yang is making unorthodox campaign choices that may pay off. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely any of these candidates will be the nominee and are currently on the outside looking in.
So that’s where we are today. Disagree? Let us know– send us an email at teampurplemn@Gmail.com or leave a comment.