Winning The Electoral College In 2020, Part 3

Time to resume our series on the Electoral College. Yes, we are still in a time of grieving and protest, and pandemic. But it might be useful to remind ourselves how important the 2020 presidential election will be. America is scheduled to vote in November.

You’ll remember that the Electoral College comes straight from the U.S. Constitution. In Part 1, I exaggerated, but only slightly, when I said of the Electoral College:

“You can’t get rid of it, and you can’t change it.”

Nothing is totally impossible.

Constitutional amendment

Technically, you could get rid of the Electoral College, or change it, with a Constitutional amendment. Simple? No, amending the Constitution is hard. It requires ratification by three-fourths of the states.

You know how divided our national politics is right now? We’re not going to get 75 percent agreement on anything as big as a Constitutional amendment anytime soon.

State laws

Still, you might possibly modify operation of the Electoral College via state law.  Article II, Section 1, gives the states broad authority over its appointed electors. In fact, that’s where the winner-take-all electoral vote comes from. It comes from state laws, and it might be changed by state laws.

The Founding Fathers didn’t plan on political parties, and they didn’t envision the winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes.

But political parties sprang up almost immediately. And just as fast, state legislatures realized they could maximize the impact of their electoral vote by passing a law instructing ALL their electors to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. Even if that candidate wins by a whisker, he gets all the state’s electoral votes.

Today, the winner-take-all rule is questioned by many. Nonetheless, the advantages of winner-take-all were so obvious in the early days that each legislature passed a law, one by one. Since the 1830s, it has been nearly universal. If nearly every state uses winner-take-all and it’s lasted a long time, maybe it has advantages or benefits?

Maine (4 electoral votes) and Nebraska (5 electoral votes) have decided to use a slightly modified version. Both Maine and Nebraska award two votes to the statewide popular winner. And they award one vote to the winner in each of their congressional districts. (Maine has two districts and Nebraska has three.) Maine passed a law to lead the way in 1972, and Nebraska passed its law in 1996.

States are not keen on change

You don’t see the other 48 states rushing to join them. The rest of the states and the District of Columbia watched the interesting innovation by Maine and Nebraska. And decided to stick with straight winner-take-all. Perhaps there’s beauty in simplicity. Or maybe it’s comfort with the familiar. Or maybe even fear of the unknown? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it?

More recently, there was another bright idea. States would join an interstate compact agreeing to endorse the winner of the national popular vote. Each state would pass its own law, until enough states passed their own laws to put the agreement into effect. The idea attracted some interest. (You can read details of the interstate compact proposal in the comments below Part 1. And discussion about winner-take-all in comments below Part 2. If you have the patience. I don’t really recommend it.)

But remember, our nation is a bit divided at present? We have a hard time agreeing on anything? Enthusiasm for the interstate compact has run out of steam, in my opinion. It is far short of being passed by even half the states. Enough states are not going to change their laws, at least not before November 2020.

(At this moment, 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed the national popular vote interstate compact. Interestingly, all of them are BLUE states. Except Colorado, which is probably purple. Not a single RED state has passed it! Not a single Southern state, Great Plains state, or Rocky Mountain state, except Colorado. The way support for the interstate compact proposal breaks down starkly illustrates the national divide.)

Our nation will not always be as divided as it has become in recent years. Maybe? Well, probably. It’s hard to imagine right this moment, but someday we will once again be able to amend the Constitution or agree on unified state action.

Support for and opposition to the Electoral College could change after 2020 and before the 2024 election. The outcome of the 2020 election might change perceptions. And following the 2020 Census, reapportionment will change the number of votes some states have in the Electoral College. You can never predict the future.

Meanwhile, we live in 2020 and you have to play the game by the rules in the book.

The important thing, whether you support the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, is to win 270 votes in the Electoral College, using the rule book we have. The election is only five months away.

We will return to the task at hand, consideration of Electoral College arithmetic, state by state, in Part 4. I hope it will be more interesting than Part 3. Be there or be square.

— John Hayden

Winning The Electoral College In 2020, Part 2

Path to 270

The above United States map helps focus one’s attention on the importance of the Electoral College.

The map gives inside information on the Joe Biden campaign strategy for winning the White House in 2020. You won’t likely see it anyplace else. Please keep it top secret. The map was shared with me and several hundred-thousand other insiders. Maybe a million insiders. Because Joe Biden has our email addresses and wants us to send money.

