Analysis 01-17-2020



A Look at the Democratic Presidential Candidates and the Upcoming Primaries

It’s just a couple of weeks until the official start of the 2020 presidential election season.  The first event is the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, which will help determine the Iowa delegation to the Democratic National Convention this summer.

Now that the field of presidential hopefuls has narrowed itself down from over 30 to a handful of legitimate possibilities, it’s time to look at them and judge their potential to win the nominations.

Basically, there are three strong candidates with the organization and money to compete,  two billionaires with the money to remain in the campaign despite poor poll numbers, and some “also rans” who have little chance, but are potential vice president choices or likely 2024 candidates.

The three most likely candidates are within a few points of each other in national polls.  They are Biden, Sanders, and Warren.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden was Vice President for Obama and had a long career in the US Senate before that.  He is the most experienced candidate and the favorite of the Democratic establishment.

Biden’s experience, name recognition, and more moderate stand on the issues should make him the most electable.

However, experience cuts both ways.  He has a voting record as a moderate Democrat that leaves himself open to attacks by more liberal Democratic candidates.  For instance, he voted to invade Iraq.  However, that record may help the Democrats to win over the white, blue collar voters who have deserted the Democrats for Trump.

At 76, Biden is one of several old candidates.  That means he has health and cognitive issues.  He is very prone to say embarrassing things and has a habit of touching women.

Despite this, many Democrats think he is the most electable candidate and he has the backing of the Democratic establishment.  Should the Democratic convention become deadlocked, he becomes the favorite to win on a second ballot.

Another potential problem is his (and his son’s) relationship with the Ukraine.  He might be called as a witness in the Trump impeachment trial and this could open questions about corruption.

Interestingly, three of Biden’s opponents in the campaign will be sitting in the US Senate during the impeachment trial – Sanders, Klobuchar and Warren.  They could if they choose to open up issues concerning Biden corruption that would embarrass Biden and permanently damage his campaign.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders is back in 2020 after a nearly successful campaign for president against Hillary Clinton in 2016.  In fact, without the strong support of the Democratic establishment, Sanders may very well have won the nomination in 2016.  And, Trump has even confessed that Sanders might very well have beaten him in the general election.

Sanders is 77 and a year older than Biden.  He is an avowed socialist but has represented Vermont for 30 years as either a congressman or senator.

His major issues are free college tuition, a higher minimum wage, and universal healthcare.  He has an excellent grassroots organization, enthusiastic supporters, and a strong base of small donors.

Sanders has the enthusiastic support of many of the progressive Democrats and young voters, which is a surprise given his age.  However, his socialist programs scare establishment Democrats who think he will drive voters into Trump’s camp.

Sanders recently had a heart attack, which has raised questions about his ability to campaign and serve as president.  If he is nominated by the Democrats, his choice of a vice presidential candidate will be scrutinized.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren has been the US senator from Massachusetts since 2013, which gives her less experience than her two major competitors, Biden and Sanders.  She is 69, so she doesn’t have the health issues that Sanders and Biden have.

Warren has made an issue of consumer protection and the power of big banks.  Consequently, she isn’t the favorite of the rich and influential, although she has a good donor base.

She has promised to fight the “rigged economic system” and wants to forgive college debt for college students.  She is progressive like Sanders and many of her proposals are similar to Sanders like free college tuition.

Warren has also said she will use presidential executive action to further climate change policy.

A controversy erupted Tuesday when she refused to shake hands with Sanders after the Iowa debate.  The issue was whether Sanders had made a comment that a woman couldn’t become president.

The conversation, which was caught on a hot mike, went this way:

Warren: I think you called me a liar on national TV.

Sanders: What?

Warren: I think you called me a liar on national TV!

Sanders: You know…let’s not do this now.  If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.

Warren:  Anytime.

Sanders: You called me a liar.  You told me…all right, let’s not do it now.

Steyer:  I don’t want to get in the middle.  I just want to say hi Bernie.

Sanders: Yeah good okay.

We don’t know if this will cause a split between the two.

