In fact, there are few candidates who are going to break into that top five. The Iowa-New Hampshire duopoly is over. The idea that some unknown candidate will catapult into contention after spending a year talking to white rural diners is laughable. This is the social media age, and the first primary is taking place RIGHT NOW—who can build a mass movement and raise millions this year? Because, while too many candidates think the Iowa rules still apply, the reality is that California will be voting at the same time as the Iowa caucuses (mail-in ballots drop the same day), and Iowa’s 30 or so delegates, allocated proportionately, will matter little compared to the hundreds of delegates California will be awarding to each of the top vote-getters.
Throw in primaries in huge states like Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia, and it’s clear that the playing field is too big and too expensive, in a media landscape that is too fragmented, to hope to build any real organization out of Iowa. If you don’t have the millions to compete in those early non-Iowa and non-New Hampshire states, then you’re already toast.
And that’s a good thing. Modern presidencies aren’t won in rural diners. They’re won by those who best manage their media—social, partisan, and traditional. And that requires building a movement of millions of people, everywhere, irrespective of geography.
So who on that list above can do that? Warren, O’Rourke, Sanders, Booker, and Harris have already built that infrastructure. Bernie, however, has a “yesterday’s news” feel to him. He has universal ID and the best he can manage is 11 percent on a site of Democratic activists? He can’t play the “I’m more progressive than thou” card in this field, so he’s got nowhere to go but down, as other candidates become better known.
Same with Biden: Universal name ID, and he’s eclipsed by the party’s new stars. Where is he going to grow support? His only direction will be down.
Booker has a lot of tools, and might be the most dynamic candidate in the running, but is likely dinged for his historical coziness with Big Pharma and Wall Street. He’s been trying to shed that image the last several years, but progressive activists have long memories. His future success will depend on whether he can convince Democratic base voters that he’s truly reformed.
So if I had to guess? Our inaugural top three (Warren, O’Rourke, Harris) will be the biggest threats all the way through the primary, absent a legit scandal. Could Amy Klobuchar break through? Eric Holder? Whoever your favorite character is?
We’ll have plenty of drama the next year. Fun drama. Most of these candidates are actually kinda fantastic, so despite the protestations of some of our more partisan warriors, we’re in great shape pretty much no matter who we end up with.