Conventional wisdom tells us it’s better for one candidate when other candidates drop out. There are exceptions as it pertains to lanes; moderates may hope Senator Elizabeth Warren stays in, for example, because a good chunk of her supporters will flock to Senator Bernie Sanders when she leaves. But 2020 isn’t a conventional wisdom sort of year. In fact, there is a very good reason for Sanders to hope everyone who’s currently in will remain in the race through Super Tuesday. If they do, he could win it all then.
Surging billionaire Mike Bloomberg hopes everyone else drops out before Super Tuesday. If they do, as unlikely as that is right now, then he’s probably going to get the nomination. It’s such an appealing notion that I wouldn’t be shocked if the DNC will be quietly reaching out to former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg sometime between now and March 2nd. Their calculus looks a whole lot better for Bloomberg if other “moderates” are out of the way.
Let’s assume they all stay in. They probably won’t, but play along. Let’s assume the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary results are good enough for everyone that they all keep going through Super Tuesday. A scenario plays out in which Sanders, despite the outrageous spending by Bloomberg, may end up getting nearly all of the delegates. With 1/3rd of the nation voting that day, it would essentially lock up the nomination for him even if Bloomberg spends $10 billion after that.
The key is in the new rules for the DNC in which no state is winner-take-all UNLESS only one candidate surpasses the 15% viability threshold. Here’s how California, the big prize on Super Tuesday, looks now:
New California poll that looks like the new NBC/WSJ national poll, with Sanders out front big and lots of candidates flirting w/viability:
– Sanders 32%
– Biden 14%
– Warren 13%
– Buttigieg 12%
– Bloomberg 12%
– Klobuchar 5%
– Steyer 3%https://t.co/1rsicAnew3
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) February 19, 2020
If these numbers were to somehow magically hold on Super Tuesday, ALL of California’s delegates would go to Sanders. Four of the other candidates are flirting with viability, but only Sanders achieves it. If that scenario plays out in other states as well, it’s game over.
It’s a far-fetched scenario, but not impossible. It all depends on which candidates stick it out. If any one of them drops out before Super Tuesday, which is very likely, then Sanders will only get the biggest share of the delegates, but not all of them.
Now let’s reverse the scenario. If Biden loses South Carolina, he’s pretty much done. If Klobuchar bombs in Nevada, which seems very likely, she’ll start angling for a VP nod. Warren is already being ignored by the press as her fall has been second only to Biden’s. Buttigieg will stay in regardless of what happens in Nevada and South Carolina as he already has a decent head start on delegates, enough to get him to the table on Super Tuesday. Tom Steyer and the rest of those still technically in the race are quickly becoming non-factors even though he’s polling fairly well in a couple of states.
If Biden, Klobuchar, Warren, and Steyer drop out before Super Tuesday, it’s suddenly Bloomberg’s nomination to lose. He’ll get the lion’s share of Biden, Klobuchar, and Steyer supporters and even a handful of Warren supporters who blame Sanders for keeping Warren down. In that scenario, Sanders will be looking at around 35%-40% in California with Bloomberg around 45% and Buttigieg still in the teens trying to break the 15% threshold.
It’s ironic that thanks to the DNC’s odd rules, Sanders’ success in the four early states may end up costing him dearly on Super Tuesday. But if the other candidates don’t get muscled out prematurely, he could end up being the big winner.