On the Monday edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough and his panelists were adamant that a whole lot of Democratic candidates — among them, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg — ought to drop out of the race quickly in order to stop Bernie Sanders.
Scarborough is a former Republican congressman who changed his registration to independent status in 2017. Meanwhile, only three states have voted in the Democratic presidential primary so far, allowing for both plenty more time to narrow the wide-open field plus the small-d democratic principle of letting more people actually have a say. (And for what it’s worth, Warren is currently running second-place in a recent national poll of Democratic primary voters, so things could keep on changing.)
A major preoccupation of the panelists was a mathematical quirk of the Democratic primary system: While it is based on proportional representation, the threshold for viability at the state and district levels is set at a fairly high 15%. This would mean that votes cast for candidates who can’t reach the threshold would yield no delegates at all, and thus further inflate the totals for Sanders and the remaining contenders.
Scarborough then discussed a recent column in The New York Times by conservative writer Ross Douthat, comparing the other Democratic candidates competing against Sanders to the field of contenders against Donald Trump in the Republican primary race back in 2016.
“Amy Klobuchar finished a really disappointing, I think she was at 4%, in fifth place, sixth place. People are talking about how as well as she's done, as good of a campaign she's run, it is time for her to get out of the race,” Scarborough said of the Nevada result, and then extended this argument to Warren. “Is it time for Elizabeth Warren, if she keeps finishing in fourth, fifth place, is it time for her to get out of the race to help consolidate efforts against Bernie Sanders? That’s what a lot of buzz on Twitter [is] suggesting that’s the case.”
Co-host Mika Brzezinski seconded the sentiment: “And some Democrats I was talking to are frustrated, thinking it's really time for some of these candidates to step out and let the field narrow and focus.”
Later in the program, NBC News contributor Dave Wasserman from the Cook Political Report used the term “zombie candidates” for those remaining contenders who can’t reach the 15% thresholds and are thus shut out from delegates. Scarborough then suggested that Warren was such a candidate, as well as Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
“She finished in fourth place here, after everybody said that her performance in Nevada’s debate was going to propel her to first place — and if you disagreed with that, you were a misogynist,” Scarborough said, soon adding more names to the count: “Is she a zombie candidate, just like Buttigieg, just like, who else did you say, Amy [Klobuchar]?”
The better question: Do we really need cable TV hosts, without even a tenuous connection to Democratic politics, issuing such declarations to candidates and the voting public?