Inslee and Moulton seemed to see the writing on the wall. Indeed, the chance that any of the remaining candidates polling below 5% win the nomination isn’t zero, but it is small.
With those dropouts, there are 21 Democrats running for president. All but five (former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren) are averaging below 5% in the polls. That is about 75% of the field below 5%.
Another way to look at it is that we’re examining 16 primaries since 1972. Only one time (6%) has a candidate polling below 5% in the second half of the year before the primaries gone on to win the nomination. That’s not nothing, but it’s certainly not indicative of a wide open contest where anyone can win.
In fact, Bill Clinton is the only candidate since 1980 who has won the Democratic nomination while polling below 5% in Iowa at this point. That 1992 primary season featured home state Sen. Tom Harkin, which makes it a somewhat ahistorical comparison.
In other words, one of 14 times (7%) has a major party nominee been polling below 5% in Iowa at this point. This is the same percentage of the time the Iowa caucuses winner has been someone polling below 5% in Iowa at this point.
Eventually, that reality will begin to set in for most of the campaigns. This will either happen when the fundraising dries up or actual election results show a lack of support.
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