The Democratic race for president may not sort itself out

The Democratic race for president may not sort itself out
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Last week, a spokesman for Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE announced that the former mayor of New York City will run in Democratic Party presidential primaries. “Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned” to defeat Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE, Howard Wolfson said. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickBlack leaders express concerns about representation in Biden administration The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Merrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report MORE, the former governor of Massachusetts, announced his entry into the race as well. Their candidacies increase the possibility that the primaries will not produce a nominee.

During the last few months, the vulnerabilities of the current crop of front runners have become painfully apparent. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list GOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Haaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior  MORE is a low-energy gaffe-machine who seems, well, so yesterday, with little appeal to young voters. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Overnight Defense: Defense bill moving forward despite Trump veto threat over tech fight | Government funding bill hits snag | Top general talks Afghanistan, Pentagon budget Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' MORE’s trillion dollar “Medicare for All” plan, which gets rid of private health insurance and is funded by a tax on the super-rich, may well eliminate the Democrats’ advantage on the issue that helped them win back a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and turn off Independents. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE (I-Vt.) is a 78-year-old democratic-socialist, who suffered a heart attack this summer and who seems unable to reach beyond his base of fervent supporters. Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year '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' MORE, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has not gotten any traction with African-Americans, a core constituency of the Democratic Party.

The elimination of winner-take-all primaries by the Democratic National Committee in 2006, the provision that candidates who get 15 percent or more of the vote in each primary will be awarded delegates to the nominating convention, and the rule that unelected “superdelegates” — members of Congress, governors, former presidents and vice presidents, and other party professionals, who comprise about 15 percent of the delegates at the Convention — cannot vote on the first ballot (and put the candidate most likely to win a general election over the top), make it more likely that several candidates will stay in the race, to increase the leverage and perhaps emerge as a compromise choice.


The latest polls in the states that host the first four campaign contests suggest how this might play out. In Iowa, a Monmouth University poll of likely caucus goers puts Buttigieg at 22 percent, Biden at 19 percent, Warren at 18 percent, and Sanders at 13 percent. A Quinnipiac University poll for New Hampshire has Biden at 20 percent, Warren at 16 percent, Buttigieg at 15 percent, and Sanders at 14 percent. Emerson College pollsters report that in Nevada Biden is supported by 30 percent of caucus voters, Warren 22 percent, and Sanders 19 percent. In South Carolina, Monmouth allocates 33 percent to Biden, 16 percent to Warren, and 12 percent to Sanders. In all these states, substantial numbers of voters indicate they might well change their minds. When and if other candidates (Bennet, Booker, Bullock, Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Steyer, Williamson, and Yang) drop out, each of the front runners may move solidly above the 15 percent threshold.

The Democratic front-runners, moreover, have raised enough money to keep hope alive for quite a while. According to the Federal Election Commission, Sanders has more than $33 million on hand, Warren $25 million, Buttigieg $23 million, Biden $9 million, slightly less than Sen. Kamala Harris, who may try to see how she fares in the California primary. Mayor Bloomberg, whom Forbes ranks as the eighth richest American, is also looking to pick up delegates on Super Tuesday and beyond.

We must remind ourselves, of course, that it is early.

In the past, even in crowded fields (think Republicans in 2016), front runners do emerge, gain momentum as they rack up wins in primaries, and reach or exceed the magic 51 percent threshold well before the convention gavel comes down. And in 2019, to put it mildly, Democrats have an incentive — President Donald J. Trump — to unite as early as possible behind a candidate.

Nonetheless, one can only hope that Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, chair of the Democratic National Committee, party elders (including Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Obama says he may take coronavirus vaccine on TV to build trust in it 'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement MORE), and the candidates themselves understand the danger of a “brokered” convention and even now are beginning to consider ways in which they might avoid one.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic:  Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.