It paid off like gangbusters. Super Tuesday now looks like a historic surge for Biden.
Early in the night, the races in Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama were called for Biden as soon as the polls closed, signaling blowout victories. Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and even Minnesota then fell into the Biden column. In the most shocking result, Biden even managed to win Massachusetts, which Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren had battled for down to the wire. Meanwhile, Biden at the very least met the threshold in Sanders states (e.g. Maine, Vermont).
Sanders’s inability to attract African American voters or suburban whites created lopsided wins for Biden. Sanders’s promise of a huge turnout among his base of mostly young supporters never materialized. To the contrary, Biden can claim to have galvanized the precise voters Democrats will need to turn out in the general election — older (and more reliable) voters, women, African Americans and college-educated voters. The turnout in Virginia nearly doubled from the 2016 Democratic primary, a sign of Biden’s ability to supercharge suburban and African American voters.
Biden was neck-and-neck with Sanders in Texas, where Sanders was leading comfortably in polls last week.
Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report tweeted, “Sanders’s pledge to bring new voters into his movement seems fairly empty in the results we’re seeing so far. His coalition has shrunk since 2016, not grown.”
Sanders managed to win in Colorado (where voters cast ballots before South Carolina) and Utah, but it’s possible he could go into California trailing Biden significantly in the delegate count. Biden a few days ago was hoping not to get wiped out there on Super Tuesday.
Part of Biden’s success can be attributed to the utter collapse of former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars in ad money and decided to skip the first four contests. With several states outstanding he has yet to win in any state. He did manage to win a territory, America Samoa, and took five of the six delegates. The other one went to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
There is a chicken and the egg phenomenon: Did Bloomberg’s awful debate performances and past scandals sink him, allowing Biden to collect those center-left voters? Or did Biden’s success in South Carolina and his ability to rally other moderate Democrats spell doom for Bloomberg? Perhaps a little of both.
In any event, as results come in, we may find three lessons can be drawn from Bloomberg’s flop: First, you cannot skip the first few contests; momentum is a real thing. Second, you really cannot buy a presidential race. Third, you cannot be a jerk with a problematic record with women and African Americans if you hope to win the Democratic nomination for president.
For Biden, Tuesday night is shaping up to be a triumph — a political comeback that happened so suddenly the polls could not keep up. Biden is far ahead of where he was anticipated to be in the delegate race. Bloomberg is flopping, and may well end the race after looking at the numbers. (A statement from his campaign did not promise to fight on.) The party of working people, minority voters, women and suburbanites — not “Corporate Democrats" — is coalescing around Biden with unprecedented speed. Sanders’s loud online presence, his attacks on fellow Democrats and the press and his proud display of his socialist label have not make him more popular than in 2016; in fact, he looks to be losing some of his base.
Ordinary Democrats have not followed the Twitter chatter and the pundits’ scripts. They seem intent on winning, not on making a point and saving the party and the country from the ravages of populism. We should breathe a sigh of relief that one party appears capable of keeping itself tethered to reality and to democracy.