The Upper Midwest

You can see a row of six states in the upper Midwest, from Pennsylvania in the east to Minnesota and Iowa in the west. They’re medium-size states; together they have 80 electoral votes. Donald Trump won five of the six states in 2016. Joe Biden’s campaign has its work cut out, don’t you think? Consider:

  • Pennsylvania, 20 electoral votes
  • Ohio, 18 electoral votes
  • Michigan, 16 electoral votes
  • Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes
  • Minnesota, 10 electoral votes
  • Iowa, 6 electoral votes

The Electoral College totals 538 votes. The winning candidate needs a bare majority, 270 votes.  Joe Biden doesn’t need all six states and their 80 votes to win. But he’s going to have a hard time reaching 270 unless he wins at least four. The most likely four would be Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, totaling 56 electoral votes.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Minnesota. But she lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by fewer than 2 percent of the votes in each state. If she had won those three states, she would have won with 274 electoral votes.

So now you know the most important states in the Biden campaign strategy, and maybe in the Trump strategy as well.

Pack your suitcase or nag

What can you do? If you desperately want Biden to win, the best thing you can do is pack your suitcase, move to one of the four states, and be a tireless volunteer from now until November. Or you can contribute money to the Biden campaign.

Or you can nag your spouse, children, parents, neighbors, and the people at work. Tell them all to vote for Joe Biden. You can do it right where you live.

Make sure they register to vote. Urge them to apply for a mail-in ballot, or at least to vote early. If you don’t like the word “nag,” you may substitute the word “electioneer.”

There’s not one right way to reach 270 votes

Biden has at least a fighting chance to also win Ohio and Iowa. If he wins all six states, it wouldn’t guarantee victory, but he’d be on his way.

Donald Trump also doesn’t need all six states to be reelected. But he won five of them in 2016, and he needed them. He probably needs to win two of the states, at a minimum, Ohio and Iowa. And he’d seriously like to win a few more.

If you desperately want Trump to win, you know where to volunteer. You know whom to nag. Or electioneer.

Now, there’s two more states in the Upper Midwest. You might overlook them because they’re not highlighted on the map. They are Illinois (20 electoral votes) and Indiana (11 electoral votes). They’re colored grey because political observers understand that Illinois will most likely support the Democratic ticket in November, and Indiana will most likely support the Republican ticket.

Do not take Electoral College votes for granted

It does’t mean Illinois and Indiana are not important, as some critics of the Electoral College suppose. Their electoral votes are absolutely crucial for the Biden and Trump campaigns. The assumptions that Illinois will go Democratic and Indiana will go Republican are as close to a sure thing as any assumptions you can make for 2020. But no one can absolutely predict an election! Beware of assumptions. Voters have surprised the experts before, and they will do it again.

Make no mistake: A candidate who takes any state and its voters for granted is a candidate at risk. Hillary Clinton expected to win in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016, so she focused her efforts on other states. She virtually ignored Michigan and Wisconsin.

Michigan and Wisconsin paid her back by narrowly voting for Donald Trump! The electoral votes of Michigan (16 votes) and Wisconsin (10 votes), along with Pennsylvania (20 votes) tipped the Electoral College to Trump. Clinton squeaked by with a national popular vote majority, but so what? The Electoral College rules.

And you know what? Clinton very nearly lost Minnesota and its 10 votes.

If you seriously want to understand the Electoral College and the 2020 election, you should read the above paragraphs again. They don’t mean that any of the Midwest states hold the key to the 2020 election. The point is: Some states get extra attention because they’re considered battleground states. But every state is important, any state might surprise you, and every state’s electoral votes count.

Do not imagine that I am disclosing Biden campaign secrets  to the Trump organization. Donald Trump also has a map of the U.S., and he knows all the same information about the Electoral College that Joe Biden knows.

And do not imagine that the Midwest states are the end of the 2020 story. They’re only the beginning. ALL the states highlighted on the map are important. The candidates are going to work like hell for all of them. Because if they lose one or two important states, it’s not the end. They can make it up by winning other states.

And some of the states colored grey might surprise you like a jack-in-the-box on election night.

Eventually, we’ll go through the list of all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and ponder the possibilities for November 2020. It’s all about arithmetic.

