After split results, Democrats brace for a long primary. Just what Bloomberg wants.

WASHINGTON — The donkey saw its shadow in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Democrats are in for a long presidential primary.

Muddled results in the first two contests of the 2020 primary race have quashed hopes for a quick consolidation around a challenger to take on President Donald Trump — and Democrats are now strapping in for a drawn-out delegate hunt that could end in the first contested convention in decades.

Instead of clarifying the race, Iowa and New Hampshire left an unprecedented seven candidates with a credible reason to stay in and succeeded in winnowing only minor players such as former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The field is now fractured among several medium-strength candidates, each strong enough to keep going for at least a while, but none likely able enough to dominate.

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Michael Bloomberg through the years
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Michael Bloomberg through the years
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during his campaign launch of "Mike for Black America," at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg greets former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Purdue as he arrives to speak at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg acknowledges supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg arrives to speak at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a campaign rally at the Buffalo Soldier Museum in Houston, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner stands at right. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks to a crowd at Footnote cafe in Winston Salem, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. This is the first day of early voting in North Carolina. (Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)
'Pathological liar': Bloomberg hits back at Trump 'Mini Mike' insult
Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a campaign event, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a campaign office, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Scarborough, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg finishes speaking to campaign workers and supporters in Minneapolis, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, as he opens the first field office in Minnesota and meets with local community leaders and voters to share his vision for the country. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
344913 02: Bloomberg L.P. founder and CEO Michael Bloomberg poses for a portrait November 2, 1998 in the training room at his offices in New York City. (Photo by Chris Casaburi/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg samples a slice of life at Francesco's Pizzeria on Third Ave. in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. (Photo by Linda Rosier/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg talks to passersby while campaigning at Broadway and W. 225th St. (Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2001: Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg exchanges high-fives with 7-year-old Matthew DePoalo while campaigning on Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria. (Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
388464 18: Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg News Service hosts a party before attending the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, April 28, 2001 in Washington DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Michael Bloomberg, Republican candidate for New York mayor, speaks to the press in Brooklyn, New York, 26 September 2001. Bloomberg handsomely won the 25 September New York mayoral primary election to be the official Republican party candidate to replace New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on January 1 next year, according to exit polls. AFP PHOTO Doug KANTER (Photo credit should read DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 26: Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg meets with the Daily News editorial board. (Photo by Pat Carroll/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg leaves the polling booth at PS 6 in Manhattan, NY. (Photo by Jennifer S. Altman/WireImage)
399131 02: Michael Bloomberg, the108th Mayor of the City of New York, gives his inaugural address January 1, 2002 at City Hall in New York City. (Photo by Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2002: Mayor Michael Bloomberg chats with diners at the International House of Pancakes at 135th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. in Harlem, where he picked up the endorsement of the Rev. Calvin Butts. (Photo by Craig Warga/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C), and former New York Stock Exchange President William Johnston (R) listens to New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso (R) on the bell podium before Bloomberg rang the opening bell to begin trading 02 January, 2002. AFP PHOTO Henny Ray ABRAMS (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
399944 03: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the swearing in of over 300 probationary firefighters January 22, 2002 at the Fire Academy on Randalls Island in New York City. The new class is the second to enter the academy since the World Trade Center attack, when the department lost 343 firefighters. The probationary firefighters will begin physical training and classroom instruction before being sent out to firehouses around the city., (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes his first State of the City address in the City Council chamber at City Hall. (Photo by Linda Rosier/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg cuts the ribbon to begin the opening of fall's Fashion Week in Bryant Park in Manhattan, NY. (Photo by Jennifer S. Altman/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 09: Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands amidst fire officials during funeral of Fire Lt. Kevin Pfeifer at St. Margaret's Church in Middle Village, Queens. Pfeifer, 42, who worked with Engine Co. 33 in lower Manhattan, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Bloomberg, attending his first firefighter funeral since taking office last month, eulogized the fallen hero and praised the bravery of all the firefighters who responded to the attacks. (Photo by Mike Albans/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
