Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have emerged from the summer’s campaigning as the top three contenders for the Democratic nomination — but political operatives warn its soon to count out the second tier.
With five months to go until the Iowa caucuses, former Mitt Romney spokesman Ryan Williams cautioned, “The dynamics of the race could change at any minute.”
He added, “Anybody who says someone doesn’t stand a chance in these primaries didn’t watch Donald Trump’s campaign last time.”
Five Democrats have dropped out this summer, and only 10 will appear on the September debate stage. Some New Hampshire voters hope the narrower focus will help rally people behind a presumptive nominee, and have gone so far as to pare the race down to Biden, Sanders and Warren.
When U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton ended his bid last week, he told The New York Times, “I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race” between the former vice president and the U.S. senators from Vermont and Massachusetts.
But Williams pointed to 2008, when then-U.S. Sen. John McCain “was considered dead in the water after he tried to pass immigration reform and Romney was leading Iowa and New Hampshire,” Williams said. Romney was upset by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa, and McCain won New Hampshire “and we were out, we never recovered,” Williams said.
This year, entrepreneur Andrew Yang has outlasted two governors, two congressmen and a senator. He tweeted Friday, “Which is more unlikely – 1) going from being a complete unknown to 6th in the polls or 2) going from 6th in the polls to winning the whole thing?”
While Yang might not “have enough gas” to go all the way, Williams said, “The debate rules have done their intended job of kind of pushing aside the candidates that never get traction. Whittling the field down now to the final three would basically defeat the purpose of the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
Democratic strategist Scott Ferson said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s status as the presumptive nominee in 2016 meant “she wasn’t vetted the way she needed to be.” This cycle, Biden has grappled with a series of gaffes and Warren has wrestled with fallout from her claims of Native American ancestry — raising questions about whether the top tier is ready for prime time.
In a state where voters take their role in the vetting process seriously, New Hampshire Democratic Party spokeswoman Holly Shulman said, “We’re excited to have choices — and lots of them.”