Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy

Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy
© Getty Images

With less than three months to go before Democratic voters go to the Iowa caucuses to vote, we are closely following the first tier of declared 2020 candidates: former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE, and Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE, mayor of South Bend, Ind. 

Further down in the polls nationally and in the early states is a second tier that includes Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE and Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE and Silicon Valley tycoon Andrew YangAndrew YangMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' Andrew Yang moving to Georgia to help Democrats in Senate runoffs MORE

Booker is hoping for two long-shot possibilities. The first is that he can survive Iowa and New Hampshire while Biden runs out of steam, thereby capturing the lion’s share of African American voters in South Carolina (where turnout can be up to 60 percent of the total) to propel him into Super Tuesday on March 3. The second hope is that he can score enough points to become an acceptable running mate on the national ticket.


Both seem to be a bit farfetched for now.

Of this second tier, the ones to watch are Klobuchar and Yang — the former because she can become the late bloomer who can win the nomination; the latter for the harm he can do to one of the front-runners.

First, Klobuchar. She’s been elected multiple times, as county prosecutor and U.S. senator in Minnesota, including outpolling other Democrats in conservative parts of her home state. There are no grand pieces of legislation that bear her name, but Congressional Quarterly reports that she sponsored more successful legislation in the upper chamber than any of her colleagues of either party in the past session.

There have been widespread reports of apparently being a cruel and demanding boss and that she doesn’t suffer fools — none of which disqualifies her from the presidency. (Perhaps the contrary: These reports, fed by current and former staff, could help to neutralize her appearance of being just a non-flashy Midwest extra on a stage with party stars).

Her biggest assets, however, are that she is articulating the moderate position in the party better than anyone else in the field, and she is from a state neighboring Iowa — always important in the caucuses. No showboat, she (in my view) was the most outstanding challenger of Judge Brett Kavanaugh when she questioned him in the Senate. Forceful without playing to the crowd, she truly stood out when he tried to put her on the defensive regarding his love of beer.


In short, if she can do better than expected in Iowa, she could position herself as the candidate to benefit the most from any possible Biden slide. In this, her main rival is Mayor Pete; it remains to be seen if he can keep up his momentum over the next three months.

Yang is a fascinating character, though he has no real chance to win the nomination. But he is a great “none of the above” candidate in the field — and as such, he can be a real threat, particularly to Sanders. Yang is certainly no socialist, and his combination of $1,000 a month promised to every individual American — funded by a value added tax — is backed up by some dizzying math. But his real appeal is that he projects himself as a smart, overachieving techie, with a sense of humor no less, and has a loyal and growing following among millennials (the “Yang Gang”). Any rise in his polling numbers can cut more into Sanders’s key base of young people — especially young men. He is the iconoclast, the outsider, and I say he is worth watching just for that. 

Both candidates are at 5 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire, which is better than most candidates. Pay attention to any movement they show in the weeks ahead — it could give a clue about any disaffection from the front-runners, and who may be able to step in to fill in any breach.

John Zogby is founder of the Zogby Poll and a veteran of U.S. presidential polling. He has conducted polls for Reuters, the New York Post, the Miami Herald, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Houston Chronicle, and other news media in the U.S. and abroad. Follow him on Twitter @TheJohnZogby