Does Joe Biden have a second act?
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is suspending his 2020 presidential campaign, according to an aide.
Welcome to 2020! With just 2 days until Super Tuesday, the 2020 election is in full swing. Every Sunday, outline the 5 BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they’re ranked — so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.
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5. Elizabeth Warren isn’t stopping: One of the most fascinating subplots of the last two weeks of the 2020 race is that despite not having a single breakthrough moment in one of the four early states, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is raising money like gangbusters.
Warren raised $29 million in February alone, her campaign announced on Sunday. That’s more than she raised in any three-month quarter prior.
How? Well, aside from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren has the best small-dollar online fundraising network in the field. And her sharp attacks on billionaire Mike Bloomberg seem to be catnip to her supporters; as my friend Jackie Kucinich says: Bloomberg is a piñata; Warren hits him and money comes out.
In a memo to supporters Sunday, Warren campaign manager Roger Lau made clear that she has no plans of leaving the race anytime soon — pledging that they will “compete in every state and territory and ultimately prevail at the national convention in Milwaukee.”
If Warren can keep bringing in money like she did in February, there’s no real reason she needs to get out. And that’s good news for moderates hoping to keep Sanders from the magic number of 1,991 delegates. Every delegate for Warren is one Sanders would likely win if she wasn’t in the race.
4. Who drops next?: News broke Sunday night that former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was suspending his campaign after he struggled to compete in South Carolina’s primary, and aides said he saw little path toward success on Super Tuesday.
Now the question becomes, who will be next?
While the biggest decision is that of Bloomberg — much more on that below — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is also likely to have some hard decisions to make come Wednesday morning.
Even though Klobuchar may hang on to win in her native Minnesota on Tuesday, she (like Buttigieg) hasn’t demonstrated any ability to win non-white voters, a critical pillar of the Democratic Party base. Given that, she will likely come under considerable pressure from establishment types to get out of the race in order to coalesce anti-Sanders votes behind a single candidate.
Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar are young, and likely want to preserve their political futures within the party. Getting out of the race at the right time might well be the best way to do that.
3. WWBD (What Will Bloomberg Do?): The former New York City mayor has already invested more than half a billion — yes, billion with a “b” — in his campaign to be the alternative to Sanders in the race.
The (re)rise of Joe Biden in South Carolina on Saturday, however, messes with Bloomberg’s vision of scooping up a bunch of delegates on Super Tuesday and emerging as the consensus establishment option to stop the Vermont democratic socialist’s march to the nomination.
The question now for Bloomberg is this: If he believes the only goal is beating President Donald Trump and it becomes clear after Tuesday that Biden is the only candidate with a shot at stopping Sanders, does staying in the race really make sense?
An extended Bloomberg campaign, in such a scenario would only continue to split the anti-Bernie vote, allowing Sanders to continue to widen his delegate lead over any and all comers.
The issue, of course, is ego. Bloomberg has a big one. And he got into the race believing that Biden was too weak to win the nomination. So is he willing to admit he was wrong and bow out if it’s for the broader good of the establishment wing of the party?
2. The Bernie delegate math: Yes, the Vermont senator would have liked to do better in South Carolina. (He took 14% in the state in 2016 and 20% in 2020). But the numbers — particularly the delegate numbers — on Super Tuesday still look very good for Sanders.
The biggest prize is California, with 415 total delegates. A CNN survey released at the end of last month — which was only a few days ago! — showed Sanders with a 20+ point lead statewide.
Texas, which will award 261 delegates on Tuesday, also looks like Sanders’ to lose. He had a 9-point edge over Biden in a CNN poll in the Lone Star State late last month.
While those two states are the big prizes, there’s really nowhere in the other 12 states (plus American Samoa) set to vote on Tuesday where Sanders seems likely to dip under 15%. And if he doesn’t get less than 15% — statewide or in each congressional district — it just means he will keep accumulating delegates.
Sanders will have the delegate lead on Wednesday. The only question is how big the gap between him and the next person is.
1. Biden’s second act (or not): The former vice president’s win in South Carolina was a necessary first step in his attempt to emerge as the clear alternative to Sanders.(And Buttigieg’s departure should aid him in that endeavor.)
But Biden still hasn’t done anything other than win the one state that he was supposed to win. Now comes the bigger challenge: Can he parlay his performance into South Carolina into a significant delegate haul on Tuesday?
If Biden can replicate his overwhelming (60%+) support in the black community in South Carolina in places like Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina — all of which vote on Super Tuesday — then he should amass a decent chunk of delegates.
Perhaps the bigger issue, though, is in California and Texas — the two biggest delegate hauls on the ballot on Tuesday. As noted above, polling shows Sanders with BIG leads in both states. Biden likely won’t beat Sanders in either one, but limiting the Vermont senator’s margins would be crucial in the delegate race.