#  #  #  #  #  #

I had planned to wrap up some loose ends from Part 1 at this point. Clarify why it’s useless to worry about changing the Electoral College and the winner-take-all electoral vote system right now. But Part 2 is already too long. So we’ll briefly address those loose ends in Part 3. And then move on quickly to review the 2016 Electoral College results as a preview to what’s ahead in 2020. See you in Part 3.

— John Hayden

Winning The Electoral College In 2020, Part 1

Path to 270

NOTE: Many people believe the president should be elected by the national popular vote, instead of by the Electoral College vote. For an interesting discussion of popular vote vs. Electoral College, see the many comments at the bottom of the post.

To rage against the U.S. Electoral College is worse than a distraction. It is useless, it’s a waste of time.

If you want to know the names of the president and vice president who will be sworn in next January, 2021, if you care who the next president will be, you have to WIN A MAJORITY of the Electoral College in the November 2020 presidential election. It’s as simple as that. And as difficult. Just look at the Electoral College map above.

Raging against the Electoral College is worse than a distraction because you can’t get rid of it, and you can’t change it.

Where does the Electoral College come from?

It comes from the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1.

“Each State shall appoint, in such a Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress . . . The Electors shall meet in their respective States and vote by Ballot for two  Persons . . . And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed . . . to the President of the Senate. . . . The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the president, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed . . .

. . . after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President.”

Straightforward, right?

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its two U.S. Senators plus the number of members the state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. The candidate with the most electoral votes is the next president.

But only if that number is a majority of all the electoral votes. That’s important. Note that the Constitution requires a MAJORITY of the Electoral College. Not a minority.

The above system has been used in every presidential election since the first one in 1788, when a majority chose George Washington without a whole lot of dispute.

The Electoral College is arithmetic, specifically addition! No subtraction, multiplication, long division, geometry or calculus.

So why the consternation about the Electoral College?

Good question. It starts with the fact that the electoral votes of smaller states are proportionately greater than the votes of larger states. That’s because large states and small states all have two U.S. senators as the base point for their number of electors. I will leave it to others with a better understanding of mathematics to consider how significant that proportional difference is in the context of 538 total electoral votes.

A winner-take-all system of awarding the electoral votes makes the proportional difference worse. Much, much worse.

The presidential candidate who wins a state’s popular vote wins ALL that state’s electoral votes. The losing candidate gets NONE of the state’s electoral votes. Even though he or she may have won 45 percent of the state’s popular vote. (The only exceptions are Maine and Nebraska.)

As a result of the winner-take-all system, on top of the proportional advantage of the smaller states, the electoral vote for president does not perfectly reflect the popular vote nationwide. But usually — almost always — one candidate wins both the Electoral College majority and a national popular vote majority or plurality and becomes president.

(NOTE: A candidate must win a MAJORITY in the Electoral College. That’s mandated in the Constitution. Failing an Electoral College majority, the election goes to the House of Representatives. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied with 73 votes each. And the House of Representatives deadlocked 35 times before finally electing Jefferson to be second president of the U.S.

A benefit of the winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes is that it makes failure of one candidate to win an Electoral College majority nearly impossible. Therefore, the winner-take-all system protects against the prospect of an election being decided in the House of Representatives.)

In the national popular vote, the winner might NOT have a majority. When there are three or more candidates, minor candidates slice off little pieces of the popular vote, potentially leaving the winner with less than a majority. When a winner has the most votes but it’s less than a majority, he wins with only a MINORITY. That’s called a PLURALITY.

Bottom line: It is possible for one candidate to win the Electoral College and another candidate to win the national popular vote! Usually it’s not a problem. It’s only happened a few times in the whole history of the U.S.

But it happened in 2016!

Donald Trump won a clear majority (304 to 227) in the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton won a plurality of the national popular vote (48.2% to 46.1%) (65,853,514 to 62,984,828 approximately).

Even though not a majority, Clinton had more popular votes than Trump. And Trump had more electoral votes. Many people think Clinton should therefore be president. But sorry, the winner was Trump, the one with the Electoral College majority. It says so in the Constitution, and the Constitution is the law of the land.

A majority, of course, is 50% plus 1. If you’re a mathematician or a perfectionist, you might calculate: 50% – 48.2% = 1.8%.

And you might ask, where are those 1.8% of the popular votes which denied Clinton a majority. I’m not a mathematician, but I doubt that even a mathematician can answer that question for sure.

