State of the Race 2020: Super Tuesday

Written by Ben Szioli

Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE) consolidated the Democratic vote in South Carolina this week, outperforming all but the most optimistic polls. The result was his first-ever primary election win, in his third presidential run. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) stood up under pressure to take a modest second place. Of the other candidates, Tom Steyer (CA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN) suspended their campaigns after the results came in. Interestingly, Senator Klobuchar and Tom Steyer both suspended their campaigns immediately before their home-state primaries, both of which they were expected to lose.

Senator Liz Warren (MA) could be competing for the last time on the same day that Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is competing for the first time, if she fails to secure her home state of Massachusetts. Support across multiple states would help solidify the campaign of either of the two candidates. Oh, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI) is still running.

LIZ WARREN AND THE ART OF KNIFE FIGHTING

As I’ve said before, Warren is a fighter. When you put her in a corner, she fights her way out. That’s why it’s important that Sanders supporters fight just as hard, and they have. But this has gone way beyond “Mom and Dad are fighting.”

I’m not sure why I know this, but the first rule of knife fighting is that everybody involved is going to get cut. The second rule of knife fighting is that therefore, you must immediately disarm your opponent.

Now, Boston has its rough spots, but I’m not saying Senator Warren has ever been in a knife fight. She does, however, seem to understand the strategy. Sanders needs to understand it, too.

The election in Massachusetts is a knife fight to the death. If Sanders can beat Warren in her home state, she should be completely disarmed. She should drop out, in fact. That will stop the slow bleed of progressive voters trickling away from Bernie. But should Warren win in Massachusetts, she can likely remain in the race long enough to ensure that Sanders cannot win.

Warren supporters should ask themselves why she would want to do that.

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DEMOCRATS

Senator Bernie Sanders (VT): Bernie did slightly better than his polling average in South Carolina, putting him in a good place to match polls again today. The question is less how Bernie will do, and more how Biden and Bloomberg will do.

Sanders realistically needs to win seven states in order to claim a resounding victory. His best shot would be to combine California, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, Maine, and Vermont; states that combine for more than 850 delegates.

If Bloomberg and Biden combine for more than seven states, Sanders is in serious trouble going forward. Nine or ten states would be a rout for Sanders, but that appears unlikely, despite all the wasted Buttigieg and Klobuchar write-in ballots that will help split the anti-Bernie vote.

Making matters worse, Warren, the alleged progressive, is remaining in the race, at least until tomorrow. While a year ago, her delegates seemed one and the same as Bernie’s delegates, the rifts that have been opened up interfere with that today. Many Warren delegates would support Bernie if Warren dropped out and Bernie won the primary, but many would not.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE): The seas have pretty much parted for Biden, but it came with less than a day remaining before Super Tuesday. With early voting and mail-ins already submitted, supporters of former candidates don’t have much of an opportunity to switch to someone new. Some, I imagine, will not even know that their candidate dropped out when they head to the polls.

Six states look amenable to Biden today: North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. These states combine for just under 400 delegates. This disparity in size between Bernie-friendly and Biden-friendly states makes it important for Biden to pull a high state victory total today, since his delegate haul will likely underwhelm.

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Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (NY): Bloomberg appears on the ballot today for the first time in the primary season. For all he’s invested, he’s not sitting in a good position. A knockout performance today would secure Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas for Bloomberg. Those states award a combined 167 delegates, and he would be lucky to secure half, which would put him right around where Bernie was before Super Tuesday.

I get the sense that the Democrats are closing ranks to keep Bloomberg out. Bloomberg asked for the Biden treatment (everyone to drop out and endorse him), but they chose Biden in a very coordinated fashion. After all, Bloomberg really, really isn’t a Democrat. It’s partly how recently he joined the party and partly how right-wing his policies are, outside of social justice-type initiatives.

This makes it interesting to see how far Bloomberg is willing to go to secure delegates and try to twist the nomination in his own favor, and whether he will harm Biden in the process. It also remains to be seen how the DNC would handle a surprisingly strong performance from Bloomberg. They added him to the debates in what was, to me, an obvious attempt to make him look bad. Bloomberg said his polls indicated only he and Bernie can win. If that’s correct, he would have good reason to remain in the race. If it’s correct, in fact, then Biden is doomed.

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Senator Liz Warren (MA): The best-case scenario for Warren is winning Massachusetts, her home state, and securing delegates in the other states, particularly California. That is the only way to position herself on a path to victory, but even that path is a narrow one. She would have to stave off Sanders at every turn after today, while trying to overcome Biden and Bloomberg without progressive support. But like I said, Warren is a fighter, and so, she will certainly fight until it’s over. The question is whether it ends with a loss today, or with a long campaign and a Cabinet position for the next president.

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Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN): Buttigieg still wasn’t gaining traction with black voters, and so on Monday, he exited the race, endorsing Biden on the way out the door. His supporters chanted “2024” at his concession speech, which is disturbing given that the ideal situation is to have the Democratic incumbent president run for re-election in 2024. Hopefully they just misspoke (or mis-chanted) and aren’t already planning for the Democrats to lose this year.

While endorsing Biden seems like a big win for the former VP, it actually may not be. A Morning Consult poll showed that Bernie was actually the top second choice of Buttigieg supporters, albeit with Bloomberg and Biden right behind him. Morning Consult predicted that each of the three candidates would get a two-point bump in polling as a result.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): After failing to show up in South Carolina and getting owned by Black Lives Matter activists, Klobuchar dropped out rather than split the centrist vote while nursing her damaged reputation. She endorsed Biden last night, which strikes me as far too late, but we will see.

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Tom Steyer (CA): After coming up short in South Carolina, Steyer has dropped out of the race. After millions spent, his campaign failed to secure a single delegate. Steyer’s exit from the race comes amid bickering with Biden over South Carolina voters, which boiled over at the South Carolina debate. leaves Steyer in an interesting position of being one of the few candidates positioned against Biden. He, unlike his fellow drop-outs, has not issued an endorsement yet.

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Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI): Gabbard’s actions have gone from “puzzling” to “chaotic neutral.” She isn’t really influencing the race in any way. In fact, she’s been completely silent as the centrist establishment coalesces around Biden and Warren refuses to cooperate with Bernie. She is still “running,” with no chance of even picking up a lot of votes, but why?

REPUBLICANS

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Incumbent President Donald Trump (FL): Today, Trump should wrap up the nomination, inasmuch as he hadn’t already done so a long time ago.

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Former Governor Bill Weld (MA): This is the end of the line for Former Governor Weld. Today, Massachusetts will vote to nominate Trump, and Weld’s astronomically unlikely chance of winning the nomination will vanish. The only question now is whether he will drop out and face the music, or whether he will remain in the running til the end as a protest candidate.

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Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente: De la Fuente is… still de la Fuente.

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