The Two Candidate Democratic Primary

Bernie SandersI was over at Real Clear Politics looking at their 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination page. It provides their best guesses of where the various candidates — real and imagined — are in the polls. And it is interesting. In first place, of course, is Hillary Clinton with almost 64%. And at the back is the newest man in the race, Martin O’Malley, with less than one percent. I’m sure now that he’s announced, O’Malley will probably come up in the polls. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that he is destined for small things in 2016.

In The Onion Candidate Profile: Martin O’Malley, it notes his major name recognition with the campaign slogan, “A vote for me is a vote for Martin O’Malley.” And his goal is, “To defeat Bernie Sanders.” All I can say is, “You dream big governor!” On Friday, Brian Beutler wrote about this, Martin O’Malley Shouldn’t Be Mad at Bernie Sanders — and Shouldn’t Attack Clinton, Either. It is partly about rumors that O’Malley is angry that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is flocking to Sanders as they say, “Martin who?” But mostly, it is just Beutler wondering what the hell O’Malley thinks he’s running for. Vice-president? I think Hillary already has Maryland covered.

But the overall polling is quite interesting. Other than Clinton, the top two candidates are not running — one of them has said she will not run:

  • 63.6% Clinton
  • 12.5% Warren
  • 9.5% Biden
  • 8.8% Sanders
  • 2.6% Webb
  • 1.8% Chafee
  • 0.8% O’Malley

Jim Webb has three times the support that O’Malley does, and he is still exploring just how much he will lose to Hillary Clinton. But like I said: O’Malley will go up in the polls. They all will likely go up in the polls after the debates start and everyone finally comes to terms with the fact that Warren and Biden are not going to run.

But I wonder about this list. It seems to me that it is largely just a reflection of most people being in favor of Clinton and the rest being in favor of someone who is not Clinton. Certainly, most of the people who now support Warren will go on to support Sanders. I really see this campaign being a two way race between Clinton and Sanders. Of course, Clinton is going to dominate. And even if she implodes, I think Sanders has a 25% ceiling for support. The “socialist” label scares Democrats — not because we have a problem with it, but because we are afraid that it will be a problem in the general election.

As for O’Malley, Chafee, and Webb (if he runs)? I don’t see them getting traction. For those who think that Clinton is too conservative and cozy with Wall Street, Sanders is the obvious choice. For those fine with Clinton, what would be the point of voting for someone who is just a little more to your liking when Clinton is (1) good enough and (2) going to win anyway? But I think it’s great that O’Malley’s in the race. I’ll be interested to hear what he has to say. And by the time this article is up, Chafee will probably be in the race. It’s all good. At least all the potential Democrats are plausible candidates and none of them are embarrassing.

Update (1 June 2015 11:33 pm)

Brian Beutler wrote an article I was kind of waiting for, Let’s Put Bernie Sanders’s “Momentum” in Perspective. He shows data that highlight what I’m talking about: Sanders is consolidating the “not Clinton” vote. He isn’t hurting Clinton at all. And in the end, he may peak early and not come to anything. But I think there are a lot of people out there like me who look forward to voting for Sanders in the primary and Clinton in the general. Will someone be able to steal his thunder? Maybe. But I kind of doubt it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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