Colorado has joined the ranks of the Super Tuesday Primary states, making the first Tuesday in Lent something of a big deal. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet having decided that the furies were not driving him hard enough to continue the race, Colorado Democrats' eyes are focused on the national offering.
Conventional wisdom and recent history suggest that Sen. Bernie Sanders will have a good night next week, nationally and in Colorado, indicative in part of the extent of the list to port that the Democratic Party is experiencing at present. Observers will note that Sanders won the state’s Democratic primary in 2016, and the party, if anything, has drifted further left.
It remains likely that Sanders will, in fact, win Colorado on March 3, but there are differences between now and 2016 that are significant. The field of competition, for instance, is much larger now than it was then. In 2016, Sanders' only real primary opponent was Hillary Clinton. He now faces a much larger contingent and significant competition for the left-wing vote.
His greatest opponent in the state is Elizabeth Warren, who seems, curiously, to be attractive to Colorado Democrats who wish to bridge the gap between the Sanders wing of the party and the musty Biden wing. What is curious about it is that in ideological terms there is hardly a hair's breadth between the policies espoused by Sanders and those of Warren, both of whom sound as though they were minted in the French Revolution.
The principal difference between the two resides in what one might call political sophistication. While Sanders spouts off bad ideas with revolutionary zeal but without thought to execution (of the ideas at least), Warren has somewhat refined the ability to express virtually the same bad ideas in a way that suggests cognization of a political path to imposing them. Which may be altogether even more terrifying than the crazy uncle who idolizes some of the 20th century’s most brutal tyrants.
Warren is not without her own faults, however, which have denied her the solid footing in the delegate race she had hoped to hold by this point. A chief one may be that which plagued Hillary Clinton, that amorphous political quality of “likeability” — hard to define, beyond wondering if the American people really want this perpetually angry, rich New Englander lecturing them on TV every evening for the next four years.
As for the others: Joe Biden was, until rather recently, the institutional front-runner, but suffers from the convention observed with some regularity over the past 40 years or so that front runners come in last. If Joe offers anything, it is perhaps a sort of unifying continuity; there will now be three generations who will have known a Democratic presidential primary candidate Joe Biden. It is fair to say that the upcoming multi-state contest will be a critical moment for the former vice president — if the returns next Wednesday morning deny him a conclusive foothold, his exclusion from the race will be cemented. What Biden — who a few days ago told a crowd in South Carolina that he is running for the Senate — needs most of all is a good long rest, which in all likelihood is forthcoming.
Amy Klobuchar, like Warren, has exhibited difficulty gaining much traction, which may also be traced, in part, to challenges of likeability. In this case, it is illuminated by reports that she treats her staff with the same contempt most of her primary opponents reserve for profitable businesses. Pete Buttigieg is, in my opinion, probably the most able candidate among the pack, but is encumbered with an unimpressive resume and, in Colorado at least, does not seem to ignite much passion. It must be remembered, however, that nationally he is second to Sanders, and performed admirably in the early races. With Biden’s pending exit, Klobuchar’s irrelevance, and Warren and Sanders competing for the radical vote, Buttigieg could find himself in an envious spot.
The dark horse, obviously, is Michael Bloomberg, though he is appearing increasingly unacceptable to the more liberal Democratic voter, for whom his privately acquired wealth and continuation of anti-crime policies in New York earn him suspicion. Nevertheless, he has the financial resources — reports from my Democratic friends inform me that his are pretty much the only communications they have received. That elicits comparisons to Gov. Jared Polis’ largely self-funded gubernatorial run in Colorado, though it bears noting that Polis brought a bevy of other tools to the table, while Bloomberg really brings nothing besides his sacks of cash.
So: On to Super Tuesday. May the best person lose, though one suspects they already have.
Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.