The New Jersey presidential primary is scheduled for June 2, 2020, again one of the nation’s latest. In order to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, a candidate must receive the votes of 1,885 delegates. New Jersey, with 128 delegates is a prize that would seem well worth the focus of the leading Democratic presidential candidates.
In most presidential nomination cycles, however, the issue of the presidential nominee is well settled long before the New Jersey primary. In my view, unrecognized by most “conventional wisdom” media, there is a high likelihood that Joe Biden will clinch the Democratic presidential nomination at least a month before the New Jersey primary.
There are four factors pointing towards a Biden nomination on the first ballot at the convention, two of which relate to the African-American vote.
- Biden is by far the leading candidate among African-American voters.
The polls virtually unanimously show this. The 2020 campaign will be the Year of the African-American voter. The African-American vote constitutes 25 percent nationally of the total Democratic primary vote. And Joe Biden’s African-American support virtually guarantees him a landslide victory in the first really significant Democratic primary, South Carolina on February 29. After that, he would be able to roll to the Democratic presidential nomination, winning every Democratic primary in which there is a significant large African-American vote.
I would not describe Joe Biden as “beloved “in the African-American community. In fact, there has been no white political figure in America over the past half century that one could describe as beloved by African-Americans. The last American white politician so beloved was Robert Kennedy back in 1968.
I will never forget Robert Kennedy on the evening of April 4, 1968 informing a crowd of African-Americans in Indianapolis, Indiana that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. His plea for calm literally prevented the outbreak of a riot. This was an unforgettable moment in American history.
Joe Biden is not beloved in the African-American community, but he is trusted, far more than any other Democratic white presidential candidate. I foresee nothing that would cause him to lose this status.
In fact, pundits must avoid giving too much significance to the Iowa and New Hampshire primary. These are two lily-white states whose Democratic primary vote contains an extremely small number of African-American voters, way below the national Democratic Party percentage.
In order to retain his frontrunner status at the time of the South Carolina primary, Biden only needs to win one of the first three Democratic contests – the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and the Nevada caucuses. The most recent polls show him leading in Nevada by a significant margin – in fact, his lead in Nevada has been increasing.
- Both Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg are anathema to a large percentage of the African-American community. This will prevent either from coming close to winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
Buttigieg’s problems with the African-American community do not result primarily from anti-gay sentiment among older African-American men, as has been alleged. Rather, his opposition from the African-American community originated during his mayoral administration in South Bend, Indiana, where the local African-American community felt that he was largely non-responsive to their concerns, specifically on police practices.
Similarly, Michael Bloomberg has a major problem with the African-American community, due to his implementation as mayor of New York City of his “stop and frisk” policy. Full disclosure: While serving as Bush 43 Region 2 EPA Regional Administrator, I worked closely with Bloomberg and his top aides, Dan Doctoroff and Ed Skyler. I believe he would be an excellent president.
I do not believe that either Pete Buttigieg or Michael Bloomberg is a racist. Police practices, particularly perceived police brutality, however, continues to be the major flashpoint in relationships between largely white city administrations and their respective African-American communities. And this is fifty-one years after the Kerner Commission identified police practices as the major cause of the race riots of the 1960s. I do not foresee either Bloomberg or Buttigieg resolving their African-American community problems.
Incidentally, Bloomberg came out with a great campaign opening commercial. And he did apologize to the African-American community for his “stop and frisk” policies. This apology, however, took place five months after Bloomberg had been defending the policy. Bloomberg’s words are too little, too late. And the commercial will be totally ineffective in increasing his acceptability to the African-American community.
- In the October 15 debate, Joe Biden scored a virtual knockout over Elizabeth Warren on the Medicare for All issue. She is finished.
Biden did this by tying her Medicare for All proposal to its two most objectionable components: 1) its grossly excessive costs; 2) its abolition of private health insurance.
Since that debate, Biden has actually increased his standing in the polls, while Warren has sunk and continues to head downward. These developments occurred, despite the fatuous analysis of the national network pundits that night that Warren had won and Biden had lost.
National pundits often make horrendously foolhardy and superficial assessments of debate performances because they focus solely on style. That is the most ludicrous way of evaluating debates.
