After the second round of debates, we’re anticipating a big change in the race dynamic. The requirements for the next debate are more stringent, and should whittle the field down, if not in attention or support, then in money as fundraisers don’t want to work for a losing campaign. The field should largely be cut almost in half by the start of September. So where does that leave us?
Well, after two debates and a pretty solid start to the campaign season, the tiers are getting shuffled a little. For the most part, they’re still aligned just as we had them back in April, but the field and the strategies related to them are going to change going forward.
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.
Joe Biden. Polling wise he’s doubling, even tripling the field. He is still the only one with a truly national base of support, and he’s the only candidate that can stay in the race to Super Tuesday without winning a state.
That is NOT to say, he is a safe or even solid packleader. The proverbial “Biden Gaffe” has reared its ugly head a number of times already, EVERYBODY is taking pot shots at him when they can, and he has shown every bit of his age so far this campaign. The issues that are coming to define the campaign do not necessarily play well with the activist dem electorate (which mind you are trending younger) and he has failed so far to capitalize on his connections to President Obama. This is a very weak leader and is ripe for an upstart to overtake him. At this point, the only things that he has going for him in that regard are that 1) there are a LOT of other options and 2) they are not only aiming their fire at him, but at each other. Until one emerges (and one is starting to), he still commands the lead.
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders. This tier is reserved for those that are building solid campaigns, don’t need anyone above them to falter to move up, and should survive the first four contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada). Right now, the only two who fit that bill are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders
Warren has done an excellent job of running a first class organization. She has solid grassroots support in both Iowa and New Hampshire, has taken a commanding lead appealing to the more liberal wing of the party, and energizes crowds wherever she goes. She has a keen sense of the issues (she has a plan for everything) and was really the only one who could say she had two solid debate performances.
As for Bernie, he’s largely running the same campaign he did four years ago, only with the advantage that the party activists are more open to his ideas. He and Warren are largely appealing to the same group of voters, and if either of them were to get out of the race, the other would see a huge surge in support. Right now though, Bernie’s supporters are extremely loyal to him and so long as he is in the race they’ll stay by him. Bernie’s best path is to continue to dictate the issues of the race and force others to adopt his positions or risk being too verbose, nuanced or qualifying in a response.
Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker. These are the three candidates that have fundraised well, shown some upward movement or had a notable debate performance, have a real potential to break through, but so far have no cracked the top tier. Harris has done a great job fundraising and has ample cash on hand for a serious contest in the fall. The boost from her first campaign performance (a knockout to Biden he wasn’t expecting) lacked momentum and her second debate she took oncoming hits from the other candidates. She has potential, but like Icarus, the higher she goes the more she comes back to the pack.
“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg is an interesting case. He probably has the best personal story out of anyone, and he had quite notably the highest fundraising totals of any Dem candidate the second quarter. He’s shown some upward mobility in the polls from time to time but hasn’t broken through either. He’s conducted himself fine during the debates, been fairly positive, and non-controversial, yet his thin governing resume and local issues do seem to be holding him back. He also has a very large minority outreach issue (a recent Morning Consult polls showed he has 0% african-american support- ouch). He’ll have to branch out to move up.
Booker has been quietly building a solid campaign in Iowa. He’s likeable, well-spoken, with a good command of the issues. He’s fundraised OK, but hasn’t had a breakout moment until the second debate. When the issues favored him, he truly shined as a candidate. He’s been hanging out in the lower tier for awhile, and probably deserves to still be grouped there, but there is definitely an opportunity here if he can build on it.
Beto O’rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Steve Bullock. These are the remaining candidates who either qualified for the September debates, should qualify or are on the fence of qualifying. Beto’s campaign has lost that spark that made him such a dynamic Texas Senate candidate. Since he got in, his campaign has been searching for purpose and so far hasn’t found it. Klobuchar has been fine as a candidate but also shows the signs of going nowhere fast. She positioned herself to be the candidate that ascends should Biden falter, but Biden doesn’t look like he’s leaving, and now others have crowded her out of that mantle. Castro has had some great moments that fade from memory fast. He has shown that spark from time to time, but then there is seldom a follow through, which is a sign of a mediocre campaign operation. Not sure he lasts past Iowa. Bullock got into the race late and has some upside. He’s the only one staking out a position solidly to the right of the Democratic caucus. With the number of never Trumpers and ex-Republicans out there, that doesn’t seem unwise to me. We’ll see if it pays off.
Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillebrand, Bill DeBlasio, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Marrianne Williamson. Right now, these are the candidates unlikely to yield a solid campaign through to Iowa, and if they do the likelihood of them receiving a delegate is slim to none. Of these names, Andrew Yang has made an interesting run based on his unorthodox campaign. Williamson is seen as a bit of a novelty more than a serious contender. The others just lack the campaign staff, money, attention and ground game to pose a serious run and are seen as little more than single issue candidates or bomb throwers. That could change, but so far, we haven’t seen anything to think otherwise.
So that’s where we are today. Disagree? Let us know– send us an email at teampurplemn@Gmail.com or leave a comment.