Labor Day with Political Labor Pains - "Sunday Political Brunch" - September 1, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s Labor Day weekend, the traditional kick-off of the political campaign season. But, let’s face it, the political season kicked-off in June with the MSNBC debates, then into July with the CNN debates. On September 12, we’ll have round three of the Democratic Party debates, and a lot has changed on the landscape. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Who Made the Cut” – Only ten Democrats qualified for the ABC News debate on September 12, and all of them will debate on stage that night. They are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, businessman Andrew Yang, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey.

“More Drop-Outs” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York left the field this week. So has Rep. Seth Moulton (D) Massachusetts, who never even got on a debate stage, (why? I am not certain). They join former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Washington, who exited last week, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California who bolted about six weeks ago.

“So, Who Gets Their Voters?” – Each of these dropouts was only getting 1 or 2 percent of the vote, but where their supporters go can be influential on the margins. Gov. Jay Inslee was the most ardent advocate for climate change issues, so I bet his voters go to Sanders. Moulton, a Marine officer, could see his votes go to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are the only other two candidates to serve in the military. I see many Gillibrand supporters who backed Medicare-for-All and are Northeastern liberals, going to Elizabeth Warren. Hickenlooper, the solid moderate in the field, may see most of his voters switch to Biden.

“Biden v. Warren” – The one new twist is that for the first time Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will be on the same debate stage. The MSNBC and CNN debates were split on two different nights, and the two wound up not debating each other. I’ve said before, she was the best debater in the first two rounds, while Biden was on the defensive and got knocked back on his heels a few times. These two will tangle, and this could be fascinating.

“My ‘Hawkeye’ is on Iowa” – Folks, the first state to vote matters. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll in Iowa has 26 percent for Biden, Warren 18 percent, Sanders 14 percent, Harris 13.5 percent and Buttigieg at 7.5 percent, with neighboring Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar at 3.5 percent. The big surprise is late-entrant Tom Steyer who is already at 2.5 percent, surpassing some long-time, better-known candidates.

“Don’t Take New Hampshire for ‘Granite’” – The most recent Real Clear Politics composite poll in New Hampshire has Biden at 21 percent, Sanders 19.3 percent, Warren 14.7 percent, Harris 9 percent. Sanders and Warren play well, and stronger, in their native New England.

“South by South Carolina!” – The fourth contest after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, is South Carolina. This is often a crucial test, because South Carolina is high in African-American voters compared to the predominately white Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is, can you play well to more diverse demographics? In the latest RCB composite poll, Joe Biden is way ahead at 38 percent, followed by Sanders at 14.3 percent and Warren at 12.7, Harris at 12 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 5 percent. The trend is that if Biden wins (or does very well) in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be hard to stop with this big lead in South Carolina.

“The Votes of Red October” – I know you are probably overwhelmed, and don’t want to hear this, but there will be another round of debates in October. I won’t explain the weird rules for qualifying (and I’m not sure I can), but it’s possible the “September 10” candidates will be joined on stage with Rep. Gabbard and businessman Tom Steyer, who just missed qualifying in September. Please, if we have 12, split it into two nights, with two “six packs” of candidates!

Who are you backing, and have your loyalties changed after the first two rounds of debates? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for The White House Patch at

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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