401921 01: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the unveiling of a fifty-foot high stainless steel tree by artist Roxy Paine March 5, 2002 in New York City's Central Park. The tree is one of five public artworks on display in Central Park sponsored by the Whitney Museum of American Art. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg(L) and Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) look at memorial banners and posters in front of St. Paul's Chapel 09 April 2002 in New York City, before visiting ground zero at the site of the World Trade Center attacks. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Kathy WILLENS (Photo credit should read KATHY WILLENS/AFP/Getty Images)
403191 02: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C) and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta (R) look on as a U.S. flag that once flew over Ground Zero is raised during a ceremony at City Hall Plaza April 1, 2002 in New York City. The flag was immortalized in a photograph by Thomas Franklin of three firefighters raising it amid the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 28: Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses the Republican State Convention at the Sheraton New York Hotel on Seventh Ave. (Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 14: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts Dominic Gorie (L) and Frank Culbertson (R) present an American flag to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C) in honor of Flag Day June 14, 2002 in New York City. The flag was found at Ground Zero, the location of the World Trade Center in New York, and was flown into space in December 2001 aboard the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavor. Culbertson was onboard the International Space Station September 11, 2001 when the terrorist attacks occurred in the U.S. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 4: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets a Nathan's Famous hot dog after Takeru Kobayashi won Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island July 4, 2002 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Kobayashi, who won last year, set a new world record by eating 50 1/2 hot dogs in twelve minutes. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2nd R) speaks with an aide while announcing a new emergency notification system at a news conference overlooking Ground Zero on May 10, 2011 in New York City. Bloomberg, who was joined by politicians, federal officials and the heads of mobile phone companies, spoke of the system that will alert what to do in case of emergency to anyone with an 'enabled' mobile device within range of a cell phone tower. Part of a law passed by Congress five years ago, the service is scheduled to be available in New York City and Washington, D.C. by the end of the year and is expected in the rest of the country by mid-2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) speaks at a press conference as construction continues at the World Trade Center site on September 7, 2011 in New York City. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will feature two reflecting pools on the footprints of the twin towers. The memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: (L-R) Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel participate in a forum about education in big cities at the Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University March 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Calling their municipalities 'city-states,' the mayors suppored the idea of individual school districts being able to compete with states for the $4.35 billion 'Race to the Top' grant program created by President Barack Obama. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C) rings the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on the first day of opening since Hurricane Sandy October 31, 2012 in New York City. The storm has claimed several dozen lives in the United States and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the situation a 'major disaster' for large areas of the U.S. east coast, including New York City, with widespread power outages and significant flooding in parts of lower Manhattan and elsewhere. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg holds a large cup as he speaks to the media about the health impacts of sugar at Lucky's restaurant, which voluntarily adopted the large sugary drink ban, March 12, 2013 in New York City. A state judge on Monday blocked Bloomberg's ban on oversized sugary drinks but the Mayor plans to appeal the decision. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio speaks with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall on November 6, 2013 in New York City. It was the first meeting between the two since de Blasio's election victory the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 19: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a press conference with United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (not seen), unveiling a Hurricane Sandy Recovery Report on August 19, 2013 in the Greenpoint neighborhood of the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. The report calls for strengthening the region's electrical grid, reinforcing coastline and protecting gas supplies. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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"I think the first opening drive of this game is over," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supports Joe Biden, told reporters on a call organized by the former vice president's campaign. "There's a lot of game left."

All of the candidates have pledged to continue through at least Super Tuesday, when almost 40 percent of delegates are up for grabs. That puts the oversize field on a collision course with a front-loaded calendar that could make it difficult for any one candidate to secure the majority of delegates needed to win the nomination before the Democratic National Convention in July.

"What it really comes down to is the number of candidates splintering the vote," said Addisu Demissie, who managed the presidential campaign of Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. "If this number of candidates sticks around and through Super Tuesday and March 10, it just becomes almost a mathematical certainty that no one can claim a majority of delegates by July. It's just math."

