For all the brokered convention talk four years ago surrounding candidate Donald Trump and Republican chaos leading into the 2016 convention that never seemed to materialize, there have been more and more whispers about the chances of Democrats facing exactly that in the 2020 contest.

Beyond chaotic, I think I described the 2016 Republican primary field as a circus, and the Democratic primary field has seemed to take that as a challenge rather than a cautionary tale.

None of the speculation matters until a vote is cast in the primaries, and national polling for presidential primaries is utterly useless for anything but messaging about who is deemed electable.

But there are a few issues coalescing around this primary that causes me to pause when I would normally dismiss the talk out of hand.

State polling suggests that regionally there is no clear front runner five months out from the convention. While the Republican establishment didn’t like it, Trump played the primary game and played to his strengths. And for all of the sideshow, the Republican primary ran in a fairly orderly fashion. The Democrats have a bunch of “boutique” candidates who don’t necessarily play well across wide swaths of Democrats, let alone voters nationwide.

It is pretty telling that party cohesion isn’t high when the New York Times endorses two candidates after their “rigorous endorsement process” and refused to actually make a decision.

The mainstream candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, wasn’t one of the two as the Times endorsed Senator Amy Klobuchar at the moderate candidate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren received the co-endorsement, as the progressive choice of the Times board.

Conventional wisdom tells us the base rallies behind the front runner, so what’s different this time?

Well, these candidates have bases that are already signaling not wanting to share a sandbox, let alone a platform. 

And that’s before this impeachment saga has kept two front runners from early primary states. Day One of impeachment has brought news of Sanders canceling a rally in Iowa, opting for surrogate Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to campaign for him in state over the weekend.

Speaker Pelosi’s decision to hold the impeachment hurt more than just her case.

At this point, smart investors should be investing in corn futures, because as the Democrats seem to be in disarray onto the stage waltzes Hillary Clinton with the release of her four-hour docu-series on Hulu. Well, she may as well have taken a flamethrower to the presidential field while pouring gasoline on the Warren-Sanders feud, which looked to be settling down for now.

Who is the best poised to reap the rewards of a brokered convention?

I think there are more than a few pundits who believe Hillary can ride in and save Democrats from themselves at the convention, righting the wrong that was the 2016 election and claim complete vindication. That is about as fantastical as a Republican seriously challenging President Trump in the primary.

At a minimum, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg have the money to stay in the race until the bitter end. Their ability to exponentially outspend their opponents has been a major story line - combining to spend almost $400 million on advertising. President Trump ranks third with $41 million, Buttigieg ranks fourth at $26 million. Unfortunately, that spending hasn’t translated to a groundswell of support for the two billionaires, with Steyer qualifying for the debate but alienating many more progressive voters in the process.

I’m going to need popcorn, and probably lots of it, as I settle in to enjoy the show. The circus is just getting started.

Not to be outdone by the presidential field, the curtains have risen on the Senate version of the Impeachment Circus. While I am not looking forward to having to listen to Congressman Schiff for hours on end, watching the president’s team of lawyers and the back-and-forth format of the proceedings has me admitting the television is back on in the background as I go about my day.

The Senate knows it’s been handed a bad hand when activists (and Senators) have complained about their evenings being occupied by the hearings, trying to score political points of Republican dirty deeds in scheduling. The actual reason, is that the Chief Justice kind of likes to be present when cases are being argued before the Supreme Court and they are in session this week.

It’s hard to take analysis seriously from all the talking heads when they repeat these kinds of talking points that come straight from the DNC and the Senate Minority leadership’s office.

I’m expecting much grandstanding by both Senator Schumer in these early hours of debate before the case goes to the Senate for presentation, and by House managers for the impeachment. I expect push back from the Republican House managers, all vocal members of the impeachment committees.

While the ending is pretty much a forgone conclusion, I expect more than a few popcorn moments from the halls of the Senate as well.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.