Punxsutawney Phil 2020

I can’t believe I let such a momentous occasion pass without comment. Three weeks ago,  Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow. So an early spring is on its way.

Days get longer. Weather gets warmer. And things come into bloom. Like Michael Bloomberg.

Groundhog Club co-handler Al Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 134th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Feb. 2. Phil’s handlers said that the groundhog has forecast an early spring. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

The former New York City mayor has made quite a splash in the Democratic presidential race. He has spent north of $300 million on his campaign thus far, outpacing fellow billionaire Tom Steyer’s $200 million.

The difference between the two is efficacy. Bloomberg has catapulted to top tier status; Steyer is flirting with 2% support.

Unsurprisingly, progressives are apoplectic. The “establishment” candidates — Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — each seemed to be losing steam. Biden had dismal showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, while Buttigieg’s strong showing in those states wasn’t expected to continue as the contest turned to more diverse states.

Then, bam: Bloomberg.  And Bernie Sanders’ coronation was put on hold.

His rise was so sudden that he qualified for the Democratic debate in Nevada, despite not appearing on the ballot in that state. And his competitors were not happy to see him join the stage.

For anyone objectively interested in politics, it creates a fascinating scenario. The data geek website FiveThirtyEight predicts the most likely scenario for the Democrats is that no candidate will receive a majority of delegates. Which means the political white whale — a contested convention — may surface.

You can cut the math numerous ways. Today, it seems likely that Sanders will have a plurality of delegates to open the convention. Yet political conventions are contested under a form of “ranked choice” voting.

If predicted delegate counts hold true, then the big “B” bloc — Biden, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg — will total a majority. Since each, like Rep. Jared Golden, take a more centrist path in their party, it is conceivable they will try and share their support.

Which means the Democratic party could bump off Sanders after multiple rounds of voting, despite his potential plurality at the outset. He can commiserate with former Rep. Bruce Poliquin; that is exactly what happened to him two years ago in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

There is a degree of schadenfreude in these developments. Many of Sanders’ biggest supporters in Maine were at the forefront of the effort to pass ranked-choice voting. Yet, the Vermont senator seemed to claim victory in Iowa since he won the first round, ignoring what came after. “We here in northern New England call [winning on the first ballot] a victory,” he said.

That line may continue all the way to the convention. And run into Bloomberg.

However, it does present a relatively sad picture of the vibrancy of our federal system. Barring something shocking, the GOP nominee will be President Donald Trump, a New York billionaire

His 2016 opponent was — of course — Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator.

2020 seems pointed towards two likely candidates depending on where Democrats go: either the former New Yorker Sanders, with his Brooklyn accent, or current New York billionaire Bloomberg.

With 50 states, it seems we’ve again winnowed the field to those with deep ties to the Empire State. So maybe we should all vote for a Pennsylvanian with the clearest, most optimistic platform to date: an early spring.

Punxsutawney Phil 2020. And maybe a contested Democratic convention, just for fun.

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.