New Hampshire was not the win that Bernie Sanders would have hoped for; no Democrat has ever won the nation’s first primary with a smaller share of voters. He edged past former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar posted a surprisingly strong performance finishing just behind Mr. Buttigieg. Mr. Sanders is the party’s front runner, but his numbers also show his vulnerability, which is that a sizable percentage of his party remains uncommitted, making it more likely than ever that we will have our first contested convention since 1952.

It’s an unusual circumstance for an unusual time. Even here in Vermont. Is anyone else stunned by the enormous amounts of money being spent in Vermont by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg? This is obviously Sanders’ country; yet Mr. Bloomberg is saturating the air waves with video of himself paired, most often, with former President Barack Obama. If he is spending lavishly here, where he has no chance, imagine what he is spending in the 14 states [including Vermont] that will be front and center on Super Tuesday.

And, apparently, it’s working. He’s steadily moving up the polls, making the bet that Joe Biden evaporates and that Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar — the two remaining moderates — don’t have the resources to compete with him.

In normal times, a billionaire trying to buy the election would be dismissed. But while the far left has its candidate in Mr. Sanders, the party’s moderates are still floundering to find theirs. Mr. Bloomberg has a net worth in excess of $55 billion and has said he may spend as much as $1billion on his presidential bid. For comparison, Hillary Clinton’s entire 2016 campaign totaled $768 million, with Mr. Trump spending $398 million. Mr. Bloomberg has also skipped the first four primaries, which means a billion dollars in spending on four fewer primaries. He’s already spent more on television ads nationally than all other 10 Democratic candidates combined, which explains why he is polling as high as third — behind Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.

If Mr. Sanders fails to get beyond his traditional supporters — which constitute about 25- 30 percent of those voting in the primaries — and if Mr. Bloomberg keeps things mixed up with the moderates, the likelihood of no candidate winning a majority of the delegates becomes increasingly probable.

If Mr. Biden performs well in Nevada and South Carolina — particularly the later — we then have four candidates who may be in the 15 percent range or above, which means four candidates, perhaps five, who can be racking up delegates. That’s almost never the case since the first two primaries typically weed out all but the top two candidates.

It’s easy to see how the party’s two camps — progressives and moderates — continue their battle until Milwaukee in July. It’s easy, too, to see how the pledge for unity won’t come until the last moments. Mr. Sanders’ followers have no affinity for anyone other than him. Moderates, and party activists, think Mr. Sanders is political kryptonite.

Can Mr. Bloomberg step in to be the consensus nominee if no other candidate takes the nomination on the first ballot? It’s hard to see how. Mr. Bloomberg is, after all, an ex-Republican, a billionaire, a friend of Wall Street and someone who has issues with minority voters. The party’s left wing would revolt and if, through some political miracle, he did get the nomination it’s hard to believe Mr. Sanders’ supporters would be a supportive force in the general election against Trump.

Had Mr. Sanders done better, as he expected, in both Iowa and New Hampshire the newly created momentum behind Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar would not have materialized. But he didn’t, and it has. Now we’re on to Nevada, South Carolina and then Super Tuesday [two-thirds of the delegates will be apportioned in the month of March alone.]

If you take comfort in being in a state of perpetual discomfort, the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination process is your cup of tea. It’s a picture of chaos.

by Emerson Lynn

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