Okay, that debate deserves at least a few words. Warren gave a very strong performance. While a lot of the coverage focuses on her attacking everyone, the fact is that other than the newcomer and maybe Biden, everyone else was attacking everyone, so Warren isn’t alone there. But she is alone in her performance, followed by another strong showing by Klobuchar, whom Buttigieg tried to hit, mostly without success.
Anyway, we’ll see how this sets the polls moving for the Nevada caucuses. This post isn’t really about the debate, but what happens going forward. I had written the rest before and then watched the debate, it was easily the most important debate of this cycle (so far?), so I wanted to point at it here.
The trajectory of the Democratic nomination is such that no one may have enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention. The question is, what should happen next?
While the candidate with the most delegates at that point will likely call for their own nomination, is that right? Depends.
It depends, first, on how many delegates they actually have. If they are a hair short, then the claim is stronger. If they aren’t, it’s weaker. Second, do they have broad support among the various constituencies of Democrats? Did they get broad African-American support, Latino support, Asian support? If so, stronger, if not, weaker.
In what seems the most likely scenario at the moment, Sanders comes away with a healthy lead over individual candidates, but at a deficit to the moderates collectively. He doesn’t get strong minority support. He doesn’t get that close to an outright majority.
In such a case, he hasn’t earned the nomination. He might still get it, through the politics of a convention, but it wouldn’t be his for the taking. It would be down to horse trading. Who will be the VP candidate? What concessions to rules and policies for the platform? And so on.
Which is where we’re likely headed.
Sanders would have leverage in that scenario, but only so much. His main threat would be to blow up the party, which isn’t as much of a threat as a description if he doesn’t have control over his own voters. Which, he hasn’t shown much control.
Anyway, that’s where we’re heading if the current state of things stays as it is. It’s not as likely to, though. Chances are a lot of folks see Nevada and South Carolina and take a cue and the four-way moderate contest becomes two at best. The moderates that fall back likely drop out and pick their horse and things firm up considerably.
Assuming that does happen, Sanders loses some support in the offing, as some of his current support is from people who just like front-runners.
But the way the math works out, even then the convention may go past the first ballot with all that entails. Oh well. Politics is messy.