Wisconsin two-man Dem primary looms large

Going into Super Tuesday, some pundits were speculating that the crowded contest for the Democratic Party presidential nomination would be virtually decided by the time the Wisconsin primary rolled around April 7.

 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The opposite happened when Joe Biden jumped ahead of Bernie Sanders Tuesday in multiple states. The Wisconsin primary loomed even larger when four other candidates dropped out as the results from the 14 early primary states rolled in.

When Elizabeth Warren drops out, as a result of gaining little traction, it will be a two-race between Sanders, an anti-establishment populist, and Biden, a reformist who is very much part of the establishment.

With 90 delegates, Wisconsin will have a major voice in who wins the nomination. Will it be Sanders, who preaches disruptive socialism, or Biden, a centrist who pushes reform of existing structures and policies.

Sanders has led in the Wisconsin polls, with about 30% of the voters, but that leaves 70% up for grabs. The outcome could go either way. Biden has been doing will with minority voters, based on his long record of paying attention to their interests. Expect him to do well in the party’s bastion of Milwaukee. Turnout there could provide the margin of victory for Biden.

He was also propelled by the endorsements of Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg and Peter Buttigieg that should help in other parts of the state.

One take-home is that many voters are tired of the melodrama out of the White House over the last four years. They want some stability, and Biden offers just that. They want less partisanship, and Biden is a collaborator.

Another slant, Tuesday was bad day for President Donald Trump when his preferred opponent Sanders fell back. Trump was licking his chops to take on a self-proclaimed socialist. While Sanders failed to emerge as the leader of the pack, he is not out by any means. He is hurting, though, finding it hard to move past his hard-core-base.

One open question is how much Mike Blomberg gets behind Biden. Will he throw his fortune and staff four square behind the former vice president or not? My guess that he will. I take Bloomberg at his word – his main motivation for jumping in late was to make sure Trump is a one-term president.

Don’t get too excited about those resources. Bloomberg taught us that you can’t buy American elections, even with a half billion dollars spent TV and a social media campaign. Money helps, but it is not everything. Biden spent very little in the Super Tuesday states.

I recently visited the Bloomberg Milwaukee headquarters at Pittsburg Avenue and First Street, and it was under-whelming. In a room that could hold a hundred volunteers, there were four people working. At least two were paid hands. Are they still there?

I personally was tilting toward Bloomberg, not for his non-existent oratory, nor his bags of money, but because he is clearly a competent leader. Incompetence at the managerial level has become the order of the day in Washington D.C. Remember the rollout of Obamacare? Look at the confusion in the administration on the response to Coronavirus. Look at the failure to understand that Medicare Advantage is stealing the march from straight Medicare. We need to return to competent government.

I am hoping that all the centrist Democratic candidates come to Wisconsin for Biden and present a unified front. Columnist Tom Friedman pointed out that Trump is divider, so he can’t claim to reunify the country. That leaves a major opening for the Democratic Party.

Sanders is also a divider, even within his own party, pitching old-time class warfare.

A new Democratic president would have to work like Lincoln did to heal (Biden’s word) a very divided country. A campaign along those lines would play well in Wisconsin, which is split right down the middle between the two factions. A unity platform could also prevent a nasty fight at the Milwaukee national convention in July.

At the heart of our needs as a country, divided families need to be able to talk to each other again.

Trump won this purple state in 2016 by only 22,000 votes. A unified slate makes the best sense to tip the scales against him.

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