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Today’s read: 7 minutes.
Another Tangle poll (please take it!), what we learned about Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, plus a question about Hillary Clinton and a wild CIA story.
Bernie Sanders campaigning in Arizona in 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Take my poll.
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The New Hampshire primary begins. This is not like the insane Iowa caucuses — this is a regular, secret ballot vote, which means things should be a lot less confusing. Bernie Sanders is the favorite to win, but Pete Buttigieg is right on his heels. Keep your eyes on Joe Biden, too, who risks falling into fifth place behind Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Much like Iowa, New Hampshire is a predominantly white state that is not viewed as representative of the Democratic electorate. But if Buttigieg or Sanders comes out on top, one will be able to claim a two for two victory after the first two states to vote in the primary. It’s a huge day.
What D.C. is talking about.
Yesterday, just 24 hours before New Hampshire voters hit the polls, a new Quinnipiac poll showed a dramatic shift in the Democratic primary race. The Quinnipiac poll is one the most famous and reliable national polls that reporters draw insights from. For the first time, Sen. Bernie Sanders was the clear leader — passing former Vice President Joe Biden and accounting for 25% of the Democratic primary support. Biden slipped to 17% and was trailed closely by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also had an astounding bump to put him ahead of Elizabeth Warren (14%) and Pete Buttigieg (10%). The shock poll gives Sanders, who is favored to win the primary in New Hampshire today, a stranglehold on the primary. Perhaps even more shocking, though, is the rapid and sudden descent of Biden paired with the ascent of Bloomberg. Among black voters, which throughout the campaign have been Biden’s “firewall,” he dropped 22 points. In the meantime, Bloomberg climbed 15 points amongst black voters while Sanders edged up two points.
What the left is saying.
There’s a lot to unpack here. For progressive Democrats, the poll is both a breakthrough moment and a terrifying reminder of why they’re in this fight. Bernie Sanders is simultaneously taking over as the favorite of the party while Michael Bloomberg is buying his way into the election with ungodly sums of money and a sketchy progressive record. That Bloomberg, who until late last year defended the stop and frisk program that imprisoned so many minorities, is now leading Sanders amongst black voters is mindboggling for many pundits. That he’s paid his way past Warren and Buttigieg is stunning. That Biden finally took such a drastic fall changes the whole race. Immediately, Sanders’ supporters began digging up and sharing Bloomberg’s worst comments, worst policies and biggest blunders. Privately, Democratic voters and strategists who don’t think Bernie can win are saying that Bloomberg could be the last hope to stop Bernie and beat Trump — and many of them are quietly enthusiastic about his odds, his huge war chest of money and his moderate politics.
What the right is saying.
They’re having a good old time. Sanders, who the right views widely as unelectable, is now crushing Biden. And Bloomberg, a billionaire conservative who everyone on Twitter calls “racist,” is now doing better with black voters than Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, and any of the candidates of color who have dropped out. How are all the “woke” folks going to explain that? While Trump has privately expressed concern about Bloomberg’s capacity to buy his way to a victory, Republicans in general view this latest news as all helpful for Trump. The president chances of re-election are up to 59% odds in some betting markets and the prospect of him vs. Sanders in states like Pennsylvania, where fracking accounts for thousands of jobs (Sanders has said he would ban fracking) is great news for the right. The poll also had some re-assuring nuggets for Trump, perhaps most notably that 59% of respondents said they were better off financially than they were in 2016. That far exceeds any incumbent president going all the way back to 1984.
The worst-case scenario is coming to life for Democrats: a contested convention. In order to win the Democratic primary nomination, a candidate has to win more than 50% of the “delegates” across the country. Pledged delegates represent the voters and are divvied out on a proportional basis that follows how much support a candidate got in each state. Often times, by mid-March, the Democratic race is so clear that a nominee is essentially ordained before parts of the country votes. But this time, support is so split amongst the top candidates — Sanders, Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and Warren — that it’s quite possible we have a contested convention.
That would mean the race drags on through the summer and, when the Democratic convention comes around in July, unpledged delegates (or superdelegates) from the Democratic party may have to sort out the mess. Superdelegates are high-ranking party officials, members of Congress, etc., that are not bound by the voter’s will. In 2016, superdelegates represented about 15% of the Democratic party’s total delegates. But criticism and rule changes after that election means this time around those superdelegates won’t get to vote on the first ballot at the national convention. But if a contested convention produces no clear winner after one round of delegate voting, then members of the Democratic establishment will step in and help pick a nominee. That could be great news for Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg or Warren, who are all much more liked in the party than Bernie Sanders. It also could alienate millions of anti-establishment voters heading into 2020. In a way, there’s no clear win for Democrats. Either Sanders wins (which many don’t want) or another candidate wins and the Sanders voters are left feeling isolated again.
