Three Numbers Will Decide Who Is the Democratic Nominee

As Democrats Move Toward Presidential Primary Season, Watch These Three Indicators


1 – Number of Candidates

Many of us have long said that the large number of candidates is not a bad thing – up to a point. We are approaching that point and still have, by my count, 18 (!!) candidates in the field. The first round of primaries and caucuses will thin that out quite a bit. For the good of all, it would be better if most of these candidates dropped out right about now.

At this point, for many to stay in the race is a waste of effort and a distraction for the electorate. It is, no doubt, also still an ego trip. If at this point you are at 2-3%, your odds of advancing are close to zero. Let the country move on, please. You can contribute in other, important ways. I say this even though there are 1-2 in that range that I rather like. Still, time to make the call.

2 Base Numbers

An interesting case has developed about the base that supports each candidate. For the most part, each of the top 4-5 candidates has a very identifiable base. Yes, there are elements of overlap between and among some candidates, but not as much as one might expect at this point. That base provides them, for now at least, a floor of support. But for at least some of them, that base also represents a ceiling. Any growth they experience tends to come from within that same base, for the most part.

This discussion links to the next topic (who are the second-choice candidates). If a candidate has very little breakout potential beyond her or his base, they cannot reasonably expect to succeed, but they can continue to hold down votes that will eventually have to migrate to another candidate or become nonvoters (Talking to you, Sanders supporters….). Not a healthy prospect.

3 Second Choice Numbers

This one may prove to be the most critical for the outcome of the nomination and the unity that carries forward. It also provides a good window through which we may see the eventual winner. Lastly, it defines who could be a spoiler.

Many campaigns illustrate the point. Buttigieg, to a degree Warren, and several other candidates get pretty high ratings as a second choice. Biden gets comparatively view of these “votes.” Sanders also gets very few of these nods. Even more important, a higher percentage of Sander’s supporters have no second choice. It’s Sanders or no one. Shades of 2016, this is how to put life into the Trump campaign. Most voters have said they have preferences but will support whomever is the nominee. At this point, those not willing to pledge such support are boosting Trump.

Now What?

First, consider the timelines. This must be settled, hopefully well before, Super Tuesday. Better if the decision at least gets a lot closer New Year’s Day. It’s time for some to get off the fence and to look realistically at candidates and alternates. Not doing so is a gift to Trump.

Second, stop looking for perfection and get on with it. There is remarkably little difference among most candidates on key issues. The disagreements are not over what but over how. Not a small thing, but manageable if you want to keep your eye on a change in residents at the White House. Granted, the differences between Medicare for All vs Medicare for All Who Want It are huge. But both are aimed at the same core goal. Keep that in front of your brain, Democratic voters, even if you dislike which option wins out. The differences are not huge and who the alternative is from the other party (even if not Trump)  is huge indeed.

Third, if the likely candidates have flat spots in their campaign wheel, they need to fix them NOW. If Buttigieg cannot grow Black or Latino support, he will not succeed. If Warren cannot attract more moderates, she is done. If Biden cannot excite the activist base at least a little, he will fail. And so on. Get beyond your base or give it up.

Fourth, take nothing for granted. By all reasonable standards, Trump should loose, and loose bigly. But there are no sure things in politics. Get too hung up on your differences, Democrats, and Trump will walk through the opening.


What would this country  look like with 4 more years of what is happening now? Ready to support, work for, vote for Candidate X? Once the nomination choice is made, get over whatever broke your heart. Get to work. Time now to get comfortable with some second choices.

Grow up, America. Do what needs to be done.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason      Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts ( Let’s grow our circle.



8 replies to Three Numbers Will Decide Who Is the Democratic Nominee

  1. Looks to me that one of the old rich guys will buy the DNC candidatcy.

    • Yeah, a couple of them surely are trying. Not much evidence either is getting any traction. Both have records and backgrounds that are not all bad for sure, but not a great election to be running as a billionaire. I think Bloomberg is never to be under estimated but a campaign built on “everyone is lousy, only I can save you,” and passing all the debates seems unlikely to me to work no matter how much he puts into it. But time will tell, eh?

  2. Another important issue…the financial resources available to Dems is spread among the candidates, and will be needed by thew eventual candidate in the run-up to the election next year. Trump has one pot gathering massive amounts of money. .

    • Excellent point, Jerry. Will be interesting to see how people decide to donate or not after their favorite candidates drop out.

  3. Don’t forget Hillary! She could come out of the convention with the nomination given the competition?

    • Ha! Wouldn’t that be a turn of events! But hey, if you do get to a convention with no clear leader and a deadlocked initial outcome, all sorts of scenarios come up. Would not bet on the Hillary version, though.

      We don’t have much experience in modern times with deadlocked conventions- puts a LOT of variables into play. Could wind up with a breakthrough nomination, but likely with a fractured electorate. Interestingly, enough, its my understanding that this risk is one reason the Democrats came up with the often maligned Super Delegates – to have a tool to forestall the civil war of a long deadlock. We live in interesting times….

  4. It’s looking more and more like Hillary

    • Oh, I expect a lot of folks would be happy to make that wager with you.

Your Turn to Comment