Mark Longabaugh, a longtime Democratic strategist who helped run the 2016 campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's team could not have asked for a better result from Iowa and New Hampshire than a messy field with Sanders as a weak front-runner.

"This played out in exactly the way in which Bloomberg would have wanted it," Longabaugh said. "In a realistic way, this may already have become a Bernie-Bloomberg race."

Guy Cecil, who runs the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, said: "We have expected and been planning for a long, contentious primary since last year. The Democratic Party's system of awarding delegates in a big competitive primary only increases those chances."

March actually features three big Tuesdays in a row, so that by the end of St. Patrick’s Day, nearly two-thirds of all delegates will have already been awarded.

"This thing is about to pile on us so quickly. So the field just has to narrow or the math is against any candidate to win on the first ballot," Demissie said. "The most likely scenario is you have a bunch of people dropping out on March 4, but that may already be too late."

As Democrats survey their field, they see seven candidates, each with an Achilles' heel that makes it difficult to see who could consolidate support anytime soon.

Sanders is the front-runner now, according to national polls, but his vote share in New Hampshire was the lowest of any winning candidate in history, and he has so far shown little progress in expanding support beyond his core base.

"He's not going to win over many more voters by convincing them he's the most progressive candidate," said David Segal, a progressive activist and a former Rhode Island state legislator. "He has to appeal to their other considerations, like who's electable, whom they trust."

A swath of the party is still dead-set against Sanders, with Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, who won a much-lauded victory in the 2018 midterm elections, torching Sanders ahead of his state's primary by telling The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston: "South Carolinians don't want socialism."

Pete Buttigieg has a narrow delegate lead now, but the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor has yet to show he can win people of color. Some Democrats say privately that they are increasingly worried about whether they're really going to hand the party to the 38-year-old whose only real experience is running a city smaller than Peoria, Illinois.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota came from seemingly nowhere to finish third in New Hampshire, but she has faced little scrutiny so far, and no one in the party's history has won the nomination after finishing fifth in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, leading some rival campaigns to dismiss her strength as a fluke.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Biden have both been front-runners in the past who have faded quickly, but they are sticking around because they feel anything can happen, as Klobuchar's finish showed.

Billionaire Tom Steyer, who has shown surprising strength in Nevada and South Carolina polls, can stay in as long as he wants to keep spending his money.

Then there's Bloomberg, who could become the moderates' choice as he prepares to demonstrate the firepower of his fully armed and operational battle station on Super Tuesday — but he won't be tested before actual voters until then.

But by skipping the early states, Bloomberg won't have a chance to seize the kind of momentum winning provides until after Super Tuesday at the earliest, when many delegates are off the table.

It's been decades since either party went into its nominating convention without a clear winner from the primaries and caucuses.

But after gaming out new changes to party rules, 2020 campaigns have been preparing for the scenario for months by courting so-called super delegates, who will get to weigh in only if no candidate earns a majority of delegates from voters.

And Sanders fired a warning shot Wednesday at anyone who thinks the party should do anything but hand the nomination to whoever wins the most delegates from primaries and caucuses, even if they don't hit an outright majority.

"The convention would have to explain to the American people, 'Hey, candidate X got the most votes and won the most delegates at the primary process, but we're not going to give him or her the nomination,'" Sanders told MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "I think that would be a divisive moment for the Democratic Party."

While anxiety has grown among many Democratic leaders in the wake of Iowa and New Hampshire, a long primary is not necessarily bad news for Democrats' hopes of beating Trump.

Republicans had one of the nastiest primaries in history in 2016, and Trump still went on to win the White House, and Democrats had one of the longest in 2008, but Barack Obama still won.

"I'm not one that throws a pity party in the middle of February," said Donna Brazile, the longtime Democratic strategist and a former interim party chair. "We may not have all of the answers by the end of March, but we'll at least know what direction we're going in."

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