If you jump back to the beginning of 2019, the Democratic primary field was being heralded as the “most diverse” and “most talented” in a generation. Every flavor and faction of the Democratic Party was represented by at least one or more candidates including moderates, progressives, men, women, gays, and every slice and cross-section in between. The candidate list was almost too large for voters to keep track of. It was a buffet of personalities all gunning for the shot to take on President Trump.
Then, something changed. Was it former vice president Joe Biden’s weak poll numbers? The prospect for the party establishment that a liberal candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might win the nomination? Was it a culmination of complaints about the debate process?
For Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, the issue lies with sexism in the primary which is keeping her off the debate stage in December while benefitting other candidates who, Klobuchar argues, are much less qualified than she is:
That’s the debate that erupted Monday as one of those candidates, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, publicly complained about gender bias in the race, saying voters and the media were giving rival Pete Buttigieg, a small-town mayor, more support and attention because he’s a man. A woman with a similar resume, Klobuchar argued, wouldn’t be taken seriously enough to make the debate stage.
The three-term senator from Minnesota said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she believes Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is qualified but that she’s the better candidate.
“I’m the one from the Midwest that has actually won in a statewide race over and over again,” Klobuchar, 59, said, adding that she can bring in voters like those in Kentucky and Virginia who supported Democrats in last week’s election. “Those are the kind of voters I have won. And that’s not true of Mayor Pete. That’s just a fact.”
Klobuchar singled out Mayor Pete, but some argue that the entire process has been tainted from the beginning:
Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a visiting practitioner at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and co-founder of Higher Heights, which supports black women in politics, said Klobuchar’s comments were about more than Buttigieg.
She said there’s an expectation of what people in leadership, particularly the presidency, should look like in this country, and pointed to female mayors of cities that are similarly sized to South Bend who likely wouldn’t be taken seriously as presidential candidates. That’s particularly true for black women, she said.
“It is more of a callout of the electorate and the powerbrokers and media and how they’re covering people than on Mayor Pete himself,” Peeler-Allen said.
Klobuchar isn’t the first female candidate to complain of sexism during the primary, either.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, first made the allegations saying that gender bias was keeping her poll numbers low. Gillibrand has already dropped out, but she said this back in May:
“I think it’s just gender bias. I think people are generally biased against women. I think also biased against young women,” Ms. Gillibrand, 52, said. “There’s just bias and it’s real and it exists, but you have to overcome it.
“Voters will give a woman a shot. They just have to get to know her,” she continued. “They might make a judgment without knowing her, but once they meet her and know who she is and why she’s running, it will give her that opportunity.
“If I’m going to be the candidate of the women’s vote, which I fully intend to be, those voters might not come home until October or November or December,” she added.
Well, for Gillibrand, the voters never came home. That likely had more to do with her poor showing as a candidate than it did with her gender.
The criticism by Klobuchar and Gillibrand may be directed toward society-at-large rather than focused exclusively on the DNC or primary voters. In fact, down to the point, their complaint is aimed at the media and the way campaigns are covered. Being female, they argue, simply puts them at a disadvantage for getting proper and thorough media attention which in turn results in terrible poll numbers.
Another Candidate Mulls Late Entrance
As if the news that former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg is seriously considering a run wasn’t enough shakeup for the field, there is talk that another contender may pony up soon and toss his hat in the ring, as Politico reports:
Former Gov. Deval Patrick is considering a late entry into the presidential race, according to two sources with knowledge of his thinking, a move that could unsettle the Democratic primary field.
The Massachusetts Democrat has been reaching out to contacts in early voting states, which was first reported by The New York Times. Patrick also spoke to Joe Biden Sunday night, according to a source familiar with the call, and told the former vice president he was considering joining the contest.
Patrick is looking to announce as early as this week, according to one of the sources. To get on the ballot in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, Patrick will have to move quickly — the deadline to register for the ballot in his neighboring state of New Hampshire is Friday.
What would drive yet another Democrat to join an already massive field of candidates at this point in the game? From the story, it sounds like he’s being talked into it by some friends with deep pockets:
Patrick’s interest in the race advanced in recent weeks as top Democratic donors became increasingly concerned with the field, according to one friend who spoke to the former governor last week.
The donors, many with ties to Wall Street, see Patrick as the perfect candidate: a dynamic, African-American progressive governor who got elected in a heavily white state and who also has good ties to the business community thanks to his time in Bain Capital, the firm founded by another former Massachusetts governor and former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
There have been a handful of stories about Wall Street getting “nervous” over the continued rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. There apparently is some need to counteract her rise since the fear about Biden is that he can’t seem to close the deal with Democratic voters.
Practically speaking, it’s extremely hard for any candidate, especially one who isn’t personally worth billions of dollars, to jump in late and become competitive:
The timing of a potential entry, however, is not ideal for Patrick. Iowa is an almost impossible lift because it’s a caucus state that takes a long time to organize. He faces the same problem in Nevada. While New Hampshire is next door to Massachusetts and shares the Boston media market, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Warren have similar claims to the early nominating state.
The bottom line is that every year, for some reason, there are candidates who think they have a hip new strategy of “ignoring” Iowa and New Hampshire, and will somehow compete in states that come later on the calendar. That strategy never pans out for a few reasons.
The most obvious reason is that once the Iowa Caucus results start rolling in, and one candidate is crowned a “winner” in the early contest, it starts to shape the next contests.
It’s not unusual for Iowa and New Hampshire to split their decision, but it is unusual for a candidate to win the nomination without winning Iowa or New Hampshire. They don’t need to win both, but typically need to win at least one of them.
Some observers believe that Bloomberg or Patrick could make an impact on the race. There’s also the more likely possibility that they have absolutely no impact on the race and simply become an asterisk over the next few months.
As the deadlines for gaining ballot access to early primary states start to close, the talk of adding more candidates to the mix will also dry up. There isn’t much time left for registering, as noted in the story since New Hampshire’s deadline for candidate registration is this week.
Without even being on the ballot in early states, none of these candidates have any meaningful chance of gaining traction with voters.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention former HUD Secretary Julian Castro’s recent complaint that Iowa and New Hampshire don’t represent the diversity of the country and therefore shouldn’t continue to hold their first-in-the-nation status any longer:
I was asked today in Iowa about the order of our primaries. I appreciate how seriously Iowa & New Hampshire take their role as first-in-the-nation.
But we’ve changed in the 50 years since order was established—and I believe it’s time our primaries reflect our nation’s diversity. pic.twitter.com/mY0EvnhXNr
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) November 11, 2019
Add some racism into the mix as well while we’re piling up current issues facing the Democratic primary process.
As Sen. Warren shrewdly said when asked about Castro’s complaints: “Are you actually going go to ask me to sit here and criticize Iowa and New Hampshire?”