Since both Sanders and Warren are fighting for the same progressive vote, they have an interest in damaging each other rather than Biden.  However, such fights may make it harder for them to join forces later in the campaign.

The Billionaires

Since Trump proved that being rich has its advantages in a presidential campaign, two Democratic candidates, with money to burn, have joined the presidential race – Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.

Tom Steyer has already spent money to push for Trump’s impeachment.  He has also gone so far as to say the problem goes beyond Trump thanks to corporate money used in campaigns.

Major issues are climate change and the opioid crisis.

Michael Bloomberg is another billionaire and another old guy at 77.  He was mayor of New York for 10 years.  During his term as mayor of New York, he continued a controversial “stop and frisk” policy that lowered crime, but outraged minorities – a major problem for any Democratic candidate.

Bloomberg has been an advocate for gun control and has spent millions in getting gun control candidates elected.  That may help in the Democratic primaries but will cost him votes in the general election.

The Other Candidates

Although many candidates have pulled out of the race, some remain in hopes of being picked for the vice-presidential nomination or to establish themselves for a 2024 run, when Trump can’t run for reelection.

Since both Sanders and Biden are old, there will be a push to nominate a younger, vigorous person for vice president if either of them are nominated.

Pete Buttigieg is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, which means he may help Democrats win the Midwest.  Democratic strategists are well aware that the heartland of America has become more Republican in recent years.

Buttigieg is the first openly gay Democratic candidate, which has energized the LGBT community, which are enthusiastic donors.  However, there is the question about how effective a gay candidate will be in the more conservative Midwest.

Although he had generated excitement several months ago, his poll numbers have dropped recently.  He may very well be staying in the race in order to be picked for vice president on the ticket.

Amy Klobuchar is a US senator from Minnesota, who is also a long shot looking to fill the vice president part of the ticket.  As a woman, she can balance out a ticket and as a Midwesterner, she can help a Democrat to win Minnesota, which is traditionally Democratic, but is starting to trend towards Trump in the polls.

In the end, Klobuchar is a more promising VP choice, since as a woman she can balance the ticket if Sanders or Biden win the nomination.  She is also more likely to deliver Minnesota to the Democrats than Buttigieg delivering Indiana.

Who will Win the Nomination?

Biden, Sanders and Warren are the most likely nominees, since they all poll nationally in the 20% to 30% range.  However, much depends on the early primaries and who, if any, can build momentum from early primary wins.

Biden has the first shot at building momentum as it appears that he leads in the Iowa caucus poll.  He is also currently leading in New Hampshire, the first primary.

However, if Biden can’t cement his lead and build momentum, Sanders can come back in early March as California holds its primary and Sanders has gained 10 points there in the last month.

If Warren fades, Sanders also can take voters away from her since she is ideologically closer to Sanders than Biden – providing they can patch up their differences from Tuesday’s debate, where the two of them attacked each other.

However, there is still the possibility of a brokered convention.

The Democratic rules make the possibility of a brokered convention more likely than the Republican convention.  Democratic rules call for the delegates to be split according to their candidates’ vote total in the primary, providing they receive at least 15% of the vote.  That gives all three of the top Democratic candidates a good chance of getting delegates in every primary.

Republicans have a “winner take all” primary system that gives the winning candidate all the state’s delegates, which lessens the possibility of a brokered convention where no candidate goes to the convention with more than half the delegates pledged to him.

For example, if California, the biggest Democratic primary prize, had a primary result of 37% for Sanders, 32% for Warren, and 31% for Biden, it’s likely Sanders would get 111 delegates, Warren would get 97, and Biden would get 93 (actual results would also depend on vote totals in specific districts).

Results like that seem to guarantee a brokered convention.

If there is a brokered convention (there hasn’t been one since World War II), Biden is more likely to get the nomination as the Super Delegates, who are part of the Democratic establishment but can’t vote in the first round, are more likely to go for Biden in the second round.  However, don’t count out Sanders and Warren joining forces if they control most delegates.  In that case, one would be the presidential nominee and the other one the vice-presidential nominee.

