Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Apologies to the vultures, but the body has already been picked clean

Now that the body of the Kamala For President campaign has officially floated on out to sea, everybody wants to know who benefits. The immediate answer is nobody. The eventual answer might be a little bit different.

The immediate problem is there aren't very many Kamala supporters to divide up at this point. So there isn't much for any candidate to pick up now that she's gone. If Warren was the second choice among most Harris supporters as the polling seems to have indicated, most of those supporters had probably already gone over.  I wouldn't expect Warren to gain an obvious bump now that Harris is out. However it probably helps her down the road.

The game right now is about figuring out where the Biden voters are going to go after Biden inevitably implodes which is what everybody... including a lot of Biden supporters.... expects to happen at some point. Biden is the nominal front runner but his support is softer than conventional punditry suggests. It also is not monolithic. Conventional punditry assumes the majority of the voters considering Biden are "centrists" in search of a conservative Clinton style candidate but this ultimately may not be the case. Because the Biden campaign isn't really about anything besides name recognition, there are many different kinds of  Biden supporters who will end up making many different kinds of choices when the Biden campaign ends.  That doesn't mean the majority of them will land with the most ideologically comparable candidate to Joe Biden.  The Biden campaign isn't about ideology. Voters won't necessarily be drawn to their second choice for the same reasons they have been drawn to Joe.

The main reason the Biden campaign is associated with the more conservative elements of the Democratic Party has to do with its network of surrogates tied to the party power structure. Apparatchiks like Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond for example, are with Biden now because it's the professionally appropriate place for them to be. For the time being, the Biden campaign is the de-facto home of the institutional Democratic Party. A broad base of party insiders are hanging around it at the moment because it suits their personal ambition, or at least their general sense of obligation in some way. After Joe drops out, they're all free to move on, of course. But, unlike the free agent Biden voters among the general public, the party insider class is much more likely to land on a single second choice.

Early on, Kamala was a good bet to become the safe Biden replacement. She cultivated a similar appeal to conservatives and professional class Democrats. And she was never shy about courting wealthy donors and corporate lobbyists. Despite all this she never got it together for a bunch of complicated reasons. Last week's NYT feature shines a light on some of the inside baseball.  There were other problems as well with regard to the "messaging" and "positioning" that cynical political analysts like to fixate on.  But when you boil all of that down what you find is an elitist, conservative, corporate-friendly prosecutor failing to convince enough donors that she can lie her way around that effectively. When you think about it, it's pretty wild that the main idea behind Harris for President in the first place was that a lot of people liked the faces she made on TV during the Kavanaugh hearings. But then again, the current President is a game show host so who are we to say that this is any less valid as a marketing gimmick. Anyway it didn't work out.

Now that she's gone, the game is still about catching the windfall when Biden drops out. Kamala's goal was to be the obvious landing place for ex-Bidenites when the time came. But her campaign never demonstrated any growth as Kamala-curious Bidenites started kicking the tires on Warren instead. And in recent weeks, it looks like voters she might also have targeted began gravitating toward Mayor Pete.

But the bulk of the voters waiting to move are still tentatively with Biden. Which is why having Kamala out of the way is probably helpful to Warren down the road a bit. I also believe it opens up some possibilities for Bernie but nobody seems to want to hear that right now. Maybe we'll come back to that later, though.

Of course Bernie will never be the new favorite of the party insiders once Biden is out.  That is a thing that Pete and Warren are battling over behind the scenes. Expect that little campaign will only intensify now.

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