Foss: New York’s presidential primary matters

A voter in New Hampshire
A voter in New Hampshire

Right now, one of the only signs of New York’s rapidly approaching presidential primary is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s downtown Albany campaign office. 

Bloomberg, being a billionaire, can afford to open campaign offices in places no other Democratic candidate can be bothered to think about at the moment, when the focus is on South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

In a typical presidential election, New York’s late primary date all but ensures candidates never have to think about New York. By the time our primary rolls around on April 28, the nominee has already been decided for us. 

That probably won’t be the case this year. 

It’s a little early for predictions, but here’s mine: New York’s Democratic primary will matter, and the candidates still in the race will soon turn their attention to the Empire State. Some of them — maybe all of them — will campaign here, giving the Capital Region a first-hand taste of presidential politicking. 

It will be similar to what we saw four years ago, when every candidate still standing descended upon the area in the month of April. 

We were treated to visits from three Republican candidates — Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump — and two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. 

The Democratic field will almost certainly shrink before April, but the fragmented nature of the race — there were seven candidates at Tuesday’s debate! seven! — means it will remain competitive for some time. 

Sanders is clearly the front-runner, but he has yet to deliver the knockout punch he needs. 

And remember: Bloomberg hasn’t even appeared on a ballot yet. 

He opted to skip the early primaries and caucuses and focus on Super Tuesday, the 14 states that hold a primary or caucus on March 3. Polls suggest his early momentum has stalled, but he has enough support — and money — to shake up the race. 

Some have even speculated that Bloomberg hopes to prevent other candidates — namely, Sanders — from clinching the nomination before the party’s national convention in July, and then peeling off enough support from the more moderate candidates to win the nomination himself in a second-ballot vote at the convention. 

Will that happen? 

I have no idea. 

It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. 

What I can tell you is that the Democratic nominating process is shaping up to be a long, grueling, drawn-out affair, and those hoping for clarity on Super Tuesday will be disappointed. 

That’s bad news for party officials eager to see the Democrats unify around a single candidate, and good news for New Yorkers who feel, rightly, that they should have some role in choosing the nominee. 

So get ready. 

We’re going to see a flurry of presidential activity, and it’s going to be a wild, unpredictable ride. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. 

Categories: News, Opinion

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