It might be reasonable to suggest: Maybe that 1.8% of the popular vote is reflected in the Electoral College total?

Trump is a minority president, and Clinton would also be a minority president. Is it possible to speculate that the Electoral College might reflect the will of the whole nation as accurately as the popular vote?

My head spins! Are these mathematical questions, or metaphysical questions?

And that, my friends, is why many people wonder about the Electoral College and the national popular vote.

In the next post, Part 2, we’ll discuss how the winner-take-all system came to be.

And more important, why it’s a waste of time worrying about the Electoral College, because we’re not going to change it. At least not before the November election. Which is only five months away.

Rather than raging against the Electoral College, your time would be better spent trying to WIN the Electoral College majority for the candidate of your choice. That is the point of this series of posts.

See you in Part 2.

— John Hayden

Joe Biden Running On Empty

Are Democrats Cool on Biden?

That was the headline on Monday’s New York Times On Politics newsletter from Lisa Lerer. Does the statement — Democrats cool on Joe Biden — require a question mark? At this point in time? After all those debates?

Joe_Biden_kickoff_rally_May_2019

JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Biden’s had plenty of exposure. Maybe too much exposure. Voters reacted with friendly warmth but tepid enthusiasm.

It wasn’t so long ago that Bernie Sanders seemed destined to be the Democratic nominee. However, the idea of a Democratic Socialist was said to discomfit the Democratic Party establishment (if such a thing exists). More likely, the Socialist idea simply spooked old-fashioned Democratic voters on Super Tuesday. Suddenly, the momentum shifted from Bernie to Joe.

Now, all attention is turned to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has been hijacked as a reality TV show starring Donald Trump. It’s a reprise of “The Apprentice” series. After stumbling through the first few episodes, Trump warmed to the new story line. Now the show is so popular it’s on every night. And it’s just been extended through the end of April, at least.

(Note: Definitely not making light of the Coronavirus crisis. It is totally real and serious, worldwide. Simply pointing out how it has also become a nightly television spectacle, with eerie similarity to a reality TV show.)

Too soon to speculate whether the TV version of coronavirus might be extended for a second season in the fall. Would it be riveting enough to preempt NFL football and the November General Election? Highly unlikely, don’t you think?

And the Democratic nomination contest?

Some say it’s over, decided.

Sanders says, let’s debate.

Biden says, let’s move on.

Momentum? Full stop. Momentum is becalmed, not a hint of breeze in the sails.

What little we’ve seen of Joe Biden in recent weeks seems to reinforce the memory left over from the debates.

Joe Biden looks like an old man running on empty.

Or maybe that’s just your humble correspondent, psychologically projecting the way I feel. Which is old and empty.

I have not taken a survey, scientific or otherwise. But among the few folks I’ve talked to, “old and running on empty” seems to be a consensus.

Or to put it another way:

Biden doesn’t talk or look like a man who’s up to running against Trump.

Again, maybe it’s just me. I’m not quite 72, and I don’t feel like running. Running anywhere. Period. (But until the sheriff shows up with handcuffs, I continue to walk outdoors. Several times a day. It’s for my health. Not to mention my sanity.)

The incredible disappearing candidate

To my surprise, some folks assume the Democratic Party will somehow make Joe Biden disappear. They think the Democratic Convention will crown a mystery candidate whose name is not Joe Biden. And not Bernie Sanders, either.

Biden and Sanders will vanish, and quietly. This will happen by magic, somehow, before the last day of the Milwaukee convention in July.

An alternate theory is that the convention itself will vanish, postponed due to coronavirus. Or due to lack of interest in Joe Biden.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled reality TV show.

— John

Bernie Sanders Extends Olive Branch to Joe Biden

photography of tree

Photo by gypsyugal on Pexels.com

Bernie Sanders is losing and he’s done something extraordinary.

Bernie told Joe Biden three days ahead of time exactly what questions he’s going to ask in Sunday’s debate. Open-ended questions, giving Biden plenty of room to frame his answers. But pointed questions on specific subjects. The television audience will be waiting to hear answers.

Kind of simplifies Joe’s debate preparation, doesn’t it? However, Biden and his advisers have some sticky dilemmas to resolve between now and Sunday. If Joe reels off tired platitudes, he’ll sound evasive.

What we have here appears to be a clear divide between the haves and have-nots in America, and between young and old.

