Five takeaways from Biden’s Super Tuesday
Former Vice President Joe Biden won 10 of the 14 states to vote on Super Tuesday, a totally unforeseen turn of events that fundamentally reshapes the Democratic nominating contest and appears to make him the front-runner in the race.
Here are five takeaways from a dramatic night of vote-counting on the biggest primary day of the year.
It was a huge night for Biden
The former vice president shattered expectations, running up the score where he needed to, winning in unexpected places and setting himself on a path to potentially rewriting his political legacy.
Biden’s campaign was in serious trouble only one week ago. He was running low on money, had not campaigned or staffed up in the Super Tuesday states and was hunkered down in South Carolina for what many believed to be his last stand.
Now Biden’s victory in South Carolina looks like a turning point in the race.
Biden won upset victories in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine and Texas, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had been expected to do well.
He also made a clean sweep across the South, where huge turnout from black voters and suburban women propelled him to victories in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Following Sanders’s thunderous victory in the Nevada caucuses, it appeared he might steamroll competition on Super Tuesday by running up huge margins in California and Texas. There were fears among Sanders’s rivals that he’d build a potentially insurmountable delegate lead.
Now, the former vice president looks unstoppable in the South and in states with large numbers of African American voters, making him the favorite to win the nomination.
Sanders could still close Biden’s delegate lead
California now looks like a firewall of sorts for Sanders.
It could take days or weeks for the final tally to come from the Golden State, but Sanders stands to gain from winning the biggest delegate prize in the country, where 415 delegates are at stake.
The question for Sanders is whether he’ll be able to run up the score — polls taken before Super Tuesday showed him leading by between 17 and 21 points.
At the moment, with about 76 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders has only picked up about 50 delegates on Biden in California. He leads with 33 percent support to Biden’s 24 percent.
Some experts expect Biden will cut into that margin, as Sanders built up a lead among early voters and Biden’s late-breaking Election Day surge is still being tallied.
The Associated Press called California for Sanders as soon as polls closed, indicating that he’s in line for a clear-cut victory there.
And there are states voting soon that Sanders won in 2016, such as Michigan and Washington, and others where he’ll be expected to do well, such as in Arizona.
Still, Tuesday night raises serious questions about Sanders’s campaign.
The Vermont progressive’s inability to win over black voters was fatal for his 2016 primary campaign, and he is struggling just as mightily against Biden this time around. Sanders has argued that he does better in high-turnout elections, but Biden blew him out in Virginia, which saw record turnout on Tuesday night.
Young voters are not turning out in the numbers Sanders needs, despite his ability to draw tens of thousands to concerts and rallies. The suburbs appear to be a big problem for Sanders in a match-up against Biden, and he also underperformed last night among rural whites who supported his campaign in 2016.
Bloomberg went bust
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended his campaign on Wednesday and threw his support behind Biden, bringing an end to quixotic campaign that relied on his wealth more than anything else.
Bloomberg was on the ballot for the first time on Tuesday night, and the hundreds of millions of dollars he spent did not buy him very much.
He will take home an insignificant number of delegates that won’t even leave him powerful enough at a potential contested convention to have much of an influence on the outcome. Bloomberg’s sole victory came in American Samoa, where only six delegates were up for grabs.
Biden’s victories were astonishing in part because of how vastly he was outspent and outmanned by Bloomberg, who entered the race over fears that Biden was a weak front-runner.
Biden barely spent time in most of the states that he won. In some of the states, Biden didn’t have campaign offices or staff on the ground, while Bloomberg blanketed the airwaves and had a sophisticated operation with dozens of offices and hundreds of staffers in places like Virginia, which Biden carried by 30 points over Sanders.
Now, Bloomberg appears poised to influence the race in the way many believed he should have from the start — putting his money and muscle behind Biden, who will look to further consolidate the centrist vote and pull away from Sanders.
Warren has few good arguments to stay in the race
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) third-place finish in her home state says it all.
Biden pulled off a stunning victory in Massachusetts, and Sanders came in second place there.
It’s hard to view that as anything other than a message from Democrats that it’s time for Warren to pack it in.
On Wednesday, Warren will meet with advisers to assess her path forward, which could mean a swift end to a once promising campaign.
Warren has a fierce and loyal fan base that appears to be largely made up of white, liberal, wealthy college graduates. That hasn’t been enough to help her finish higher than third place in any of the first 18 states to vote.
There will be enormous pressure from the left for Warren to throw her support behind Sanders in an effort to consolidate progressives behind their best hope at stopping Biden.
However, it’s not clear that all of Warren’s support will automatically go to Sanders, and the bitter primary season has exposed divisions on the left. But progressives have said they’re committed to ensuring one of their own wins the nomination, and Sanders is best positioned to carry that mantle going forward.
Warren’s campaign previously said she’s committed to fighting all the way to the end, with hope that she’d emerge as the nominee at a potential brokered convention.
That seems far-fetched now. Money pressures and political pressures could be enough to push her from the race before next Tuesday’s elections.
Black voters turned the contest around
In hindsight, it appears that Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (R-S.C.) endorsement of Biden ahead of the South Carolina primary may have been the turning point in the race.
Nearly half of voters said in exit polls of South Carolina that Clyburn’s endorsement influenced their decision. Biden went on to win South Carolina in a landslide, and he’s been mopping up among black voters and late-deciding voters ever since.
Exit polls in states with significant black populations found Biden winning north of 60 and 70 percent of the vote share.
That helped Biden win Alabama by nearly 50 points, the biggest margin anyone has won any state so far this cycle. It also helped him to big victories across the South in places like Virginia and North Carolina, the third and fourth largest states to vote on Super Tuesday.
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