Moderate Democrats now in a race against the clock
As Andrew Yang, the “Math Guy,” dropped out of the Democratic presidential derby Tuesday night in New Hampshire, he had clearly done his own math, which didn’t add up to a shot at the nomination title.
As pundits droned on about the rising significance of two moderates — Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg polling cumulatively above Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the latter’s neighboring state — Yang must have winced at the media’s missing decimal.
That’s because whether you’re using a high-speed calculator or an abacus, the search for the center won’t matter if someone in that space soon doesn’t head for the exits.
If Sanders scores well in Nevada, places well in South Carolina, and maintains his poll leads in California, New York and elsewhere, he is in position to score 600+ delegates out of the required 1,991 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
That sounds short of critical mass; even if the rapidly diminishing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) drops out soon and throws her weight behind ideological soulmate Sanders, you’re still only looking at about 800 delegates, far short of the winning number.
Yet if Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and soon-to-be-in-the-delegate-hunt Mike Bloomberg effectively split the remaining the delegates, none will likely eclipse 500 before the July Convention in Milwaukee.
Welcome to the Democrats’ dilemma: a political reality show in which the delegate leader and popular vote favorite may very well be voted off the island by those properly worried about his prospects of surviving a tilt with the President of the United States in the fall.
Despite the chaos of an Iowa caucus few would ever want to revisit, Sanders did win the popular vote tally on both the first and second ballots. He did the same in the cold of New Hampshire this week, and his prospects in Nevada (especially with Biden not just on but through the ropes) suggest the trend will continue in the heavily union-influenced caucus there next weekend.
So, what is a centrist voter to do, one who is not enamored with the socialist Sanders “revolution”?
The answer is to unite around one moderate contender buttressed by another, a united centrist ticket that can more broadly appeal to the nation and go the distance.
Bloomberg/Klobuchar. Buttigieg/Klobuchar. Klobuchar/Biden. You get the drift. The common theme here, the star of this initiative, is Amy Klobuchar, the Midwest’s ascending star whose common sense attracts Democrats who believe the nation is not looking for an ideological coup or a change-everything revolution.
For example, if she throws her political weight behind former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg by agreeing to join a fusion ticket with him, it would quickly crater an already disintegrating Biden and an appealing Buttigieg while putting Sanders, Warren and other liberal progressives in a numerical bind.
But if this doesn’t happen soon — by mid-March or before — it may be too late to arrest the inevitable Sanders army surge to claiming the delegate lead this summer and daring anyone to take the nomination away from him (cue Hillary, the DNC, super-delegates).
There is a clear and recent precedent for this conundrum.
In the 2018 Florida Governor’s race, the Democratic primary featured a showdown between the center and the left, between four centrists and a progressive liberal: Andrew Gillum. The four centrists — including popular Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Gwen Graham, the daughter of a well-known political leader — split the moderate primary vote. With only 34 percent of the vote, Gillum claimed the nomination, before falling short in the finale against now-Governor Ron DeSantis.
The message for moderate Dems in 2020: Unite or perish.
To survive, this calls for an act of political selflessness (an oxymoron if ever there was one) by one or more of the moderates in the coming weeks.
This is now the race within the race… and the one most worth watching.
Adam Goodman is an award-winning national Republican media strategist who has advised Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Jeb Bush. He is the first Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3