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Trail Mix: Our Post-New Hampshire Nevada Democratic Caucus Power Rankings

At least New Hampshire didn’t make us wait. The numbers are in, and we have a clearer picture of who’s rising to the top along with who’s falling behind. Now that the first two early states are  behind us, it’s time to come home to Nevada…

And for all these candidates to meet us here.

😏 #1: Bernie Sanders (↔️ unchanged)
Photo by Andrew Davey

This time, there’s less ambiguity. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) just scored a clearer victory in New Hampshire, although it wasn’t quite as wide as what he had hoped for. He’s still the #1 frontrunner now, though Nevada is about to prove whether or not Sanders is unstoppable going forward. 

Since we’re a caucus state, base enthusiasm and ground game matter. But since we’re more diverse than other caucus states, Sanders’ outreach to diverse communities will be put to the ultimate test in a state where our caucus turnout certainly won’t be 91% white. I’ve received multiple reports in recent weeks that Sanders has a solid ground game across the state, from Reno to Elko and from North Las Vegas to Henderson. And at this point, the one-two punch of strong Iowa and New Hampshire performances has me (and Jon Ralston?) convinced Sanders’ “political revolution” will be televised live from Las Vegas on the 22nd.

🔼 #2: Pete Buttigieg (up from #3 last week
Photo by Andrew Davey

Regardless of how many delegates former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ultimately gets from Iowa, he managed to spin his high finish there into enough of a “victory” to make himself the leading moderate. And considering the mighty scene he caused in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg has suddenly emerged as the leading “centrist/center-left alternative” to Sanders.

Unfortunately for Buttigieg, he couldn’t beat Sanders in New Hampshire, and it’s still hard for me to imagine him beating Sanders here in Nevada. As I explained last week, Buttigieg needs for 2020 caucus turnout to at least be as wealthy, white, and suburban as it was in 2016, and he needs to run up the score in those historically high-turnout Las Vegas and Reno suburban precincts along with solid scores throughout Rural Nevada. If Buttigieg can pull that off, he may score an(other?) upset. If not, he’ll probably be upset over another Sanders victory in another early state.

 🔼 #3: Tom Steyer (up from #5 last week)
SEIU
Photo by Andrew Davey

As I keep trying to warn everyone, billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer is playing for keeps here in Nevada. From his very warm reception at SEIU 1107’s “Unions for All” Nevada Summit last month to his fairly ebullient Las Vegas rally last week, Steyer is on the move here, and that movement has mostly been an upward trajectory

Now that a certain former vice president (see #6 below) is increasingly on the ropes, and since Buttigieg continues to attract very little support from voters of color, there may be an opening for Steyer to surprise the national press corps with a strong showing here next week.

🔻 #4: Elizabeth Warren (down from #2 last week)
Photo by Andrew Davey

Just when U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) seemed to secure herself a second chance, it didn’t last. Her very distant fourth place finish looks anything but good for the other “New England candidate”. Yet for the time being, it seems like Warren has no plans of dropping out, instead insisting that angst over the other leading candidates’ struggles to unify the party will lead voters back to her. 

Perhaps Warren can find now footing on this “unity” ground. But for now, she needs to tune up her ground game here in Nevada. While she got a very early start in putting together a field operation, I’ve received reports in recent weeks that Warren’s ground game isn’t as strong as I believed, and these reports began flowing in before Politico ran their story on staffers quitting out of frustration. Perhaps Warren can turn it around all over again, but she doesn’t have much time left.

🔼 #5: Amy Klobuchar (up from #6 last week)
Photo by Andrew Davey

While U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) didn’t finish on top in Iowa or New Hampshire, she did match her stellar debate performance with a stronger-than-expected third place Granite State finish. And now, we’re seeing more signs of Klobuchar sending more resources here to the Silver State, including a brand new ad buy featuring these two TV commercials. Klobuchar still needs to prove she can appeal to a more diverse set of Democratic voters, so Nevada will serve as the ultimate proving ground for her “e word” argument.

🔻 #6. Joe Biden (down from #3 last week)
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

It was bad enough when former Vice President Joe Biden faltered in Iowa last week. Now, he also has the stench of a stinging New Hampshire loss to contend with. Yes, yes, I know “Nevada is different,” and that our difference allegedly makes us a better fit for Biden. I disagree.

Here’s why: I’ve been taking notes since May, and I’ve documented Biden’s small event crowds, Nevada Democratic voters’ general lack of enthusiasm for him, and his woefully inadequate ground game here in Nevada. Yes, I’m keeping in mind that Biden still has plenty of institutional support here. But unless groups like the Culinary Union step off the sidelines (and by that, I mean more than just attacking Sanders and keeping the “Stop Sanders” movement as divided as ever) and supporters like Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) invest even more resources into saving his floundering campaign, Nevada may truly be the end of the road for Biden’s presidential ambitions.

😈 And finally, some notes on… That other guy running
Photo by Andrew Davey

Anyone who’s been following our coverage here knows that I don’t give a flying f–k about that one “e word” the pundits love to obsess over. But since some Democratic voters are really taking these pundits’ poll-driven obsession to heart, it’s time for a quick reality check. One, for all the talk of a post-impeachment “Trump Bump”, President Donald Trump’s approval and favorability numbers remain historically low for an incumbent presiding over a not-in-a-recession (yet?) economy.

And two, despite all the “Trump Bump” media buzz, all the leading Democrats are generally running ahead of Trump in general election polling. Here in Nevada, the R-J’s recent poll of Nonpartisan voters showed Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren, and Biden all beating Trump amongst our “independent voters”, which strongly suggests Nevada remains a “blue state” that’s increasingly out of reach for Trump-era Republicans. And nationally, top-rated pollster Quinnipiac University released its latest national poll yesterday showing Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, and Biden all beating Trump, and specifically Sanders and Biden beating Trump by the kind of margin (51%-43% for Sanders, and 50%-43% for Biden) that should guarantee a solid Electoral College victory.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Trump is actually spending time and money on taunting the Democratic candidates on the campaign trail, but they don’t have to take the bait. And quite frankly, neither should our voters. Vote for the candidate you want, not the candidate you think the pundits claim other voters want to defeat Trump. 

If you’re a registered Democrat or if you plan to change your registration to Democrat, you can vote early from this Saturday to next Tuesday or try the “traditional caucus experience” on Saturday the 22nd. As disheartening as the caucus fracas can be, this is your one opportunity to signal what kind of presidency you want and what kind of future you want for America. Choose wisely, but go ahead and make it all your own.

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