This isn’t how many people thought the primary season would start.
For years Democrats have been itching for the 2020 election season to get underway, kicking off with the Iowa caucus and moving quickly to New Hampshire. Would it be Biden out front, as he has been for more than a year, leading as the moderate choice to take on what seemed to be a fatally flawed President Trump? Or would it be a newcomer like Elizabeth Warren, who seemed to electrify crowds wherever she spoke?
As for the Republicans, they’d be lucky to keep the Senate. With many Congressmen retiring or not wanting to associate closely with the president, perhaps Democrats could control the White House as well as both houses of Congress.
That seems like yesterday’s dream. Now Democrats are waking up to a nightmare.
Joe Biden limped into fourth place in Iowa, where the final results are still in question, while Elizabeth Warren had to settle for third. Avowed socialist Bernie Sanders took a close second to newcomer Pete Buttigieg. The pair of leaders seemed destined to repeat in New Hampshire according to recent polls, but then what?
Buttigieg has little support in the South and only moderate support out West, while Sanders repels as much as he attracts.
In the meantime, the Republicans have a new lease on life. Trump came through impeachment no worse for wear, the economy is in good shape, he took out an Iranian terrorism strategist, and just gave a rousing, patriotic State of the Union address.
New Hampshire Democrat Millie LaFontaine is worried.
Of the Democratic candidates, she said:
“I’d like to vote strategically, but we Democrats are in disarray and I don’t know what strategic is. I am afraid.”
Maybe billionaire Mike Bloomberg can fill the Democratic gap. He doesn’t have to worry about fundraising, and he’s considered a moderate. The first four primaries, instead choosing to focus on Super Tuesday in March. Voters won’t know how he competes for almost a month.
Whatever their ultimate strategy, the Democrats need to get moving. If Biden can’t muster support, then he’ll run out of campaign funds and fade.
Representative Marcia Fudge, a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, told Politico:
“We’re a party in chaos.”
But even though it looks like the tide has turned and Trump is riding a rising wave, the contest isn’t over. Four years ago, 13 Republicans stood on the debate stage, none of them looking particularly presidential. Front runner Jeb Bush quickly faded, while upstart Marco Rubio briefly stood in the spotlight. Eventually, the contest came down to a much-maligned freshman Senator, Ted Cruz, and controversial businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump.
Few people thought either one had a chance.