David: The surrender of Joe Biden
Joe Biden is the cheese-eating surrender monkey of New Hampshire. Before the polls even closed he fled the state to go to his Maginot Line of South Carolina. But the war may already be lost there too as Biden’s bulwark of black voters, at least nationally, appears to be increasingly backing former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg. I don’t see that the former vice president has a plan to recover from two brutal losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.
And now Andrew Yang is ending his campaign before the results are even in. I guess he figures if he can’t be the fifth candidate to beat Biden then there’s really no point.
Jill: Another one calls it quits.
We won’t have Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet to kick around anymore, either. That’s two down, three to go, by my post-Iowa reckoning. Waiting for you, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer and Deval Patrick. Biden could be next, judging by a New Hampshire finish that could end up in single digits.
David: We liked Yang the most
Of all the candidates we’ve lost, Yang added the most original and likeable personality. I wish I could figure out where his supporters go. Didn’t he send them to Elizabeth Warren in the Iowa caucuses? In any case New Hampshire is a more organized repeat of Iowa with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg finishing on top.
Jill: Warren wants to be where everyone’s supporters go
In remarks early Tuesday night, she presented herself as the second coming of George W. Bush — a uniter, not a divider. That and her new emphasis on practicality would have been a more workable strategy before she went all in on Medicare for All.
Even so, I’m surprised at the place she’s found herself in. She is the perfect candidate for this Gilded Age moment — I wrote that last year and I still believe it — but that’s in theory. In execution, she squandered that advantage. If I’d been running her campaign, once everyone knew she was the one with “a plan for that” and who nevertheless persisted, I would have gone hard on biography.
The best ad she’s run so far, in my view, is “Why She Will Beat Him.” It contrasts her Oklahoma girlhood, her father in his janitor’s uniform and how she got debts forgiven for scammed students, with President Donald Trump growing up in a mansion, his wealthy real estate developer father, and his fraudulent university. Maybe it’s not too late for her, but the vital signs aren’t good.
David: Why support Warren?
It is hard to figure out where Warren’s support comes from. Folks who like Bernie Sanders, but don’t want the Communist fan-boy baggage? Those who want to see the first woman president? People who want a revolution, but done with calm and detailed planning?
Does her support head to both Bernie and Amy Klobuchar? If you look at this race as having three lanes — progressive, fusion and centrist — Sanders and Warren are running in the far left lane. That was about 35% of the vote in New Hampshire. The progressive lane has less commanding showing if part of that support bleeds to Klobuchar.
Lumping together Klobuchar and Biden, the centrists hit 28%. Last is the fusion lane blending progressive policy ideas with centrist packaging, that’s Pete Buttigieg at 24%. He seems to be in a commanding position if voters give him a fresh look nationally. I can see Biden voters and Warren voters gravitating to the former Indiana mayor.
Jill: Too bad for Mayor Pete that there aren’t too many of them left.
Klobuchar of Minnesota emerged as a contender in a matter of days and managed to clobber Warren of Massachusetts in the state next door. What’s even more stunning is that Biden’s candidacy collapsed in the same blink of an eye.
He ran bad presidential races in 1988 and 2008, and while he had a good debate against Paul Ryan in 2012, that was also the year he made an offhand joke about Republicans putting black people back in chains. By unshackling Wall Street! But still.
It has been only six years since the Joe Biden of the Corvette stingray and cool sunglasses, but it seems like 60. There’s been little recent polling in Nevada or South Carolina, the next two contests, but the trend so far is clear. Girding for a battle for the soul of America, Democrats are concluding that two of its most famous, highly respected politicians won’t be able to win it.
David Mastio, a libertarian conservative, is the deputy editor of USA TODAY’s editorial page. Jill Lawrence, a center-left liberal, is the commentary editor of USA TODAY. Follow them on Twitter: @DavidMastio and @JillDLawrence