Biden needs to answer straight-forward questions with some specificity. Therein lies the dilemma. Does he offer serious compromises on issues like Medicare for all, answers that might give Bernie’s movement reason to cheer? Does he extend specific promises of support to bottom-tier workers struggling to survive? Specific, as in a $15 minimum wage, or forgiveness of college debt?

If Joe offers help to desperate Americans at the bottom, will he offend his establishment supporters? The comfortable and elite, it would appear, could care less about the less fortunate.

If Joe Biden tries too hard to thread the needle, he may not satisfy either side of the Democratic Party.

Joe Biden may or may not have the Democratic nomination almost in the bag. But he’s got a long way to go to put the November General Election in the bag.

Biden’s going to need more than a majority of delegates at a convention. He needs a solid base of support in November.

Bernie Sanders is giving Joe Biden a chance to earn that support.

— John

Democratic Party Divides Along Class Lines

“The Sanders campaign has exposed a class divide within the Democratic Party: His promises of a leg up are most alluring to those who need it, and most confounding to those who do not.

— Jennifer Medina and Sydney Ember, New York Times  

“A leg up” refers to Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and forgiveness of college debt.

Can the needs of low-paid workers and young people, including health insurance needs, possibly be “confounding” to a majority of Democratic Party voters?

Possibly it’s true. What would that mean for the Democratic Party and the 2020 election?

— John

Voting for Justice and Peace and Bernie Sanders

My first election was 1972. I voted for Peace. The name of the candidate was George McGovern. I’ve never regretted that vote.

Half a century and many elections later, I’m voting for Justice. The name of the candidate is Bernie Sanders. I don’t think I’ll regret that vote, but of course I can’t be sure.

My vote for George McGovern was never in doubt, even though it was clear he would lose by a landslide. How could I not vote for Peace?

I’m older now and I overthink every decision, including the decision to vote for Bernie. I don’t know how the 2020 election will turn out.  But how can I not vote for Justice?

Only once or twice in a lifetime

Usually people vote for a candidate, sometimes we vote for a political party.

How often does the chance come along to vote for a principle? Or a movement? The Civil Rights Movement, or the Peace Movement. Something you believe in.

With a lifetime of elections behind me, when I get a chance to vote for a principle or a movement that I believe in, I’m going for it! This chance might never come around again. Not for me, not for America.

It’s not about a candidate

Bernie_Sanders

We each get one vote only. It’s a right and honor to stand up for what we believe. Doing so, we accept our share of risk and responsibility, not knowing what lies ahead. We do what we believe is right.

I’m voting for Bernie Sanders, but really, I’m voting for what he stands for.

Justice is what he stands for. Social and economic justice. And like McGovern, he stands for Peace.

It’s not complicated. Look at Bernie’s core issues, health care for everyone and taxing the rich. If that’s not Justice, I don’t know what is.

Bernie is also opposed to war. So I’m maintaining consistency from 1972 to 2020. Then I was young in Maryland, now I’m old in Florida.

Today I stood up again, after all these years, and voted for Justice and Peace. My vote is in the mail. It will be among the first to be counted in the Florida Democratic primary March 17.

— John Hayden

Joe Biden And Normal People

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

That huge sigh of relief you heard, followed by cheering for Joe Biden, that came from the establishment. Whew! We’ve been saved from Bernie Sanders and socialism. That was a close call! Thank goodness the danger has passed. We can get back to business as usual.

Well, good for Joe Biden, I like him. But this Democratic primary is not over until it’s over. The contest has narrowed, and it’s about even. I have some questions.

I’m looking at Andrew Yang’s book, “The War On Normal People.” Remember Normal People? The folks Yang was speaking about, the ones Elizabeth Warren was speaking for? The ones Bernie Sanders is still speaking to?

A blurb at the top front cover of Yang’s book:

“Andrew Yang highlights the urgent need to rewrite America’s social contract.” — Alec Ross

Social contract

Like Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been thinking about the social contract, and talking about it.

But I wonder about Joe Biden, with whom the establishment feels so comfortable. What does Joe think about the social contract? Does he think about it at all?

Subtitle at the bottom of Yang’s front cover:

“The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future”

Disappearing jobs

We know Andrew Yang proposes a $1,000-a-month payment to every American.

We know Bernie and Elizabeth propose Medicare for all. And taxing the rich. Fighting powerful corporate interests and corruption. And lots of free education, preschool to college.

