Why The New Hampshire Results Are Good
Democrats, always remember: Trump doesn’t have a majority. The only way he can win is if people don’t vote.
Which is why, as Brian Beutler elegantly puts it in a very good piece:
“Trump treats [the 2020 Presidential election] not as a majority-building exercise, but as a campaign of psychological warfare against people who will never vote for him.”
In other words, convinces them — for whatever reason — it’s no use. And some of that messaging already started to hit home after the Iowa fiasco. Might as well give up… But the intriguing result in New Hampshire maybe started to reverse that and set some Democrats back on a road to hope, even if they consider it a faint hope.
While Bernie Sanders won, the field also opened up a little bit. And a few candidates managed to pull off fair-size surprises. Making things at least a little bit more interesting for the first time in a long time. So yeah, we’ll admit maybe we’re not totally excited yet, but we’re into it now more than before, and we’ll watch the next debate for sure.
Polls were about right about Bernie, which is both not surprising and a little bit surprising. No surprise his support is strong, steady and rock solid. A little surprising his recent heart attack’s had almost no impact; didn’t move hardly anyone Elizabeth Warren’s way, as a “healthier choice”. Or maybe that’s part of why his results were not stellar enough to really race ahead. And Bernie remains the only candidate capable of amassing crowd sizes at rallies to rival Trump’s. That level of support shouldn’t change much even as we near where Michael Bloomberg finally formally enters the race. That is, participates in debates and is actually on the ballot for real.
As an aside, we went to an Improv comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade last night, and a lot of it ended up being about how short (and rich) the former New York Mayor is. Only Bloomberg’s not that short. It’s just Trump (who is a little taller) says he is. Which goes to show how profound an impact Trump’s caricatures do have on popular culture.
But Trump’s right to worry about Bloomberg, because his ascension utterly screws up Trump’s messaging if nothing else. If you’ve been watching Trump’s rallies and public statements one theme emerges these days above all else, from all the usual bluster and noise: Democrats will destroy the beautiful U.S. economy. That’s Trump’s main message right now, and it’s the right one to go with. (That’s why Trump keeps replaying his bit about how some guy thanks him because his wife’s so happy because she thinks he’s such a good investor and suddenly she has so much money, when actually he’s just riding the soaring stock market, which of course Trump takes full credit for. Trump tells this story, and often in the next breath brags that a majority of the new jobs he’s created have gone to women. But let’s just leave that there for now.) But Trump can’t credibly argue Bloomberg’s gonna tank the economy, mainly because Bloomberg too is a successful businessperson (far more successful than Trump). So Bloomberg’s presence alone pretty much neuters Trump’s strongest argument. We’re not saying that’s reason enough to elect Bloomberg. Doesn’t even come close. Just food for thought.
One good thing if Bloomberg wins: Bernie might finally get campaign finance reform passed, because you can be sure Republicans are going to be jumping all over it.
Polls were off in New Hampshire about virtually everybody else: especially the relative strengths of Buttigieg and Klobuchar (both of whom my spell check still thinks are spelling errors), and the weakness of Biden. But we think that’s not hard to explain: lots of people are waiting until the last minute to make up their minds. If pushed to put up a name (unless they’re Bernie supporters), the most familiar is Biden. So a lot of “Biden” answers probably mean “undecided”. And that’s probably the case in national polls as well.
We also think “undecided” plays in to what’s keeping turnout down a little, and why we wouldn’t read too much into that. People like to jump on to bandwagons. And aside from Bernie, there aren’t too many bandwagons to jump onto yet.
That’s not to say Biden couldn’t still rally. As fivethirtyeight’s Nate Silver speculates on Twitter:
“Granted there’s a 70% chance he’s toast but it’s being treated as though it’s 99%.”
But we do think our initial instincts were right: the Trump/Ukraine stuff invariably hurt Biden even though he seemed to completely hold up against it in the polls. And our more recent assessment: that Democrats must not really care about that and/or are willing to forgive him over his son’s behavior at least, was wrong. Then again, Biden could still rally as primary season moves to states that aren’t pretty much all white.
What we think/hope New Hampshire did though, was give voters new viable alternatives, all with reasonably good showings of strength that can be built upon. New — and confusing — sub-battles. But also not-previously-visible opportunities. And that’s a good thing.