The questions ahead for Democrats all start with Joe Biden

After last week’s Iowa caucuses and Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, there are at least five questions that must be answered as the Democratic Party’s presidential primary campaign moves forward. They are: 

What does the future hold for Joe BidenJoe BidenPresidents and 'presidents' Biden to blast Trump's church photo op in Philadelphia speech Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MOREThis involves whether the former vice president can rally, following anticipated but embarrassing losses in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and win South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, February 29, based on significant support from that state’s African American community. It also involves whether he can raise the money to compete on Super Tuesday, which remains a serious concern for his campaign. Both are tough questions for him and, ultimately, will decide whether he can stay in the race until the convention.

Where does the national African American vote go if Biden falls by the wayside? There is no clear answer to this question at the moment. It is plausible that a significant share of Biden’s African American support would go to former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned .7 billion expected to be spent in 2020 campaign despite coronavirus: report MORE, if he looks very strong to potential voters on Super Tuesday. But Bloomberg has his own reported drawbacks for at least some African American voters, based on policing policies during his time as mayor.


Can Bloomberg win a big bloc of votes on Super Tuesday? He will need to do just that in order to leapfrog both of the party’s current frontrunners – Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Nina Turner responds to Cornel West's remarks about George Floyd COVID-19 pandemic will shrink economy by trillion in next decade: CBO MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt MORE – in terms of delegates after Super Tuesday. But whether he can do so is unclear, since he is running an unconventional campaign based on skipping the first four primary contests and relying on almost unlimited-dollar television advertising buys.

Can relatively fresh new candidates appeal to enough voters? This would require Mayor Pete, who has never run for office beyond his city of 102,000 people, and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBottom line Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE (D-Minn.), who previously has run only in her home state, to catch lightning in a bottle in unfamiliar states and attract a true national following.

What happens if Bernie Sanders remains out in front? For the Vermont senator the issue is whether he can continue to pile up delegates and enter the Democratic National Convention this summer with a plurality – but perhaps not a majority – of committed delegates. If so, the question for his rivals and for the party’s more moderate wing is: Can he be denied the nomination?

I have been involved in presidential politics as a Democrat for more than 50 years, and this is the murkiest situation I have ever seen. 

We have a truly attractive set of candidates, and the party should have a strong challenger to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE when the dust settles. But it all starts with Joe Biden: His future must be resolved before there is any clarity in this race. 


Buttigieg could emerge as a modern-day version of John F. Kennedy, as his supporters and some observers think. But we won’t know that for a while, not until much deeper into the primary schedule, when his appeal to a far broader and more national segment of the party has been tested.

So, for right now, the questions that must be answered are what happens to Joe Biden and where the African American vote goes if he drops out of the presidential race. Those, more than any other factors at the moment, will determine the fortunes of all the party’s candidates — making the next few months most interesting indeed.

Martin Frost represented the 24th congressional district of Texas from 1979 to 2005 and was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 1996 and 1998 cycles.