Democrats need a leader. Here’s why New Hampshire matters

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) — President Donald Trump marshaled his forces Monday night with a rally in New Hampshire, where people stood in freezing rain for hours to hear him speak, just as the race among Democrats to decide who will face him in November is feeling less and less settled.

The first primary ballots will be cast in certain sparsely inhabited areas starting at midnight, with results Tuesday.

New Hampshire is not exactly a blue state — Don’t forget that the Live Free or Die state is a swing state. (A small one, but still.) Trump lost it to Hillary Clinton by less than 3,000 votes in 2016. Inside Elections rates it as “Lean Democratic” in 2020.

Related: CNN’s Election Center

New Hampshire is also where Iowa momentum can go to die — Barack Obama stormed out of Iowa in 2008 and his loss to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire that year cued up a heck of a primary season during which a lot of people wondered if the party could unite behind the winner.

No real frontrunner — They’re wondering the same thing today. But whereas in 2008, Clinton and Obama had made it a two-person race by New Hampshire — she won with 39% to his 38% — a lot more Democrats today are still in the field. In 2008, former Vice President Joe Biden dropped out after finishing fifth in Iowa. Today he’s hoping he can hold out at least until South Carolina.

Buttgieg, Biden, or Klobuchar? Which moderate will New Hampshire voters choose? Listen to the latest Daily DC podcast with Dana Bash and David Chalian up in New Hampshire.

A CNN tracking poll of Democratic primary voters conducted by the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center and out on primary eve showed no candidate with even 30% support. Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner in the poll, had 29% and Pete Buttigieg had 22%.

Half of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters haven’t made up their minds. CNN’s polling director Jennifer Agiesta noted that “only about half of likely primary voters in New Hampshire say they have definitely decided for whom they will vote, meaning that despite the stability in the numbers throughout the six-day tracking period, there remains room for preferences to shift.”

Biden, the former frontrunner, has gone negative on some of his colleagues, painting Buttigieg as too inexperienced and Sanders as too socialist.

Bernie’s labeled himself, not me, a democratic socialist,” Biden said. “I think that’s the label that the President’s going to lay on everyone running with Bernie, if he’s a nominee.”

Independents could be key in the Democratic primary since the outcome of the GOP primary (yes, there is still technically a GOP primary), so the campaigns are actively pursuing what Buttigieg calls “future former Republicans.” Registered Democrats and people not registered with a party can all take part in the Democratic primary.

Clearly Sanders has consolidated progressives behind him. But the more moderate candidates combine to represent more voters even in the Democratic party. There are, however, more moderate options. Unless and until the primary voters coalesce around one, Sanders, who won independents in New Hampshire in 2016, remains in front with a quarter or so of the party behind him.

Mike Bloomberg is everywhere (but on the ballot in New Hampshire)

Not on the ballot — Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire human antithesis of democratic socialist Sanders, missed the filing deadline for New Hampshire, but he has bought his way into the conversation this week.

As Sanders, the independent who refused to ever join a political party, looks to romp to a victory in New Hampshire with an anti-billionaire message, Bloomberg, who was a Republican and an independent officeholder before joining Democrats, is opening his own wallet big time.

Everywhere else — He’s already spent more than $350 million carpet-bombing the airwaves. If you watch television or YouTube, you see his ads. Your kids have seen his ads. Your parents and even your grandparents have seen his ads.

There was one on CNN today in which every frame included either a picture of Bloomberg and Obama or old audio of Obama praising Bloomberg.

Another one doesn’t even really feature Bloomberg. It’s just soundbites of previous presidents saying inspiring things interspersed with video of Trump using swear words.

Another one attacks the idea that Trump is to thank for a roaring economy.

Related: Bloomberg courts wealthy donors for influence, not money

What’s he getting for all this coin? In a national Quinnipiac poll out Monday, Bloomberg was at 15% among Democrats. That’s nearly double his showing in a Q poll from January 28. For comparison, Buttigieg’s victory in the Iowa caucuses vaulted him from 6% to 10% support in that same set of polls. Plus, the poll — and we need to see if other polls bear this out — shows strong and growing support for Bloomberg among African Americans, which is a key Democratic constituency.

Which is better? This election could end up answering which thing is more valuable — a $350 million ad campaign may trump a victory in the Iowa caucuses.

How likely, right now, is Bloomberg to be the Democratic nominee?

I asked CNN’s forecaster Harry Enten and he started talking about actual delegates, of which Bloomberg currently has zero.

Learn delegate math now. It’s a subject we all need to start getting smart on right away. Because as the Democrats voters seem unwilling at the moment to coalesce behind one person, it only increases the odds that this thing won’t be sewn up any time soon.

1 in 10. Here’s what Harry said: “Bloomberg’s chance of winning the nomination on the first ballot remains minimal, but his shot of taking a plurality of pledged delegates is getting to 1 in 10.”

Which isn’t a lot. But this primary is just getting started.

Both of these things can’t be true

Trump’s main pitch for reelection is the economy and, while it hasn’t lived up to his 2016 campaign promises, he put forward an extremely rosy outlook in his annual budget proposal, released Monday.

Just as an example, read from CNN’s story about the predicted deficits in Trump’s budget compared to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Both of these things cannot be true:

CBO says budget will grow –The deficit — the gap between how much the government spends versus how much it takes in — surpassed $1 trillion for the calendar year in 2019, marking the first time since 2012.

That number is only expected to widen even further over the coming decade, reaching a total of $1.7 trillion in 2030, according to the latest projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released in late January.

White House says budget will shrink — That’s a sharp contrast to the White House’s latest blueprint, which projects that the deficit will shrink to $261 billion by 2030. The President’s budget assumes that the economy will grow at around 3% annually during that period of time helping to narrow the gap. Those estimates are significantly higher than what most economists anticipated along with the Federal Reserve.

Bonus: Read CNN reporter Donna Borak’s piece on the White House plan for more tax cuts despite the deficits.

Impeachment fallout

Giuliani has a channel to Barr — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Rudy Giuliani is giving information regarding his Ukraine conspiracy theories to Attorney General William Barr through some sort of special channel Barr has set up. This is not surprising since Trump clearly lumps his lawyer and the attorney general together. He asked Ukraine’s President to be in touch with both of them. But a back channel to the DOJ? This is, um, not how things are supposed to work, writes Elie Honig.

Trump weaponizes the presidency — Read this from Stephen Collinson: (Trump) is completing his project of fashioning the office around his own personality. It’s unrestrained, unaccountable, often profane, impervious to outside influence and factual constraints of normal governance. The President has established dominance over his party, his Cabinet and his own media complex. He loosened Congress’s constraints by refusing to cooperate with the impeachment probe. The result is that there are very few political constraints on his behavior left.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls on 74 inspector generals to investigate witness retaliation.

Remember Sen. Joe McCarthy

Read this: CNN’s Jake Tapper wrote a Twitter thread about Joseph McCarthy, who in 1950, claimed to have a list of communists working at the State Department. He didn’t.

“Thus began one of the longest and shameful political campaigns of 20th century American politics. As the New Republic wrote in March 1950, ‘McCarthy is suppressing evidence, distorting evidence, manufacturing evidence and misleading the…public…’ Too many of McCarthy’s colleagues in the Senate, afraid of being smeared as Communists themselves, were largely cowed. Very few escaped that era looking particularly brave. Murrow finally took McCarthy on in his famous broadcast –in March 1954.” Read more and watch that Murrow broadcast.

Good night, and good luck.

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