If Democrats hope to narrow the field in their presidential primary, they’ll have to look past Nevada’s caucuses. With a week to go — and with early voting set to start today — six candidates now poll in double digits in the latest Review-Journal/AARP survey. Bernie Sanders leads with 25%, but Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are not far behind, with Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar all getting 10% or more as well.
Anyone else see the train wreck coming?
Sanders led the pack with 25 percent of respondents expressing support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden (18 percent) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (13 percent).
Businessman Tom Steyer (11 percent), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (10 percent) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (10 percent) were clustered close behind. …
Eight percent of Democrats surveyed said they were undecided.
Five percent of respondents chose another candidate. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Sen. Michael Bennet and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick dropped out of the race on Feb. 11.
Even if this were a primary, an outcome like this would be problematic for Democrats. Bernie still leads in this poll by enough outside the margin of error to ensure he gets the plurality of delegates, but at least two more would get a delegate tranche out of this, too. However, it’s not the same two who got delegates out of New Hampshire, one of whom didn’t get delegates out of Iowa either.
But it’s not a primary — it’s a caucus, and a field with this kind of spread-out distribution will make it difficult to settle viability challenges. With two candidates already coming in solidly viable and four others on the cusp, expect to see and hear a lot of rhetorical elbows flying on Caucus Day next Saturday. Even if the caucus operations go smoothly, several candidates will either come out of Nevada with delegates, victimization narratives, or both.
This caucus doesn’t appear to have much chance of running smoothly, though. It has more complexity than the Iowa caucus, thanks to the strange decision to allow early voting (for a caucus?), and like Iowa has a new and untested infrastructure. CNN reported yesterday that the Nevada Democratic Party still hasn’t tested the system fully, nor trained anyone on its operations:
Having scrapped plans to use a pair of Shadow’s apps, the parties will instead use a “caucus calculator,” as outlined in a new memo released by the Nevada State Democratic Party Thursday. Described as “user friendly,” the calculator will be used to add early voting data into each precinct and calculate totals on caucus day, February 22, along with paper work sheets. The tool, which the party does not consider an app, will be available on iPads owned by the party and “accessed through a secure Google web form.” …
But caucus volunteers have yet to get their hands on the calculator even though they’re the ones expected to use it on caucus day, and they have been given few details about it, according to three caucus workers who spoke to CNN this week. …
“The training showed us graphs that could’ve been an Excel spreadsheet. There was no training on the tool because they’re still working on it,” Seth Morrison, a site lead for multiple precincts in Nevada, told CNN when describing what the state party now calls a caucus calculator. “We’ve had a lot of training in how the process works, but no training on the tool, how we get the voting data or how we get results to the party Saturday night.”
“All they have said on the tool and calculation side is, ‘Trust us. We’ve got it well in hand. We can’t tell you what vendors we use because then they’ll be hacked,’” he said.
If this was a one-person race, it wouldn’t matter at all. If it were a two-candidate race, it would only be annoying. But a race in which six candidates poll above 10% and are actively campaigning in the state? This has all the earmarks of a train wreck, complete with a “Trust us!” quote.
It’s doomed to failure, as is the debate this week. The LVRW-AARP poll shows 59% of participants plan to vote early starting today and running through Tuesday, which means they will have cast their preferences before the Wednesday debate — which will include Michael Bloomberg, who doesn’t even appear on the ballot.
A primary would have solved all these problems. And maybe by 2024, both parties will have seen enough to end the caucus system once and for all.