News Editor and National/World Editor
Following a decisive victory on Super Tuesday and domination of the map a week later, the Democratic nomination is former Vice President Joe Biden’s to lose. As of March 17, Biden leads with 898 delegates to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s 745, with Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard in a very, very distant third, with only two delegates. In a shocking turn of events, Joe Biden revived a struggling campaign with a wave of high-profile endorsements from Democratic party leaders and reclaimed frontrunner status, all in a week’s time.
Despite significant losses in the early caucus in Iowa and Nevada and the primary in New Hampshire, Biden returned to win South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 29. SC Representative and current House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn chose to endorse Biden only three days before ballots were cast. Clyburn is incredibly influential in SC politics, with 61 percent of Democratic voters in the state reporting that his endorsement influenced their vote, and 27 percent saying it was “the most important factor” in their choice, according to a poll by Edison Research. Biden subsequently triumphed statewide, winning 48.7 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 19.8 percent. Furthermore, SC was the first state to vote that has a large black population, support from which is essential to winning the Democratic nomination.
Following Biden’s pivotal win in SC, Democratic candidates Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg all dropped out of the race. Biden then held a rally in Dallas, TX, where Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and former candidate Beto O’Rourke all endorsed the former vice president. Additionally, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly backed Biden, along with several representatives and senators who followed suit. Former Obama officials also showed their support for Biden; among those who endorsed him were Obama’s former Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
Biden continued to ride the momentum generated from a consolidation of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and ended Super Tuesday victorious. He won the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. He concluded the night by netting a strong majority of 632 delegates, while Sanders won 545 delegates. Sanders did come out on top in California, Colorado, Utah, and his home state of Vermont. The delegate-rich state of California was Sanders’ biggest prize of the night, as he won 216 of the state’s 393 delegates.
After Super Tuesday, Biden continued to pick up endorsements. Former candidate Kamala Harris endorsed Biden on March 8, stating, “America needs a president who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people; a president who speaks the truth; and a president who fights for those whose voices are too often overlooked or ignored.” In the days to follow, former candidates Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, and Andrew Yang, as well as Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, also announced their support for Biden.
On March 10, a date often referred to as “Mini Tuesday,” Biden cemented his newfound frontrunner status with a sweeping victory across the country. Biden dominated the South, winning an overwhelming 81.1 percent of the vote in Mississippi, nearly locking Sanders out from gaining any delegates in the state, and 60.1 percent of the vote in Missouri. Biden also performed very well in the crucial state of Michigan, winning every single county and emerging with a 52.9 percent majority of the vote to Sanders’ 36.4 percent. The Democratic nominee must win the Midwest in any path to victory in 2020, and Biden’s outright victory in Michigan showed voters that he is perhaps the best candidate to do so.
Biden ended the night with narrow wins in Idaho and Washington, where he overcame early deficits to eke out victories with the help of mail-in ballots, which were counted in the following week. Sanders only won one state: North Dakota, where he won eight delegates to Biden’s six.
CNN and Univision hosted the 11th Democratic debate on Mar. 15, the first to feature only two candidates on one stage. Biden and Sanders repeatedly discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and how their response would differ from President Trump’s if they were in the Oval Office. The candidates got off to a commanding start but quickly meandered into decades-old policy debates that failed to resonate with worried voters. One notable moment from the night was Biden’s promise that he would choose a woman to be his vice president. Pundits speculate that potential candidates for the job could include Harris, Klobuchar, Whitmer, former Georgia candidate for governor Stacy Abrams, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has complicated the Democratic primary process; both Biden and Sanders have begun canceling rallies in fear of promoting the spread of the virus. In addition, many urban areas are on lockdown amid the pandemic, and voting is becoming a potential health risk. Despite this, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois have moved ahead with their primary date on March 17 as planned.
However, Ohio governor Mark DeWine tweeted the night of March 16 that polls would be closed throughout the state, as keeping them open would “force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus.” Ohio, which also would have voted on March 17, has delayed its primary until June 2. This order occurred in direct violation of a Franklin County, Ohio judge who denied the state’s request to postpone their primary only hours earlier. Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Maryland have also delayed their primaries.
(Sources: Vox, NYT, Dallas News, CBS, 538, Business Insider, NPR, ABC, CNN)