What exactly is Joe Biden’s concept of universal healthcare? Is it high-deductible private insurance for everyone who wants to buy it? Or low-coverage insurance and high co-pays for everyone lucky enough to have a job with benefits? I guess that would be close to universal. How much would you pay to get tested for coronavirus?

What about taxation? Education? I’m a little fuzzy about the details of what Joe would do for Yang’s Normal People.

Young and left out

Those younger people, so enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. So far, they’ve failed to vote in record numbers. Just what you’d expect from young voters. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

The disillusioned young people, seemingly left out of the American Dream. Living with their parents, working gigs, not careers, weighed down with debt they may never be able to pay off. They can’t buy a house, or maybe even a car.

Those young folks, voters or nonvoters, are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have something to say to them?

Middle-aged and desperate

What about middle-aged voters in fly-over country? More than a few of them are out-sourced, unnecessary, and all too often, desperate. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

For desperate middle-aged Americans, their life expectancy is shrinking. They often struggle with unemployment, poverty, divorce, alcoholism, opioids, smoking, and sometimes suicide. Are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have anything to say to them?

Choices to make before we sleep

I’m torn between fear that a Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump election might tear our country asunder. And on the other hand, fear that a Joe Biden-Donald Trump election might take our county completely away from Normal People, and turn it over to the rich and powerful, forever.

I wonder about Bernie Sanders. Why does Bernie comfort the afflicted in our society, and afflict the comfortable? Why are the comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful scared to death of a Bernie Sanders presidency? What are they afraid of, paying higher taxes?

And I wonder about Joe Biden. Why does Joe give such relief and comfort to the already comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful? And what about the young, the poor, the left-out, the sick? Will they receive any comfort or relief in a Joe Biden presidency?

Is Joe Biden on the side of Mike Bloomberg and the billionaires? Or is he on the side of Andrew Yang and Normal People? Would it be possible to be on both sides at the same time?

Far as I know, Andrew Yang has not endorsed either Joe or Bernie. If he would side with one or the other, it might ease my mind. What do you think?

— John Hayden

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, A Two-Man Race

white house

Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

How quickly things change. A week ago, the Democratic race for president was a logjam, none of the candidates going anywhere. Except Bernie Sanders.

Enter Rep. Jim Clyburn. His endorsement put the wind at Joe Biden’s back. Biden is suddenly the winner in South Carolina. Not just a winner, but the big winner.

Tom Steyer dropped out Saturday evening before all the votes were counted. Before the night was over, some were declaring it a two-man race. Biden and Sanders.

Former mayor Pete Buttigieg, a phenom in Iowa only a few weeks ago, bowed out Sunday.

For Joe Biden, it’s all good news

Joe_Biden_kickoff_rally_May_2019

JOE BIDEN, Creative Commons

Update, this just in: Monday, Amy Klobuchar is not waiting until Wednesday. She’s out. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar reported set to endorse Joe Biden at a rally in Texas on Monday evening! A classy move by Pete and Amy the night before Super Tuesday.

Between Biden and Sanders, electability is the critical issue.

Democrats are all about discerning the candidate who can take back the White House.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. But many votes have been cast in early voting. So  it’s impossible to know how great a surge Joe Biden might get from South Carolina. And although it may be a two-man race, a third candidate, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, has invested millions in advertising.

Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, if they run as poorly as expected Tuesday, should drop out on Wednesday. Whether they do or not will make little difference. Mike Bloomberg should drop out on Wednesday too. But who knows what he might be thinking?

People are hoping for some clarity by late Tuesday evening. However, clarity will not be quick or easy. Buckle up for a long and winding road to the nomination.

For a true barometer of who can defeat Donald Trump, look one week ahead, to March 10, when Michigan will be among the states voting.

Michigan is one of the upper Midwest states that hold the key to Democratic hopes in November. If either Biden or Sanders can generate enthusiasm and turn out a decisive majority in Michigan, that might be as good an indicator as you’re going to get on the electability question.

Other important states, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona, vote March 17. And Georgia follows March 24. Taken together, the five late-March states will provide further insight on electability.

Many Democrats seem to have already conceded Ohio as a red state in November. I think that’s premature. Regardless, Ohio is a big Midwestern state, and the verdict of Democrats there, along with Democrats in Michigan, will be telling. Possibly even decisive.

