I recently wrote why I thought that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would win the Democratic primaries in California and Texas. I noted that his win was predicated on his campaign’s ability to mobilize young and Latinx voters. If Sanders fails to turnout these voters, it is difficult to see how he can claim to be an alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden or be the best candidate to beat President Donald Trump.
Surveys completed after Biden’s big win in the South Carolina primary show that the former Vice President is gaining ground in the polls. These numbers do not capture the possible impact of Biden’s new endorsements from his former rivals — Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris. Let’s not forget that South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden before the Palmetto state’s primary did give his campaign a much needed boost.
Let us look at the moving averages for the following states to get an idea of the state of the race going into Super Tuesday: California, Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The next figure reminds us that these states have the most pledged delegates.
In California and Texas, Sanders’s lead has been very consistent. But it seems that his support has a ceiling in both states. The reality is that Sanders has failed to consolidate the progressive vote and this is partially due to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy.
Biden’s numbers have dramatically improved after his commanding win in the South Carolina primary. I thought before the primary that Biden’s victory would translate in modest gains on the Super Tuesday’s primaries. What my analysis failed to consider was voters’ deep desire for a candidate who can beat Trump in November. Ideological debates are not influencing their choice. They want to support a person who can win.
Before the Iowa caucuses, Biden had a firm control over the race. His poor debate performance and his weak showings in Iowa and New Hampshire forced many voters to reconsider their support for Biden. This helped Mike Bloomberg grow his support and gave Sanders’s an opportunity to become Biden’s alternative.
After South Carolina, the Democratic establishment has lined up behind Biden. The endorsement from his rivals echo the Democratic Party’s faith that he is the best candidate to take on Trump in November. This is why Bloomberg’s support has declined. Many voters who considered voting for the former New York City Mayor have been moving towards Biden and this has raised questions about Sanders’ long-term viability.
Does this mean that Sanders is out of the race? No. He has more money than Biden and his campaign is stronger on the ground. Biden’s surge in the polls will test his campaign’s get-out-the vote operations. If he can mobilize young and Latinx voters, he will win California and build a big lead in terms of pledged delegates, which will be difficult for Biden to close. While a Sanders win in Texas is more difficult, if he can mobilize his base and pull off a victory, he will be able to show that he can take on Trump and stop Biden’s momentum.
Sanders lets not forget is poised to win the primaries in Vermont, Maine, Utah and Colorado. Now that Amy Klobuchar has ended her campaign, he may win Minnesota’s primary. He may win the Massachusetts primary, which may convince Elizabeth Warren to end her campaign.
Biden should win the primaries in Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma. But it is worth noting that these are states where Bloomberg could do well as well. After all, Bloomberg has built an impressive ground operation too and if he can mobilize his supporters he could limit Biden’s gains in the delegate count. As I noted in my earlier post, Biden’s financial difficulties forced him to dedicate all his campaign’s resources to South Carolina and this could hurt his chances of winning these primaries by big margins. Also, Sanders may actually gain more than 15% in all these primaries, adding delegates to his tally and helping him grow his existing lead.
I still believe that Sanders will win the majority of the pledged delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. But, there is a good chance Biden, Bloomberg and Warren will limit the margin of this victory.
Post-Super Tuesday the race for the Democratic nomination does not look too rosy for Sanders’s supporters. Even if Warren ends her campaign, it will be difficult to win many of the upcoming contests by big margins. If Biden can keep the race for pledged delegates close, there will be a contested convention. Given the Democratic establishment’s backing of Biden, it is difficult to see how Sanders will be able to convince superdelegates to support his presidential aspirations. This will tear the Democratic Party apart and favor Trump’s reelection chances.