Political News

A Bernie Sanders sweep?

Posted January 26, 2020 6:00 p.m. EST

— With just 8 days until the Iowa caucuses, welcome to 2020! Every Sunday, I outline the 5 BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they're ranked -- so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.

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5. The Magnificent 7: Smack-dab between the Iowa caucuses on February 3 and the New Hampshire primary on February 11 will come the single most important debate of the 2020 election to date.

Making that February 7 debate in New Hampshire is absolutely critical for candidates working to either a) build momentum off the Iowa caucuses or b) find momentum before the Granite State primary.

On Sunday, businessman Andrew Yang -- thanks to a bunch of polls released before Iowa -- became the seventh candidate to qualify for the debate, joining former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire Tom Steyer on the stage.

That appears almost certainly to be the final lineup given that the only two candidates who might make it -- billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard -- seem unlikely to make the qualification criteria in time.

The February 7 debate is the eighth of a planned 12 debates in the Democratic primary race. It is also one of three set for February.

4. Does the DMR matter?: On Saturday night, Warren won the endorsement of the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, the largest and most influential media enterprise in Iowa.

The editorial board praised Warren as "the best leader for these times" and said her ideas -- on health care, guns, childcare etc. -- "are not radical. They are right."

Make no mistake: Any of the campaigns would have loved to win that endorsement, hoping that it might give them a shot of momentum in the final days before Iowa.

But a history of the Register's endorsed candidates suggests that it might not be the predictor of outcomes that she and her campaign hope.

As noted by The Washington Post's Matt Viser, only once since 1988 has the Register's endorsed candidate gone on to win the caucuses. And that came in 2016, when the Register endorsed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. In 2008, the Register picked Clinton only to watch her finish third behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. In 2004, the Register went with Edwards, but John Kerry won. In 2000, Bill Bradley was the Register's candidate, but Al Gore won.

That doesn't mean Warren is destined to come up short in eight days. But it does suggest that, for all of the hype around winning the Register endorsement, it's rarely decisive in the race.

3. Impeachment's pivot week: At some point later this week, we'll find out if the Senate impeachment trial is going to go on for a while or whether it's basically over.

After President Donald Trump's legal team makes its case -- they spent just several of their 24 hours doing so on Saturday -- there will be time for senators to ask questions of the House impeachment managers. Then, the votes on witnesses and documents, which will serve as the fulcrum on which the trial will tilt.

If there are 51 votes for witnesses and/or new documents not presented in the House investigation, we are looking at at least a few more weeks of the Senate trial.

Why does that matter for 2020? First of all, it would keep Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet in Washington while the primary fight moves through the first four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) all of which vote in February.

Second, it would bring the trial as much as a month closer to the November general election -- increasing the likelihood it would be on the minds of voters.

2. Here comes Mike...: A quick scan of national polling produces no big surprises in the top three: Biden, Sanders and Warren. But guess who's in fourth right now, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average?

It's Bloomberg. Yes, Bloomberg is now consistently polling in the high mid-single digits in national surveys -- and got to 10% in a Fox News poll released Sunday morning.

How? Simple. Massive amounts of cash being spent on well-produced campaign ads that paint the former New York City mayor as a problem solver extraordinaire.

And Bloomberg has clearly caught Trump's attention, too. In the latest of a series of tweets focused on the mayor, Trump wrote: "Mini Mike Bloomberg is playing poker with his foolhardy and unsuspecting Democrat rivals. He says that if he loses (he really means when!) in the primaries, he will spend money helping whoever the Democrat nominee is.....The fact is, when Mini losses, he will be spending very little of his money on these "clowns" because he will consider himself to be the biggest clown of them all - and he will be right!"

For all of Bloomberg's gains in national polls, his candidacy remains largely dependent on no one in the rest of the field dominating the four February contests -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- where he is not competing.

Which, well, scroll down.

1. A Bernie sweep?: A slew of new early state polling in Iowa and New Hampshire suggests that Sanders could very well win both of the first two states, victories that would make him very difficult to beat as the primary process wears on.

New Hampshire polls conducted by CNN/University of New Hampshire and NBC/Marist College and released Sunday morning show Sanders with leads of nine and seven points in the Granite State. And in Iowa, a new New York Times/Siena poll puts him up eight points.

Sanders' edge in New Hampshire has been steadier and larger; he has an average five-point lead, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average of all surveys. In Iowa, Sanders is in an effective dead heat with Biden in the RCP average.

The last time one candidate won both Iowa and New Hampshire in a Democratic presidential primary fight was 2004 -- and Kerry cruised to the nomination following those twin wins.

The path would likely be rockier for Sanders -- even if he did win both of the first two states -- because there remains a sizable chunk of voters within the party worried that he won't be able to beat Trump in the general election.

But boy oh boy, would Sanders be sitting in the catbird's seat if he won the first two states. And, as of today, there is a very real chance that could happen.

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