EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy

As the first presidential term of Donald Trump entered its last year, tensions are running high in the Democratic Party over who will face the incumbent in the November elections. Only few weeks into the primary elections, it is becoming clear that the predictions of a two-horse race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had changed into an open contest, where numerous candidates have a chance of winning, while their polling projections change almost day by day. Moreover, current primaries are not defined only by the simple election of the most popular candidate, but often by the calculations on who can stand a chance against Donald Trump in one-on-one contest, play a major role in the decision of the electorate.

If we take a closer look at the contenders with at least a limited chance of winning the party’s nomination, Bernie Sanders stands out as a frontrunner of the race, closely followed by the likes of Elisabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg, with Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar few steps behind[1]. Sanders, who never actually joined the Democratic Party, has the strongest support among the youth with his progressive social incentives, such as annulment of student loans, Medicare for all and free university education modelled after Scandinavian welfare states. Elisabeth Warren is a candidate with the closest mindset to the one of Bernie Sanders, often criticizing economic inequality and vigorously promoting plans for a free healthcare.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Joe Biden was expected to be the leader representing traditional and more moderate views, promoting bipartisan cooperation and improving strongly flawed relations between Democrats and Republicans. As a former Vice President to Barack Obama, Biden draws a support from moderate and predominantly older voters together with a high number of Afro-Americans and Hispanics. Nevertheless, Pete Buttigieg has emerged as a serious competition to Biden, draining a lot of voters into its own camps, while Michael Bloomberg remains a conundrum this early in the race. Michael Bloomberg, although lacking behind in first caucuses and looking very rusty in his speeches, can count on bottomless financial resources, which makes him a must-watched candidate, while Buttigieg managed to address a large number of highly educated citizens.

From the perspective of the EU, two things are clear. If any of the Democratic candidates wins the presidential elections, the US will most likely return to the Paris Climate Agreement, as all contenders have noted that the fight against the climate change is one of the main goals of their candidacy[2]. Moreover, there is a consensus among the Democrats to support the idea of crafting a Green New Deal, a legislation with a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions[3]. With President Trump’s negative approach to the issue, such a turnaround could prove essential for a joint global action against climate change. Secondly, it is expected that transatlantic relations would improve, as most of the candidates have a very positive attitude towards the importance of NATO and the unity of its members.

Another crucial topic discussed is a reform of health insurance, a very sensitive topic in the United States, where, in contrast to Europe, health insurance is still only optional and most of the population is insured by private companies. Here, the opinions on the proposed legislation are more divided. Some of the contenders are fully in a support of a universal healthcare financed from the state budget, while others still want to give people a choice between a private and state insurance[4]. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has fueled this debate even further, as the consequences of people not seeking medical aid out of fear of overwhelming medical bills has wide-reaching implications in the face of a global pandemic.

Although Bernie Sanders is currently building up a strong lead among the polls, only tens of delegates have been allocated yet. With many contenders still in the race, it is hard to prognose the results of the Democratic primaries. One of the decisive moments of the party elections will be a “Super Tuesday” on 3rd of March, when 14 states, most importantly California and Texas, two highly populated states, hold their primaries. During the Super Tuesday, 1357 delegates[5] will be allocated and could provide a breakthrough for the candidates – or effectively end their presidential ambitions. Lastly, as there is an unusually high number of candidates, it is still possible, that the winner of the primaries would not obtain a majority of the delegates needed for the nomination by the party.

Such a result could end up in a so-called contested convention during the Democratic National Convention, where delegates would cast a second ballot, not being obliged to follow the results of their state’s caucuses. Still, such a possibility is not very probable, and all eyes are currently focused on the results of Super Tuesday.

Žiga Faktor

 

[1] National Polling average calculated by the New York Times

[2] Politico Analysis; available at: https://www.politico.com/2020-election/candidates-views-on-the-issues/energy-environment/

[3] Politico; available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/04/green-new-deal-fossil-fuels-1142544
[4] Sanders and Warren being the biggest supporters of universal healthcare, while Buttigieg and Biden spoke out in a support of an optional healthcare
[5] Out of 3979 pledged delegates, the New York Times, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/elections/delegate-count-primary-results.html

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