It seems safe to assume that neither Sanders nor Biden (or Bloomberg, heaven forbid) will hold a decisive lead in delegates at the end of March, and there will be important primaries still to come.

Wisconsin, next-door to Michigan and just as important for a November victory, votes Apr. 7. Wisconsin will have the spotlight all to itself that day. If electability is still an open question, the opinion of Wisconsin voters could be mightily important.

Are we there yet? At the end of April, Pennsylvania, New York, and four other Northeast states vote on Apr. 28. Lots of delegates if the delegate race is close. But maybe as important, Pennsylvania is right up there with Michigan and Wisconsin as critical for a Democratic victory in November.

We’ve got a long road to travel to the Democratic convention in Milwaukee in July. An arduous journey for two old men.

— John Hayden

Jim Clyburn and Tim Kane Endorsements Are Wind in Joe Biden’s Sails Before South Carolina

If it’s true that a person can be known by the friends he keeps, voters will be impressed by the endorsements of Joe Biden’s friends this week.

Jim_Clyburn_official_portrait_116th_Congress

REP. JIM CLYBURN OF SOUTH CAROLINA, official congressional portrait

Rep. Jim Clyburn is revered by South Carolina’s African-American electorate, and his timely endorsement of Joe Biden would seem to ensure a Biden victory in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday.

Now comes Virginia Sen. Tim Kane’s endorsement on the eve of the primary, providing an additional gust of wind for Biden as he sails into Saturday’s election.

The possibility of Bernie Sanders continuing his winning streak in South Carolina now seems remote. I venture to say it has evaporated.

What if Bernie runs far behind Joe, or if Bernie falls to third place behind Tom Steyer, who has poured part of his fortune into South Carolina advertising? Stop me from speculating further. What seems clear is that no one can predict what will happen a few days from now, when 14 states vote on Super Tuesday.

Cable news pundits have been ranting and fuming for a week, made crazy by the assumption that Bernie Sanders was about to run up an insurmountable lead in Democratic delegates. (MSNBC seems to have given up all pretense of impartiality. Their hair is on fire.)

Sanders still might impress on Super Tuesday. Or Joe Biden might rise again, or Elizabeth Warren. Or even, heaven help us, that billionaire, Mike Bloomberg. (I can’t claim impartiality, by the way. The thought of Bloomberg buying the White House sets my hair on fire.) It bears repeating, no one can predict beyond South Carolina. Let’s wait for the voters, even in South Carolina. Please pass the fire extinguisher.

Some endorsements really do make a difference

Jim Clyburn and Tim Kane are household names in their own states. Clyburn, a civil rights-era icon, is also well-known to African-Americans throughout America. He is the third-ranking leader in the House of Representatives. His endorsement of Joe Biden as a friend — a man he knows and trusts — was moving, to say the least. Clyburn’s heartfelt endorsement will not go unnoticed in South Carolina on Saturday.

Tim_Kaine_by_Gage_Skidmore

SEN. TIM KANE OF VIRGINIA, George Skidmore photo

Tim Kane is a U.S. senator from Virginia, and before that, Virginia’s governor. It’s because of leaders like Kane that Virginia has changed from a red state, to purple, and now to at least light blue. Tim Kane was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016. He’s a politician of national stature, even though not well-known nationally.

I doubt that Kane’s endorsement of Joe Biden will have as strong an impact as Clyburn’s. Nonetheless, Virginia and North Carolina are two of the states that vote on Super Tuesday. (Four days from today.) Kane is well-acquainted with the three U.S. senators still in the presidential chase, as well as with Biden. So I have to respect his opinion as based on knowledge.

Tim Kane’s support for Biden will influence at least a few voters in Virginia, where Biden needs all the help he can get to overcome the advertising bought by Mike Bloomberg’s money. Billionaire Bloomberg thinks he can buy anything, including Congress and the Presidency. Kane’s support will also be noticed in neighboring North Carolina.

Jim Clyburn’s support for Biden might also cross the South Carolina state line, and influence voters in North Carolina on Super Tuesday, and in Georgia, which votes March 24.

California and Texas both have enormous troves of delegates in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes. Sanders has been working hard and spending money in both those states. And Bloomberg is heavily invested. Maybe by late Tuesday night we will begin to know who has the most friends among the vast rank and file of voters.

But even California and Texas together will not be decisive.

— John Hayden