A few other notes on this whole phenomenon and how it’s shaking out: one thing I noticed in the Q-poll is that very few voters this time said they were not paying attention to the election. In past polls, the number has been in the double-digits. This time it was just 5%. That means most Democratic voters are now dialed in. I also loved this note from Maggie Haberman, who compared Bloomberg’s rise to Trump in 2016.
Haberman astutely pointed out that so many people in the New York and D.C. media bubble just assumed people in America understood Trump’s record because they did. But that wasn’t true. Similarly, most people don’t really know much about Bloomberg — they are learning about him through the paid ads he’s plastering across television in every state. That’s a pretty effective way to boost your poll numbers.
Speaking of his record, if you’re really curious why so many progressives hate Bloomberg with a burning passion, Nathan Robinson from Current Affairs broke it down. Earlier this week he published what is essentially The Bible of “why Bloomberg is bad.” If you want a deep-dive into the ugly side of his record, you can read it here.
Your questions, answered.
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Q: What are the odds that Hilary steps in to run for President in the late spring after the other candidates show that they have no chance in the fall? Making her the Democrat savior, she would love that...
- Ed, West Chester, PA
Tangle: Political predictions these days are about as worthless as they can be. That’s why I do my best to avoid them — or at least disguise them in some evenhanded analysis. That being said, the idea that Hillary would jump into this race seems pretty much unfathomable to me. Not just because it would make her an enemy inside the party, but because she has repeatedly said she’s got no interest in running again.
That being said, Hillary was asked on Ellen this week if she would ever consider serving as Vice President (she declined the role twice when offered by Obama). Coyly, Clinton responded, “never say never.” She also said she was “under enormous pressure” from “many, many, many people” who want her to join the 2020 race.
"I never say never because I believe in serving my country, but it’s never going to happen," she said.
The only way I could reasonably expect a Hillary run is if the documentary on her life, Hillary, which is set to be released on Hulu in March, really moves mountains. I suppose in some fantasy world I could see that documentary having a huge cultural moment where it caught fire and displayed her in a positive enough light during a fractious Democratic primary that she decided to jump in. But, again, that is basically fantasy land. The reality is it’s too late (voting has begun) and too testy already. She’d only have a shot if there was a legitimate establishment coup at the convention to hand her the nomination, which isn’t going to happen.
So, no. I don’t see any way she jumps in. But… I wouldn’t put it at a zero percent chance.
A story that matters.
Today, The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, released an absolutely astounding story about the CIA. In a jointly reported piece, the news outlets detail how the company Crypto AG has been selling encrypted equipment to more than 120 countries since World War II and well into the 21st century. The equipment spanned mechanical gears to cell phone chips and software from Silicone Valley, all on the promise that Crypto AG would provide the most secure equipment possible — unbreakable communications and software systems. But there was a big secret. Via Washington Post:
What none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
The reporting was drawn on from a classified CIA file that ZDF and The Washington Post got their hands on. “It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report says. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the U.S. and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.” This is the kind of espionage story they will make a movie about, and it’s worth the read. Click.
- 56%. The percentage of all stocks in America owned by the richest 1% of Americans.
- 12%. The percentage of all stocks in America owned by the bottom 90% of Americans.
- 109. The number of U.S. troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of Iran’s January 8th missile attack on bases in Iraq.
- 7 to 9. The sentence, in years, prosecutors are seeking for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted on charges of witness tampering and lying during investigations of the Trump-Russia connection.
- 42%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said their minds were made up on who they would vote for in the latest Quinnipiac poll.
- 16%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said Elizabeth Warren was their second choice for president, best of any Democrat.
- 27%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said Bernie Sanders has the best policy ideas of any candidate, best of any Democrat.
- 27%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said Joe Biden has the best chance to beat Donald Trump in 2020, best of any Democrat.
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In South Africa, there used to be a massive thicket of a plant called spekboom that has extraordinary properties. The plant can absorb carbon at astounding rates and also helps bring rain and store groundwater. Right now, environmentalists are trying to re-plant the spekboom thicket and grow it back to its original size — 2.5 million acres. That’s roughly the size of the country Cyprus. If they succeed, though, the impact on the environment could be unimaginable. First, “one hectare of restored spekboom results in 255,000 liters (56,092 gallons) of retained water,” BBC reports. Even more impressive, though, is that a fully restored 2.5 million acres of spekboom could sequester 15.4 million tons of emissions a year. That’s nearly three times as much as the entire United States emits every year (5,783 million tons). Click.