Virginia Could Play a Role in Selecting the Democratic Nominee

Virginia will get a very real say in who will become the next Democratic Nominee for President of these United States. There are already a number of interesting scenarios lining up ahead of us, but whatever happens, Virginia could play a significant role, especially if Virginians took the opportunity to cast their vote for whichever candidate they like most, and not just who they think is going to win.

The Democratic Primary season begins with Iowa and their 41 delegates. Biden currently has a small lead in the polls, but this could evaporate quickly with another poor debate performance. However, it seems likely that former Vice President Joe Biden is going to win Nevada (02.22.20) and South Carolina (02.29.20). There are 90 delegates up for grabs in those states. Senator Elizabeth Warren has the best odds for winning New Hampshire, which offers a modest 24 delegates. It is important to note that while all this is going on, Democrats will be “early voting” in California, Virginia, and Texas.

It used to be hard to gain steam after Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina vote, but 2020 will be different. On March 3rd, Democrats in Virginia, California, Minnesota, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Vermont all get to register their decisions.

Senator Kamala Harris could win California, which is offering 416 delegates. Senator Amy Klobuchar could win in Minnesota (75 delegates up for grabs there). Senator Bernie Sanders could be finishing in 3rd or 4th place in every state, keeping him in the race and preventing Senator Warren from picking up any steam after a New Hampshire victory and a 2nd place showing in Iowa.

This would leave Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, O’Rourke, and Klobuchar exiting March 3rd carrying delegates and ending the hopes for folks like Buttigieg and Booker. I would honestly be surprised if O’Rourke was able to win Texas (he’s still polling ten points behind Biden in his home state), but he’ll still pick up some delegates there.

But what about Virginia? Could candidates like Buttigieg, Harris, or Klobuchar make a push here? It might not matter. Remember, you’ve got to win 15% of the vote to grab a proportion of delegates (with a few exceptional scenarios).

There’s 99 delegates up for grabs in the Commonwealth and Buttigieg is currently sitting at 11 percent in 4th place. It looks like Biden will have a stranglehold on Virginia and North Carolina, if things don’t go terribly wrong for him in Iowa. Senator Warren probably has the best bet of eating into the former Vice President’s lead here, rather than folks like Buttigieg or Klobuchar who still don’t have the requisite name ID and considering how high Virginia Democrats are on female candidates currently. However, Virginia might be Mayor Buttigieg’s best bet for picking up delegates on March 3rd, allowing him to attempt to stay in the race as dark horse 2nd tier candidates with Klobuchar and O’Rourke. If there is still money for these three after March 3rd, they could continue on for a few weeks.

Early polling would indicate that we only have four front runners: Biden, Warren, Harris, and Sanders. The only way we add a fifth is if someone makes a surprise appearance in Iowa.

So, very much like the Republican Iowa Caucuses of 2016, if you want a real shot, you have to finish in the top 3. I’m still amazed Senator Cruz won Iowa campaigning against Ethanol subsidies, so there is certainly room for creative campaigning and surprise showings. If Klobuchar, Harris, O’Rourke, or Buttitieg want to stand a chance, they are going to have to over-perform there. Defeating Biden in Iowa is the only way to open up the rest of the states where he’s currently enjoying 15, 20 and 30 point leads in the polls. After March 3rd, if Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and O’Rourke each have less than 50 delegates (obviously, the likely result), none of them will be able to continue for long.

Senator Warren will never be able to get Bernie’s folks on her team so long as Bernie wants to stay in the race, so the only alternative to Biden is Harris who will likely leave March 3rd with between 175 and 215 delegates in her pocket due to California delegates. Warren and Sanders could easily split 600 delegates between them. Biden will likely be holding between 500 and 600 delegates himself by March 4th.

If Sanders or Warren drop out and pledge their delegates to the other, then things get kind of interesting, especially if Senator Kamala Harris weakens Biden in states like Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Who knows what kind of crazy convention could await us in the summer of 2020? From what I’m hearing, Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg all have well-respected delegate and Superdelegate operatives on their payrolls, which tells me that they are the only ones who recognize they have a shot at this.

Early polling makes it hard to imagine Biden losing the nomination; however, to anyone who thinks it is totally out of the realm of possibility, I have one word and a punctuation for you: Jeb!

That said, in Virginia, the establishment Democrat (Secretary Clinton) beat the radical Democrat (Senator Sanders) by 30 points in 2016. Things haven’t changed enough to give a Progressive a real shot at winning a majority of Democratic delegates in the Commonwealth. If no one steps up to unseat Biden in either Iowa or on March 3rd, the Vice President will probably wrap things up on March 10th after Ohio and Michigan vote (two states Democrats absolutely should be gunning for if they want to unseat the President).

Any rivals staying in the race after March 10th will only serve to undermine Biden’s chances of winning in November. The only reason Senator Bernie Sanders was able to keep up with Secretary Clinton, as long as he did in 2016, is because there was simply no one else to support if you weren’t “with her.” That isn’t the case in 2020. Unless there’s an early exit for Warren or Sanders, or unless they team up against Biden and Harris in pursuit of a contentious convention, Biden remains the likely nominee.

There’s a big part of me that hopes to see Mayor Pete Buttigieg finish in the top 2 in Virginia though. This could keep him in the race and offer a refreshing alternative to the establishment and radical wings of the Democratic Party.