Originally published in The Greenfield Recorder.

With 11 months to go before the 2020 election, the field of Democratic candidates has been slowly narrowing to a field that some might even be able to name.

But Greenfield-reared political analyst Mary Anne Marsh says the same four front-runners have dominated the race from the start, and she believes it will ultimately boil down to a contest between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttegieg.

Both are poised to win either or both of those first two bellwether contests, which could prove key to helping them gain momentum and further break away from the pack.

Marsh, who appears as a Democratic political analyst for Fox News and Boston’s WBZ radio and WCVB-TV, as well as the BBC and Radio New Zealand, while also providing commentary and analysis for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, foresees a contest ultimately between Warren and Buttegieg to win in the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus, the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary and the Super Tuesday contests on March 3.

That prediction could be tested as South Bend, Ind. Mayor Buttegieg faces pressure to reveal details about his time working for management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. Yet Marsh points to each candidate’s experience “going into the barrel” with bad news, and demonstrates their ability to emerge from the stumble by how they deal with the situation.

Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, has proven her resilience after facing challenges right from the start, notes Marsh, and after most recently going through “a slump” because of her Medicare for All plan, has recast it as a phased approach for universal health care. Marsh considers it a “speed bump” in Warren’s campaign.

The other two front-runners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, face less certain futures unless Sanders manages to win the primary in New Hampshire, where at least one poll has him still leading Buttegieg.

Biden, who has lost supporters to Buttegieg, “has never been a great candidate,” says Marsh, who calls him “everybody’s insurance policy” to defeat Donald Trump’s re-election bid — with liberal voters waiting to see whether a better candidate emerges for the November contest.

Marsh sees health care as a top concern of Democratic voters in every poll, and she believes that a strong progressive is needed to correct for “how far to the right Donald Trump has dragged this country” since the 2016.

Even financial executives and private-equity professionals she’s heard from, who normally favor Republican candidates, have been looking for a moderate Democrat they can be comfortable with because of their concerns over the Trump presidency and the instability it’s caused.

Marsh says she’s much less concerned about voters scared off by Warren being too progressive than she is about foreign interference in the electoral process.

“Every American should be concerned that a foreign government can interfere in our election, and nothing has been done to ensure the integrity of our elections and our election system since Russia interfered in 2016,” she says. “Nothing’s been done to ensure that when you cast your vote, it’s not only cast and recorded, but recorded to the person you voted for.”

Marsh believes “it’s incredibly important” that the Democratic ticket this year needs to include a women as well as “a person of color.

“Since 2016, women have driven politics in this country, voting in numbers as never before; they’ve run for office in numbers as they’ve never run; they’ve given and raised money; they’ve knocked on doors; they’ve marched; they’ve done everything in ways we’ve never seen in our history since the day of that election in 2016, and they have not stopped. So in many ways, that would argue to have two women, including a woman of color on the ticket. That would be something long overdue in this country.”

That would not only serve as a repudiation of Trump and what he has done, she believes, but could also help bring the country together.

Although she would not rule out that some moderate Democrats and independent voters in November might be scared off by a nominee they see as too progressive, Marsh did agree that the risks in this general election could be extraordinary.

“There is no question a second Trump term will fundamentally change our country, our democracy and our lives in unimaginable ways and render our country unrecognizable since we have only lived in a democracy, governed by the Constitution and the rule of law,” she said. “Trump untethered from any accountability from any American individuals or institutions will result in the United States of America looking more like Russia than the Republic we are today. … Our democratic institutions are still in place and holding but under tremendous strain and many have suffered serious harm as have many Americans. Four more years of the wrecking ball that is Donald Trump will demolish our democracy.”

Marsh, a Greenfield High School graduate who went on to earn degrees from Wheaton College and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, played a senior role on the campaigns of Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as serving as a staff member for Kerry.

Marsh has credited growing up in working-class Greenfield for giving the outside-the-beltway perspective to objectively analyze Democratic races.

“The way I think about the world comes from being raised in Greenfield. I consider myself very pragmatic,” she said in a 2000 interview. “The average Greenfielder prides himself on working hard every day. People there work hard to provide a good living for their families and pitch in to get everything done. There’s a hard work ethic that’s the essence of what this country’s all about.”

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