The General Election

Winning the Democratic nomination for president may end up becoming the poisoned chalice.  Trump’s poll ratings are strong and statewide polls of some states that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 are moving towards Trump.

Historically, presidents win when they run for reelection.  The only exceptions since World War II are Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

Trump has avoided the critical mistakes of these two presidents by making sure an American embassy isn’t captured by protestors and by not raising taxes.

The top three Democratic presidential candidates all have serious weaknesses that could torpedo their campaigns.  Biden is gaff prone and may face Ukrainian corruption issues.  Warren has a minor problem with the perception among some voters of not telling the truth like when she said she was part Native American.  Sanders is old and has health issues.  He, along with Warren are also more liberal than the American electorate.

At this point, it looks like it’s Trump’s election to lose.  The Democrats did not offer a strong set of candidates and none of them stand out as a likely winner against Trump.

That’s why the Democratic candidates are generally so old.  The younger, more promising candidates may figure Trump will win in 2020 and they stand a better chance waiting until 2024.





The U.S. Must Reinforce Its Important Relationship with Oman in 2020

By Luke Coffey

Heritage Foundation

Jan 14, 2020


The United States and Oman share many geopolitical challenges, and have had good relations dating back two centuries. Under the leadership of new Sultan Haitham, U.S.–Omani relations will be entering a new chapter. The Trump Administration should take this new opportunity to build on existing relations by sending a senior delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence to Muscat in the coming days, inviting Sultan Haitham to the White House as soon as mutually convenient, sending a message to Oman’s neighbors that the U.S. does not want any instability during the transition period, and reaffirming Oman as a trustworthy partner in meeting many of the challenges facing the region.

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The Failure of RegimeChange Operations

By Benjamin Denison

Cato Institute

January 6, 2020

Policy Analysis No. 883


The United States has, at various times in its history, used military force to promote regime change around the world in pursuit of its interests. In recent years, however, there has been a growing scholarly consensus that these foreign regime-change operations are often ineffective and produce deleterious side effects. Whether trying to achieve political, security, economic, or humanitarian goals, scholars have found that regime-change missions do not succeed as envisioned. Instead, they are likely to spark civil wars, lead to lower levels of democracy, increase repression, and in the end, draw the foreign intervener into lengthy nation-building projects.

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Iran’s Power and Exploiting Its Vulnerabilities

By Seth G. Jones

Center for Strategic and International Studies

January 6, 2020


Following the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), the United States and Iran are involved in an escalating conflict. What is badly needed now is a coherent long-term U.S. strategy to deal with Iran in ways that protect U.S. national security and leverage U.S. partners. The United States’ “maximum pressure” campaign has not led to a change in Iran’s behavior—at least not yet—though U.S. sanctions have severely damaged Iran’s economy. As this report highlights with new data and analysis, the IRGC-QF has supported a growing number of non-state fighters in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan—including nearly a 50 percent increase since 2016. Thanks to Iran, these forces are better equipped with more sophisticated weapons and systems. This report also uses satellite imagery to identify an expansion of IRGC-QF-linked bases in countries like Iran and Lebanon to train non-state fighters. Iran has constructed more sophisticated and longer-range ballistic and cruise missiles and conducted missile attacks against countries like Saudi Arabia. In addition, Iran has developed offensive cyber capabilities and used them against the United States and its partners. In the nuclear arena, Iran has ended commitments it made to limit uranium enrichment, production, research, and expansion—raising the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons.

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Oman After Qaboos: A National and Regional Void

By Simon Henderson

Washington Institute

December 2019



This essay, tenth in the series, covers Oman, a Gulf nation ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said since 1970, when he overthrew his own father. Qaboos has enjoyed wide popularity over his five decades in power, helping to build national cohesion and guiding his country into the modern era. But the sultan is seventy-nine years old and has a history of illness. To ensure national stability and continued progress, his successor will have to enact far-reaching economic reforms, aimed especially at broadening the economy beyond its current oil dependence. At the same time, a new sultan will need to navigate challenges posed by powerful neighbors such as Iran, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

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