- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2020

Democratic presidential hopefuls are facing the very real prospect of a brokered or contested Democratic National Convention this summer.

Four weeks out from the kickoff caucuses in Iowa, the candidates could be looking at a drawn-out process that extends well beyond the Super Tuesday primaries in early March and goes right up to the July convention in Milwaukee, where backroom deals could have to be cut if none of the candidates can amass a majority of the 4,000 or so pledged delegates for the nomination.

“I think for the first time in modern political history, there’s a shot that that might happen,” said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for the liberal group Democracy for America. “And that’s notable.”

More than a dozen major contenders are still vying for the nomination, with a handful of top-tier candidates surging and falling back from week to week.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has been leading in national polling, though it’s been a different story in the early voting states.

Mr. Biden was in a three-way tie for first place in Iowa with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released over the weekend.

The three candidates were at 23% each, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was within striking distance at 16%.

Mr. Sanders also held a 2-point, 27%-25% lead over Mr. Biden in New Hampshire, with Ms. Warren at 18% and Mr. Buttigieg at 13%, according to a separate CBS News/YouGov poll released this weekend.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has held solid leads in Nevada and South Carolina, the third and fourth states, respectively, on the 2020 calendar.

Still, if one candidate wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, that person would pick up a substantial head of steam, said former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee.

“But right now, if you look state by state in the primaries that are coming up, [there are] different favorites in different states,” Mr. Lieberman said recently on CNN.

“For the first time in over a half-century, we could have a major political party in our country go to its national convention without the obvious nominee chosen, and what happens then? It could be an old-fashioned brokered convention. But who brokers?” he said.

A surprise performance in Iowa and-or New Hampshire by candidates such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey or tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang could infuse those campaigns with the financial and political support needed to sustain a candidacy into the spring political season.

Meanwhile, a major wild card is former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is staking his White House hopes on a solid performance in the Super Tuesday states, where 40% of the party’s delegates are up for grabs.

Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire media tycoon, has flooded the TV airwaves with ads since he announced his campaign in November and is already loading up on staff in dozens of states — a luxury that most campaigns can’t afford at this point.

Without a clear front-runner after the first four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, a candidate such as Mr. Bloomberg could make a come-from-behind move with a strong showing in delegate-rich states such as Florida and California, said Michael Starr Hopkins, a former spokesman for John Delaney’s 2020 presidential campaign.

He said it’s “more likely than not” that Democrats are headed toward a contested convention and suggested that Mr. Bloomberg’s deep pockets put him in a position to make a financial case that party heads should elevate him if things look dicey heading into July.

“You have someone like Mike Bloomberg who can say, ‘Hey, DNC — I don’t need donations, so you guys take all the money that you were going to give to a presidential race and give it to down-ticket races and I will personally fund this race,’” Mr. Hopkins said. “That’s a pretty convincing argument why Democrats should support him.”

Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, also is self-funding his campaign, enabling him to indefinitely extend his run no matter how poorly he does in early states.

But Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Steyer might have difficulty winning support from the party’s far-left voters, with liberals lamenting the billionaire candidacies while more seasoned politicians of color such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro have dropped out of the race.

Mr. Sanders’ supporters, many of whom are still bitter over his loss of the 2016 nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, could take a fight to the convention floor if they think he’s being robbed again this year.

They have shown a strong allegiance to the Vermont senator and would be loathe to quickly jump ship if the primary process drags on.

“He has shown real lasting power both politically, the crowds are there for him, and also monetarily. It’s a great show of support,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman firebrand who has endorsed Mr. Sanders, groaned when asked about the prospect of her serving in Congress during a Biden presidency.

“In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are,” the New York Democrat said in an interview with New York Magazine published Monday.

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