Former Vice President Joe Biden did what he had to do in South Carolina – and a bit more. He won the state that he was expected to win from the get-go, but by a better margin than polls and pundits predicted.
As a sidebar, we should make note of the fact that those polls – that politicians and the press cite with such authority – were abysmally wrong. Just a week before the primary, most polls had Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders within just a few percentage points of Biden. The actual results were way outside the pollsters proclaimed “margin of error.”
Against four challengers – one serious and three not so much – Biden garnered just short of 50 percent of the vote. As it turned out, the serious contender – Sanders – was not as serious as people thought – coming in with 20 percent of the vote to Biden’s 48 percent.
The euphoria of victory spread beyond the Biden Camp. It was celebrated by establishment Democrats and the normally left-leaning news media. Apparently, the anti-Trump news establishment is putting their thumb on the scale for the former Vice President.
According to those panels of parroting pundits, South Carolina was not just a victory for Biden. It was determined that the race was now just between Biden and Sanders.
The folks in cable television land noted that Biden had taken the lead in the cumulative popular vote emanating from the first four primaries without noting that South Carolina was a much more populace state than Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. This also contributed to Biden closing the delegate gap.
The pundits declared that Biden has made the best speech of his life and it would have a huge impact on future voters – especially in those fifteen Super Tuesday primaries. Admittedly, it was a very good speech, but it would be a mistake to overstate its impact. Most voters did not hear it – and never will.
Biden desperately needs to winnow down the field, and the only candidate to bow out after South Carolina was billionaire businessman Tom Steyer. His exit does not change the calculus very much since he never produced a lot of votes – and never secured a single delegate – despite spending tens of millions of dollars.
The three ladies in the race did not fare very well, with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar failing to get out of single digits – and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard getting only a fraction of a percent. If they do not get a surprisingly good showing in a couple of states on Super Tuesday, all three will be out of money and out of the race whether they officially drop out or not.
That leaves the field to three old white men and one young whippersnapper. The minority candidates will be gone. The women will be gone. Gay former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has had to suspend his campaign. That is an interesting outcome for a party that brags about its commitment to identity politics, diversity and political correctness.
What the Biden-friendly press did not dwell upon is the very difficult challenge Biden faces on Super Tuesday. If the poles have not screwed up again, it is likely that Sanders will take the two biggest prizes – California and Texas. If Sanders can keep his challengers to under 15 percent in California, he will reap hundreds of delegates – the biggest haul on the board.
Sanders should also do well in New England with his home state of Vermont and Warren’s home state of Massachusetts. If Warren loses Massachusetts, she is done – and Sanders is likely to gain her supporters as he has been doing for several months. His gain has been inversely proportionate to her decline.
Biden’s best options are a series of southern states with large black populations – although not as large as South Carolina. Biden’s problem is mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg. He has been spending tens of millions of dollars on those southern states. If he takes delegates away from Biden, Sanders gains.
In California, the question is whether Biden can get more than 15 percent of the vote – the threshold necessary to get ANY delegates. Again, his nemesis is Bloomberg. It is possible that the Daddy Warbucks of the primary season could keep Biden under 15 percent by dividing the moderate vote. It is conceivable that Bloomberg, himself, could get the prerequisite 15 percent. Not likely, but not impossible.
The momentum of Biden’s victory in South Carolina is somewhat blunted by the fact that more than half of the Democrat voters in California have already voted early – when Sanders was on a roll and Biden look weak compared to Bloomberg. That alone could keep Biden from gaining any delegates in California.
Should Sanders gain the lion’s share of the delegates in California, Texas and even Massachusetts– and a sprinkling of delegates in the other states. He is almost certain to go into a brokered convention with the most delegates.
Despite his momentum in South Carolina, Biden heads into Super Tuesday with serious disadvantages. He has only about 24 campaigning hours until Super Tuesday. Roughly 36 daytime hours (when folks are awake) between the close of polls in South Carolina and the opening of the first polls on Super Tuesday. Biden did not have the money for advertising, nor money for a ground game. He spent very little time in those states – and none in some of them. There is no time to correct that deficiency.
Politics is full of surprises, so no one is betting a lot on Biden – or against him. After all, we do know that the polls can be wrong – very wrong. Regardless, it can be predicted that Super Tuesday will likely boil the race down to two competitors Sanders and Biden or Bloomberg. The Biden Bloomberg competition is the most interesting race on Super Tuesday. One of these guys is likely to get whack-a-moled.
After Super Tuesday, it is likely that the Democrat establishment will be strategizing as to how to stop Sanders at the Milwaukee convention – and who their champion will be. It will be interesting.
So, there ‘tis.