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Richard Connor: Super Tuesday – lessons learned and questions raised

If you are looking to come up with a nice quip to lead a column about the recent primaries you need look no further than Uncle Joe.

After the now-departed Michael Bloomberg’s first presidential debate where he was whipsawed, sliced and diced by Elizabeth Warren, he was walking off the stage when Biden said to him, “Welcome to the party, man.”

With his slips and gaffs and occasional one-liners, Biden is like the mythical Uncle Joe, the guy who shows up every Thanksgiving and puts his foot in his mouth along with a turkey leg.

But in this case Biden didn’t misspeak; he was being sarcastic. He was not welcoming Bloomberg to the Democratic Party, where, by the way, the former New York mayor clearly was not welcome. He was welcoming Bloomberg to the rough-and-tumble, wacky world of politics on the national stage.

It is a slugfest and it will get rougher in the Democratic primaries that remain. Come fall, it will look like an Ultimate Fighting Championship.

It’s no place for first timers or boys and girls with white gloves. Unfortunately, with Warren’s departure after her Super Tuesday drubbing – the Massachusetts senator finished third in her home state – it appears there is no room for women with or without white gloves. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was still in the race after Super Tuesday but had only two delegates, both earned with a second-place finish in American Samoa, where she was born.

Women candidates are treated differently, diffidently, and without the respect that men get. This has to change. And change is imminent. With a Democratic field that once was the most diverse ever now appearing to be a contest between two old white male warriors, Biden and Bernie Sanders, the candidate for vice president will surely be a woman and perhaps an ethnic minority woman.

The Biden story is compelling at this point. Before the Feb. 29 primary in South Carolina, the former vice president had never won a primary in three runs for president. He pummeled the field in South Carolina then swept 10 primaries on Super Tuesday. In my mind I see him as a guy his campaign staff winds up each morning and says, “Go get ’em champ,” and off he goes into battle.

Here are some other Super Tuesday takeaways:

* Mike Bloomberg’s campaign, on which he spent more than half a billion dollars of his own money, will not be for naught. Bloomberg, who endorsed Biden immediately after dropping out of the race, knows numbers and he knows data. If he takes the expertise of his staff, the data he has collected on what works and what does not, specifically with television advertising, along with his sophistication on social media use and offers it to Biden, it’s a powder keg of value.

Bloomberg pledged to use his fortune and influence to help the Democratic nominee.

“I am clear-eyed about our overriding objective, and that is victory in November,” Bloomberg said in his campaign-ending speech. “I will not be our party’s nominee, but I will not walk away from the most important political fight of my life.” The goal of that fight, Bloomberg said, is defeating President Donald Trump.

* The Democratic Party does not want Bernie Sanders as its nominee and the machine will beat him despite his widespread and enthusiastic support. Young people, especially, love Sanders and his message but they did not vote in sufficient numbers on Super Tuesday to offset Biden’s appeal to older voters and African Americans. Sanders nonetheless remains a formidable foe. It is clear he is no slouch when it comes to building a team that is efficient and smart. He has the organization and it is smooth.

* Biden’s appeal to African-Americans is real and I find it heartening. According to Super Tuesday exit polls cited in news reports, Biden was the choice of 60 percent of black voters in Texas and more than 71 percent overall. He now needs to broaden his appeal to attract more Latino voters and also more of the disaffected voters who feel left behind by the political system, a segment of the electorate that has been drawn to Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right.

* Locally, we saw how hard it is to defeat an incumbent. U.S. Rep. Kay Granger won convincingly after an ugly and fierce primary fight against an upstart challenger who had supporters with deep pockets backing his bid to unseat the 12-term congresswoman and former Fort Worth mayor.

Granger was vulnerable, but her supporters had deep pockets, too. She also had the priceless advantages of name recognition and congressional power. Her support of the controversial Panther Island project and her recent failure to secure federal money to finish it notwithstanding, Granger is the top-ranking Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the prime congressional sponsor of Lockheed’s F-35 fighter plane. Her support from Lockheed and the company’s local cheerleaders was ferocious. She gets credit for the F-35 contracts that come our way and local powers-that-be were not going to risk losing that business despite Panther (Fantasy) Island and the bridges to nowhere.

So, Super Tuesday has come and gone and just like those Lockheed jets everything is still up in the air. A few weeks ago, no one could have predicted the Biden surge, the massive dropouts in the Democratic primary race, or that multiple new cases and deaths from the coronavirus would be wreaking havoc on stock markets and roiling the global economy.

We do know this. In a presidential election the electorate speaks with its pocketbook. If the economy is “up” in November, if the stock market is steady, unemployment down, interest rates low, and your 401(k) better than it was four years ago, the incumbent has an enormous advantage.

Right now, the big question is how seriously the coronavirus will affect the economy. Public events that generate revenue for local communities are already being affected – Austin’s South by Southwest festival, to name one, has been canceled because of virus fears. The negative economic ripples from a rash of such cancellations would be huge, and those ripples could harbinger nationwide waves.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

Richard Connor
Richard Connor is the owner and CEO/Publisher of DRC Media, the parent company of the Fort Worth Business Press. he also owns newspapers in Virginia. Mr. Connor held a number of corporate media executive positions before founding his own company. He is an award-winning columnist and at one time wrote a weekly column on national politics for CQ Politics, the online version of Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

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