The Corner

Elections

The Democratic Primary Is Dramatic and Suspenseful . . . but Maybe Not for Long

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

If you hate predictability and don’t have a dog in the fight, then this Democratic primary is pretty fun and exciting. Any of the big four of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, or Elizabeth Warren could win Iowa, and all four still have a shot at New Hampshire, although Warren and Buttigieg appear to be sliding back.

But . . . this means there’s a chance Biden ends up on top of a cluster of close-finishing candidates in Iowa, and then does the same thing the following week in New Hampshire, and his current leads in Nevada and South Carolina remain stable. This means there’s a not-so-crazy chance that Biden goes four-for-four in the early states and a lot of people conclude this primary is effectively over by the end of February.

The race wouldn’t really be over; Mike Bloomberg and his 1,000 staffers and bazillion dollars of television advertising are waiting to ambush the front runner on Super Tuesday. But in the primaries, momentum counts for a lot, and campaigns can only survive so many fourth-place finishes. Campaigns can spin lousy polling numbers but not lousy finishes in actual contests. Four years ago, New Hampshire knocked out Chris Christie, South Carolina knocked out Jeb Bush, and Super Tuesday knocked out Ben Carson. The following week, “Super Tuesday two,” featured Trump beating Marco Rubio in his home state, which drove Rubio to quit the race.

After a while, the primary finishes start to turn into the incentive structure from Glengarry Glenn Ross: “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Most Popular

White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More