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Are Dems engineering a brokered convention?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses supporters during a town hall in San Antonio on Thursday. Credit: AP/Eric Gay

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has said she’s staying in the Democratic presidential primary all the way to the July 13 convention in Milwaukee.

It makes no sense — assuming she’s telling the truth and not just posturing.

Warren is trailing badly in her own state, according to the Real Clear Politics polling averages. She’s running fourth in Massachusetts behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, respectively, heading into Tuesday's contest, garnering just 12.4 percent of the vote.

Conventional political wisdom says Warren should drop out of the primary before Tuesday. Getting drubbed in your home state can be a career ender in politics.  It begs a primary in the next Senate election, should Warren not be successful in her presidential bid and want to run for reelection in 2024.

There’s only one logical reason Warren would remain in the race heading into Super Tuesday: she envisions a brokered Milwaukee convention, with Sanders having been unable to attain the 2,376 delegates needed to capture the Democratic nomination.

If Warren does, indeed, remain in the race, it will encourage others to do the same. The more candidates competing state by state, the greater chance Sanders falls short of the magic number. As of today, this seems to be the bet Democrats are making, or perhaps engineering.

The Democratic National Committee — and the other candidates in the field — are likely looking at what happened to the Republican Party in 2016 for guidance. The pre-Trump Republican National Committee was enormously wary of Donald Trump, but it feared working against him and alienating his base. The 2016 RNC never could have imagined how quickly and thoroughly Trump would take over the party after the election and remake it in his own image.

The DNC has to fear that happening with democratic-socialist Sanders. What would a Sanders takeover of the party mean to down-ballot races this year and to the party in the long-term? Conceivably a lot.

The 2020 Democratic primary shares remarkable similarities with the 2016 GOP contest, as many have pointed out. Each began with an overly large field of qualified candidates; each featured a strident populist among them singularly focused on a base of disaffected Americans, approximating 25% to 35% of voters in each primary state.

Many people looking back would say Republicans didn’t clear the field quickly enough to stop Trump’s momentum. He won state after state with a relatively small plurality; if the party had coalesced around a single alternative candidate earlier, the thinking goes, Trump might have been stopped.

But what if the opposite is true? What if Republicans cleared the field too early? Had a half dozen or more Republicans stayed in the 2016 contest until the end, gathering up delegates here and there, could the party have chosen someone other to Trump to stand for president and have survived?

That very well could be what the Democratic establishment is about to test.

A race that looked over a week ago could get more interesting and volatile yet.

Wouldn't want to be in Milwaukee.

William F.B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.

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