Note: Since publication, Elizabeth Warren has dropped her bid.
The stage is still set for the remaining Dem presidential contenders to target Wisconsin’s April 7 primary in their march to the national convention. Still, Dem operatives say it may take some more time to see if the state will play a significant role in crowning the eventual nominee.
The results of Super Tuesday’s Dem primaries continued a dramatic momentum shift in the chase for the party’s nomination. Where some were ready a week ago to dub Bernie Sanders as the inevitable nominee, Joe Biden’s big win in South Carolina over the weekend helped rework conventional wisdom on the race.
Armed with endorsements from former competitors Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke, Biden reeled off wins on Tuesday in places such as Virginia, Texas, Minnesota and Massachusetts — the home of Elizabeth Warren. With Mike Bloomberg dropping out and endorsing Biden, some national pundits now are ready to tab the former vice president as almost unstoppable. They’re also awaiting word from Warren on whether she plans to move forward with her campaign.
Joe Zepecki, a Milwaukee-based operative who worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 Wisconsin campaign, said the remaining campaigns have a vested interest in running a real race in Wisconsin. For one, it’s considered a key state in the upcoming November election.
“We’re going to see a real dog fight here, and I think that’s good for the party,” Zepecki said.
Bloomberg and Warren were the only Dem campaigns to officially open offices in Wisconsin so far. They also ran TV ads in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Bloomberg’s Wisconsin operation said the campaign had 60 staffers on the ground in the state. The campaign expected to take the next week to assess its next move with that operation, the spokesman said.
Already, Bloomberg had spent $6.1 million on TV ads in Wisconsin through Feb. 26, according to a tally kept by FiveThirtyEight.
In interviews with a half-dozen Dem operatives, several argued the Sanders campaign should and will put a big effort into Wisconsin. One, Sanders won 71 of the state’s 72 counties in 2016 as he ran against Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination. Two, he’s got a committed base here, and he was leading the latest Marquette University Law School Poll at 29 percent of likely Dem voters.
At the same time, the upcoming Dem contests could help Biden build off the momentum he has seen following his big South Carolina win.
On March 10, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington have their primaries. One week later, it’s Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
Then it’s Georgia March 24, while Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana and Wyoming are set for April 4.
Michigan, in particular, is a state to watch, operatives said. Sanders won the state in the 2016 primary in what was considered a significant upset. Doing that again would help halt the perception of Biden’s momentum, some of the operatives argued. But if the former vice president can nail down that state, too, it could add to an air of inevitability.
Dem pollster Paul Maslin argued Biden has all but wrapped up the nomination with Tuesday’s convincing wins and believes his campaign will create more momentum in the coming states. Still, he said it remains to be seen what that means for Wisconsin’s primary. He also argued the thing to watch now is what he called “the dance” — the effort to bring the party back together after what could be a bruising few weeks. What’s more, if Biden becomes the nominee, he would have to find a way to win over Sanders backers.
“We’re going to need to come together, and it’s not going to be simple or easy,” Maslin said.