A number of the Chattanooga area residents who attended the Wednesday rally for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg clearly were shopping.
With early voting for the March 3 presidential primary already underway, they wanted to know if he would fill their need — something with a liberal flavor between President Donald Trump and self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
One woman — likely typical of many there — explained why she attended the Bloomberg rally at Bessie Smith Cultural Center. She wanted to get President Donald Trump out of the White House more than anything she could imagine, she said.
From the field of two dozen candidates last summer, the list has winnowed down to a serious few as, first, the lack of money and appeal and, second, the vote in two largely white, largely rural states have taken their toll.
Here's how Tennesseans are likely to size up that field:
* Joe Biden: Long the early polls leader for the nomination, he'll get some votes from people who haven't been paying attention and still believe he'd be the best candidate to beat Trump. But in his three runs for president, he has yet to win a primary. With Biden's fourth-place finish in Iowa and fifth-place finish in Iowa, voters have begun to look elsewhere, and especially at Bloomberg, who has put himself in front of them every night on television with millions of dollars in advertising.
* Michael Bloomberg: Tennessee and 13 other states are the first places where the former New York City mayor will be on the ballot. Without having to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire for the last year and on the debate stage, he'll be appealing to moderate voters because he hasn't been tested and been forced to defend his stances on the issues. Unless those stances are seriously scrutinized before March 3, he'll got a long look from Volunteer State voters, who know his money will go a long way.
* Pete Buttigieg: The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor is the flavor of the moment after earning the most national convention delegates in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he has the support nationally of 2% of blacks and 9% of Latinos in upcoming primary states that have sizable numbers of those constituencies. Part of his billing has come from the moderate label the national media tagged him with, but he is no moderate with support of abortions up until birth, the decriminalization of possession of all drugs and decriminalization of illegal immigration. He'll get some support from young voters, some from actual Democratic moderates who know Biden's finished, and some from those who won't countenance Bloomberg for buying his way to the nomination.
* Amy Klobuchar: Like Buttigieg, the Minnesota senator has been tagged a moderate but holds many of the same radical positions as he does. Yet she is not as far left as the other woman in the race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Klobuchar's third-place finish in New Hampshire gave her a little life, so she'll likely get support from those who want to vote for a woman (but not Warren) and from other moderates not able to stomach Buttigieg because of his homosexuality and Bloomberg because of his money.
* Bernie Sanders: Older voters, the group most likely to show up at the polls, understand the word "socialist" is poison. Sanders' ideas of government-run health care and giveaways, many understand, are a panacea. He'll get his share of votes from younger people because they didn't live through an era when "socialism" meant "communism," and communism was the enemy. And Sanders will get their votes because they haven't worked or raised a family long enough to know that money to do what he proposes to do, as with a family, is not unlimited. Others will stay far away.
* Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator, early thought to be a favorite for the nomination, couldn't get past her difficulty in explaining how her health care plan would be paid for. With a fourth-place finish in next-door New Hampshire, she has no path to the nomination. She likely will finish last in Tennessee of the six names listed here.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer are also actively campaigning and will be on the ballot. So will the names eight candidates who have left the race: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, California, Sen. Kamala Harris, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, author Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Most Tennessee Democratic voters understand the presidential candidate who wins the nomination is very unlikely to carry the state in November, but their vote will be critical in who they want and who they don't want to face Trump this fall.