The Democratic Party will officially nominate its 2020 presidential candidate at its July convention. They are starting the process beginning today. Monday is the Iowa caucuses. The process ends with the Puerto Rico primary in June.
The nominating process will be different this year than it was 4 years ago. After 2016, Democrats made changes aimed at increasing participation and ensuring transparency. This came about as a result of the shenanigans some allege and the perception Hillary stole the election from Bernie.
The goal of the process is to amass 1,991 needed delegates of the 3,979 available to secure the nomination on the first ballot. The ballots will be cast at the convention in Milwaukee. A candidate must get at least 15% of the vote statewide or in an individual congressional district to be awarded delegates.
Here is a link to a graphic on the delegate race. Here’s a breakdown of some of the significant changes:
In 2020, Democrats will hold caucuses in four states, Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota, and Wyoming. That is fewer than the 18 conducted in 2016. Voting is done in the open by raising their hand or gathering with fellow supporters.
Some are critical of caucuses as undemocratic. Some feel it can dampen participation and is subject to intimidation. In-person meetings at a set time can be difficult for shift workers or parents to attend.
The caucus system favors candidates with a strong, active base instead of broader support. Bernie significantly outperformed Hillary in caucuses in the 2016 campaign.
Super Tuesday’s role
In primaries, voters show up to their polling place and check the box for the candidate of their choice. The first states to vote Iowa and New Hampshire have always had an outsized role in picking nominees. On March 3 this year, “Super Tuesday,” 14 states will vote we’ll see if it will hold more sway.
California moved its primary from early June to Super Tuesday this year. Texas was already on the Super Tuesday calendar. The switch means the nation’s two most populous states with a total of 643 delegates will vote on the same day. Both have large Hispanic populations.
South Carolina may see the biggest drop in attention because of the rise of Super Tuesday. Traditionally, South Carolina has held the first Southern primary. It is the first state to vote with a sizable black population. This year, South Carolina votes on Feb. 29 with Super Tuesday just three days later. Polling in the state has former Vice President Joe Biden with a sizable lead.
Activists in South Carolina say they have already seen a drop in visits from candidates this year. Candidates will be facing a choice. Will they campaign in a state where they are way behind in polls? Or will they try to bolster their fortunes in Super Tuesday states? It is possible South Carolina could receive little attention from many candidates.
When will the process produce a nominee?
Democrats are looking at a more compressed calendar this year. The sped up voting may produce a nominee more quickly. More than two dozen candidates initially made announcements of their intentions to run. Democrat insiders were privately concerned that the large field could result in a contest stretching for months.
There was fear of a repeat of 2016, when Sanders refused to concede long after it was clear he could not win. The field has narrowed significantly before the voting begins. A week before Iowa votes, 12 Democrats remain. Only five of them are polling nationally above 5%. How will the Democrats steal the election from Bernie?
The compressed calendar may help one Democrat consolidate support more quickly. After Super Tuesday, nearly 30% of the eligible U.S. population will have spoken in picking the nominee. By the end of March, elections covering well over 50% of the party’s delegates will have taken place.
Two candidates are trying to throw a wrench into the party’s efforts to ride momentum in the early primary contests to victory on Super Tuesday: Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. They are billionaires. Bloomberg is a media mogul. Both entered the race late.
Each is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money into the race. They are obviously trying to buy the position. Each aims to be competitive on Super Tuesday. If they pick up enough delegates on Super Tuesday, it will make it harder for other candidates to consolidate support and secure the nomination.
Superdelegates are elected Democratic officeholders. They are part of each state’s delegation. They are not committed to vote based on the outcome of the state’s nominating contest. All Democratic members of Congress and state governors are superdelegates. In 2016, many superdelegates announced early support for Clinton. This drew criticism the party was tipping the scales in her favor.
The Democrat process still includes superdelegates in 2020. But, new rules limit their influence. This time they will likely not vote on the first ballot at the convention. To win on the first ballot a candidate must secure the majority of the party’s 3,979 pledged delegates. That is the number available during the nominating contests leading up to the Democratic convention. If a candidate wins a supermajority of pledged delegates, that’s about 2,378 then superdelegates are permitted to vote on the first ballot.
If the front-runner has fewer than 1,991 delegates, the convention will hold a second vote. On subsequent ballots, all delegates become unpledged and superdelegates can also vote. In that case the winner needs a majority of all 4,750 delegates to secure the nomination. That is 2375 delegates. This will be a classic brokered convention when this happens. You can be the judge whether Steyer and Bloomberg are the designated insider spoilers this year. It sure looks like how the Democrats plan to steal the election from Bernie this time… a brokered convention.