Biden has broken all the 'rules' of presidential primaries

Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio MORE continued his once-improbable march to the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, trouncing Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power Bernie Sanders: 'This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump stokes fears over November election outcome MORE (I-Vt.) in major primaries, with a decent turnout despite the coronavirus pandemic.

A landslide in Florida, with the third-most Democratic convention delegates, and a decisive victory in Illinois, with the sixth-largest bloc, gives the former vice president a delegate lead of more than 300, and he'll rack up even more with a clear win in Arizona — a clean sweep.

Because of the deadly pandemic, Ohio called off its presidential primary yesterday, and the Georgia contest next week also has been postponed. In that context, turnout was surprisingly high in Florida and Arizona. This reflects the intensity Democrats feel this year.


It is virtually impossible for Sanders to catch Biden now, regardless of when primaries are held. The Vermont socialist will likely now focus on pressuring Biden and the party to move left.

Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama warns of a 'decade of unfair, partisan gerrymandering' in call to look at down-ballot races Quinnipiac polls show Trump leading Biden in Texas, deadlocked race in Ohio Poll: Trump opens up 6-point lead over Biden in Iowa MORE's vice president will have to delicately handle his appeal to the Sanders wing while not turning off independent-minded voters who want to get rid of Trump.

But wrapping up the nod this early makes the task easier.

The Biden turnaround, going from front-runner a year ago to a failed candidacy a month ago, to inevitable nominee today, is unprecedented in American politics.

Every rule I learned in covering presidential politics for almost a half century has been broken, including:


No one loses both Iowa and New Hampshire and wins the nomination. An also-ran in these first contests loses momentum, money and political support. Serious contenders failed miserably to jump start campaigns. For the Democrats in 1976, Sen. Henry Jackson skipped New Hampshire — and when Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterTexas Democrats roll out first wave of planned digital ads as Election Day nears Chris Matthews ripped for complimenting Trump's 'true presidential behavior' on Ginsburg Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina MORE won the Granite State, it effectively ended Jackson's hopes. In 2008, the early Republican front-runner Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE — really he once was a serious person — figured he'd take off in the big Florida primary. But after John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAnalysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture Mark Kelly: Arizona Senate race winner should be sworn in 'promptly' MORE won New Hampshire, support for “America’s Mayor” plummeted; he dropped out nine days before the Florida primary. Biden, however, finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and is now on his way to November.

Endorsements don’t really matter in the modern media age. Witness the last two presidents. In 2007, the establishment candidate, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE, cornered scores of high-level endorsements — far more than Barack Obama — to little avail. Four years ago, about the only top Republican to endorse Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE was Alabama Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRoy Moore sues Alabama over COVID-19 restrictions GOP set to release controversial Biden report Trump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs MORE. (The president showed his sense of loyalty this month by endorsing Sessions' opponent in a primary.) Then there was Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnMcEnany says Trump will accept result of 'free and fair election' Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Azar to testify before House coronavirus subcommittee MORE. Joe Biden might have won the South Carolina primary last month anyway — but the eloquent endorsement of Rep. Clyburn, the most important African American office holder in the party, generated the Biden avalanche in South Carolina, carrying over to Super Tuesday three days later.

Money is the mother's milk of politics, especially if one candidate has a lot, the other very little. By Super Tuesday, Mike Bloomberg was spending more than a half a billion dollars, while Biden was too strapped to even have offices in some of the states in play. Biden won 10 of 14 states that day, picking up 632 delegates. Bloomberg won American Somoa. The “Big Mo” triumphed — momentum not money.

Democrats — in a change election — turn to younger, outside-the-Beltway candidates. Think Jimmy Carter, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonAnxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Barr's Russia investigator has put some focus on Clinton Foundation: report Epstein podcast host says he affiliated with elites from 'both sides of the aisle' MORE, Barack Obama. They conveyed change, a new day. This time, the party is turning to a 77-year-old who was first elected to the Senate before any of the current members of Congress arrived.

The answer lies in Democratic voters who passionately want change — to defeat the incumbent.

They've come to see Biden as the antidote to Trump: honorable, experienced, sound and decent.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.