Surging Buttigieg shakes up the Democratic race
The Democratic presidential primary appeared in flux this week after Pete Buttigieg rocketed to the top of Iowa and New Hampshire polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick crashed the race, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg moved to counter political vulnerabilities. In Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first and second slots on the primary calendar, polls showed that 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters supported Buttigieg. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., has a roughly 10 percentage point lead over Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden in both states. Warren was leading in Iowa and New Hampshire in September but slipped after introducing a Medicare for All plan that would scrap private health insurance. Warren offered an updated health plan last week that would push the passage of a single-payer system to the third year of her presidency and shore up and expand Obamacare in the first two years.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg apologized for the “Stop-and-Frisk” police strategy that he embraced during his 12 years as mayor of New York City. The tactic gave the NYPD sweeping power to search anyone suspected of carrying a weapon and led to the disproportionate stopping of black and Latino people across the city. Stop-and-Frisk was scrapped by Bloomberg’s successor as mayor, Bill de Blasio, and crime rates in the city have continued to fall. “I was wrong and I’m sorry,” said Bloomberg, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy. Patrick, a friend of former President Barack Obama and a two-term governor, had formally entered the race just days earlier.
What the editorials said
Patrick is a very late entrant, said the Springfield, Mass., Republican, but he’s “bringing more than a little something to the table.” He was Massachusetts’ first African-American governor and a moderate who was successful and popular in office. “The other side of the ledger, however, won’t be empty.” A stint as managing director at Mitt Romney’s old private equity shop, Bain Capital, will surely attract left-wing attacks. Oh, and he also has “no money, no organization, and won’t qualify for the next debate.” Patrick has a lot of work to do.
Bloomberg shouldn’t have apologized, said the New York Post. As he pointed out in his craven flip-flop, New York City’s murder rate plunged 50 percent on his watch. Critics love to note that Stop-and-Frisk targeted blacks and Latinos, but they ignore the fact that those ethnic groups “account for 98 percent of all city shootings.” How absurd that to stand a chance at winning the 2020 Democratic nomination, Bloomberg has to say sorry for saving lives.
What the columnists said
Warren’s Medicare for All rethink is “a smart move by her campaign,” said Max Nisen in Bloomberg.com. Her pivot acknowledges the reality that voters aren’t yet ready for a single-payer system. But she hopes to get them there by rolling out an interim “Medicare for All Option” that will provide more generous coverage than the public options offered by her more moderate rivals and will let people who want to keep their private plans do so. It’s an appealing third path: more ambitious than Biden’s or Buttigieg’s plans, more realistic than Sanders’ “Medicare for All absolutism.”
The Massachusetts senator’s update “just makes her initial mistakes worse,” said Michael Brendan Dougherty in NationalReview.com. By punting the health-care takeover to her hypothetical third year in office, Warren will demoralize her left-wing supporters who “want her to commit her post-victory capital” to making Medicare for All a reality. At the same time, she “leaves herself open to attack” from Republicans and moderate Democrats who still believe “she’s too ambitious on this issue.”
The astonishing rise of Buttigieg—a political neophyte “with a thin résumé and a spouse of the same sex”—suggests rank-and-file Democrats want moderation, not revolution, said William Galston in The Wall Street Journal. A poll of likely Iowa caucus participants put the mayor in the political sweet spot: 63 percent said his politics were “about right,” more than for any other candidate. By contrast, Sanders and Warren were judged too liberal by 53 percent and 38 percent, respectively. By establishing himself as the young “standard-bearer for sensible reform,” Buttigieg might have found a winning formula. ■