2020 Vision: The Campaign Comes to the Warren Homefront…
LONGMEADOW—On a warmish Saturday morning, supporters of United States Senator Elizabeth Warren crowded a living room looking out onto Route 5, the main North-South artery here. They were getting ready to hit the doors for Warren ahead of Super Tuesday when Massachusetts would chime in on the Democratic presidential primary. Waves of canvasses were scheduled here and throughout the commonwealth.
One town over, the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign was also launching a series of canvasses. However, something bigger was on the way. By Monday, the Sanders campaign had announced it was taking critical time ahead of Super Tuesday, when four states larger than Massachusetts also vote, to campaign in Springfield.
Sanders’s move, which was later paired with a Boston rally Saturday, had a tactical air, aimed at snuffing Warren out sooner rather than later. Public polling is scarce in other states, but Warren does not appear to be first in other Super Tuesday states. She could still win many delegates perhaps at Sanders’s expense. Still, what limited data there is suggests Sanders could snatch her own state from her, which could undermine even strong seconds of hers elsewhere.
On the one hand, the Sanders campaign has been organizing in Massachusetts for some time. The conclusion of the New Hampshire primary, which Sanders narrowly won over Pete Buttigieg, freed up resources for the Bay State, too. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently reported on campus organizing efforts in Amherst and Northampton.
Yet, until this week, Sanders’s campaign in the 413 was tiny compared to Warren’s. Sanders supporters have been canvassing, but a cadre of devoted followers, not staff, were managing it. The closest office was in Worcester, which itself opened relatively recently, suggested a focus there. That could have a Western Mass impact as Amherst, Northampton and Worcester share a congressional district.
Delegates are awarded to candidates who win 15% of the vote statewide and/or in a congressional district.
By comparison, Warren’s campaign has been much more visible here. She opened an office in Northampton last August and has held plenty of organizing events before that.
The campaign told WMP&I that Warren’s state organization has been going strong since she defeated Republican Scott Brown in 2012.
“Today that organization has expanded to include thousands of first-time volunteers, small donors, and students, as well as veterans of her historic 2012 victory and re-election campaign,” state director Jossie Valentin said in a statement this week.
As a point of disclosure, WMP&I editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski frequently volunteered for Warren during that 2012 campaign.
Valentin went on to say the campaign has been organizing in-state ever since last spring, in the same grassroots vein Warren as has always done.
“We have organized hundreds of events since last Spring,” she continued. “We have made 255,000 calls to Massachusetts voters and knocked on more than 57,000 doors in the last six weeks. This last weekend, we held more than 100 grassroots events across the state.”
At the Longmeadow canvas launch, Valentin joined Eric Lesser, the State Senator here to prepare volunteers to knock doors. Lesser role-played positive and negative interactions with people at the doors and dispensed tips to volunteers who had came from throughout the Pioneer Valley. Lesser also advised that in Longmeadow they might run across supporters of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The next day, similar launches happened in Pittsfield and Northampton with Mayors Linda Tyer and David Narkewicz respectively.
The campaign has also touted its deep support from electeds across the state, releasing a list of 147 endorsements. It claims a volunteer corp of 4500 and a dozen in-state organizing staffers. If Warren is nervous about Sanders strike in the commonwealth, she has betrayed no sign of it, yet.
It is unsurprising that Warren canvassers would encounter Bloomberg or Buttigieg supporters before finding those with Sanders here. In states that have voted, he has not been as popular in suburbs like Longmeadow.
Polling has shown Sanders has a chance in Massachusetts for weeks, but there were no signs he was capitalizing on it until last week.
Just before last weekend, the Sanders campaign announced the opening of an office in the 413. Located in a realtor’s office just off I-91 in Holyoke, it is easily accessible to supporters driving in from New York and New Jersey.
On Monday, Sanders’s most visible Western Mass supporters, State Reps Paul Mark and Lindsay Sabadosa, opened the office. Supporters’ cars packed side streets while the people crammed into a lot near the office.
Joining them were Ben & Jerry of the eponymous ice cream, concluding a swing through Massachusetts with their former wares in tow. From the stage, speakers announced that people were still coming in from out of state. They even made a pitch for people to volunteer places for visiting supporters to sleep.
By Monday night, the Sanders rally in Springfield at an exhibition hall at the MassMutual Center had been announced. The abrupt scheduling will cause the rally to effectively counterprogram a hockey game in the MassMutual Center’s adjoining arena.
Doors open at 6pm for Sanders’s 7:30pm performance. Fans will likely be flowing into downtown before all evening commuters have left. Traffic will be monstrous.
Unlike much of Hampshire County, Springfield is in another congressional district. Sanders won the district—but lost Springfield—in 2016. However, that was in a brutal one-on-one with Hillary Clinton. Both visited the city that year. He could win the 1st more easily given the still-large field.
Yet, Springfield and environs offer no obvious upside to Sanders. Residents not in thrall to Warren are probably to her right and more likely to choose Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor, or former Vice-President Joe Biden.
Complicating matters further, Massachusetts is an open primary state. Less liberal independents could pull a Democratic ballot. Though Donald Trump has urged eligible supporters to pull Democratic ballots for Sanders—ostensibly Trump deems Sanders more beatable—there is little evidence that scheme has come to fruition.
Sanders has done well with Latinos, but a last-minute visit cannot overcome that group’s poor turnout in Springfield elections. His appeal to the region’s Latinos may be uncertain, anyway. He did very well with that demo in Nevada, but Latinos are not monolithic. Nevada’s Latinos are more Central American while Greater Springfield’s are predominantly Puerto Rican.
Nevertheless, the Sanders campaign may yet try to rouse them. The Sanders campaign touted knocking on 50,000 doors last weekend and speakers at the Holyoke opening said they were trucking in Spanish translators.
If Sanders does win in Massachusetts, it may be due to how fractured the field remains. The Buttigieg campaign, which has targeted some of the same voters as Warren, issued a release Thursday touting its digital outreach. Buttigieg canvasses slated for this weekend include one with Long Island Congresswoman Kathleen Rice in East Longmeadow.
Barring tactical voting to counter Sanders, Biden probably takes fewer votes that might otherwise go to Warren. However, a strong showing in South Carolina could consolidate Massachusetts’s moderate voter and score the ex-Veep delegates.
In the final analysis, it is not clear that Warren placing less than first will crush her campaign. Sanders could be seeking a psychological blow. She could still rack up delegates on Super Tuesday. A decent showing could power her campaign through March or into April.
At the canvass launch last Saturday, there was a bit more energy compared to Warren events even a few weeks before. Warren had just torched Bloomberg at a debate and her fundraising was resurgent. The next debate was less fiery, but she hit her marks (i.e. Bloomberg and Sanders). Though, Sanders withstood the whole- field barrage aimed at him, too.
If the crew assembled along tree-lined Longmeadow Street were worried, they did not show it. There were doors to knock.