The only correct way of evaluating a candidate’s debate performance is to determine whether he or she attained his or her objectives. Biden had one objective that night of October 15, and that was to permanently sideline Warren on the Medicare for All issue. He did so decisively.
Biden’s effective attacks on Medicare for All have also virtually eliminated any chance that Socialist Bernie Sanders had. No Socialist nor any Progressive Left candidate will win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Yet there was real artistry to the way Biden eliminated any the chances of Sanders and Warren He did it strictly on the issues, without any personal animus. Both Sanders and Warren like Joe. And due to their distaste for Bloomberg, they doubtless will deliver their support and that of their Progressive Left supporters to Biden once they are out of the campaign.
- Deval Patrick, potentially Biden’s most effective rival, entered the race too late.
As I wrote in an InsiderNJ column published on November 15, “Patrick Could Supplant Biden as Democratic Frontrunner,” (https://www.insidernj.com/patrick-biden-democratic-frontrunner/)
Deval Patrick was the best possibility to dislodge Biden as the leading candidate. He was a superb governor of Massachusetts and an outstanding campaigner throughout his political career. His mastery of issues has always been unsurpassed by any other candidate.
Had Deval entered and stayed in the race from the outset, he could have become the frontrunner in short order. He is the one candidate who could have overtaken Biden in garnering a majority share of the African-American vote.
When Patrick announced his candidacy a few weeks ago, however, his entry into the race was greeted with a wide yawn. That’s what often happens to late campaign arrivals.
And it appears that none of Biden’s Democratic rivals, including Patrick, will attempt to make an issue of Hunter Biden and possible appearance of conflicts of interest for Joe arising out of Hunter‘s Burisma involvement. They do not want to appear to be boosting Trump’s spurious allegations against the Bidens.
At worst, the debauchery of Hunter Biden is a personal embarrassment for Joe and Jill Biden that will cost them few votes. Millions of Americans with wayward children will, in fact, empathize with Joe and Jill.
If Biden wins either Iowa or New Hampshire, the race is over early, and the nomination is sealed for Biden. If he wins South Carolina on February 29, he follows up with victories in March in the states with large African-American populations, including California, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Georgia. Then, he will clinch the nomination with victories in New York and Pennsylvania on April 28 – a full month before the New Jersey primary.
Postscript: Phil Murphy will be a star in the Biden campaign
Once Cory Booker is out of the campaign and Biden establishes his command of the nomination, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will be free to endorse Joe. And he will quickly attain national star status in the Biden campaign.
Operationally, as head of the Democratic Governors’ Association, Murphy will play a critical role as a major liaison between the Democratic National Committee, the top management in the Biden general election campaign, and the various Democratic governors in ensuring maximum efficient cooperation between the national and state Democratic campaigns.
With his prodigious fundraising contacts, expertise on foreign policy issues, including most particularly the NATO alliance, and domestic and international finance, and his erudite communication skills, Phil Murphy will be a most highly valued person by Biden and his campaign, for fundraising, surrogate speeches, and policy formulation. He will gain favorable national exposure with frequent appearances on shows like Morning Joe and Cuomo Prime Time.
Now for some fun futurology……
If Biden, as is highly likely, defeats either Trump or Trump’s successor, in the event of an early Trump exit, he will doubtless ask Phil Murphy to be his Treasury Secretary or World Bank President. The Governor is supremely qualified for either position.
My guess is that Phil and Tammy Murphy would turn down the offer. Phil Murphy would start out Campaign 2021 as a substantial gubernatorial reelection favorite.
Only Jack Ciattarelli among the Republicans would have a chance of giving the governor a competitive race. If his reelection opponent is Trump acolyte Doug Steinhardt, Phil Murphy would win a reelection victory of record landslide proportions only exceeded by Tom Kean’s 1985 reelection triumph over Peter Shapiro. Confident of reelection, Phil Murphy would rather spend four more years in Trenton dealing with political hardball player State Senate President Steve Sweeney than going to Washington and having to communicate with Republican partisan extremists like Louisiana US Senator John Kennedy and Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes.
If Murphy does accept an offer from a President Biden to become his Treasury Secretary and moves from Trenton to Washington, look for Cory Booker to travel in the opposite direction, from Washington to Trenton to seek election as Murphy’s successor as governor of New Jersey.
And in the words of Joe Biden, none of this is malarkey!
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.