And Then There Were Two

[ Posted Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 – 17:57 UTC ]

The 2020 Democratic presidential nominating contest is ending as it began. If you look at the polling over the entire course of the race so far, Joe Biden led almost from beginning to end. Up until the voting actually started, Biden was the clear favorite to win the nomination. Indeed, there really was only one other candidate -- out of a total field of 29, mind you -- that showed the strength to even be competitive with the former vice president, and that was Bernie Sanders. Bernie held onto second place in the polling pretty consistently, and this remained almost unchanged from beginning to end. Only one other candidate ever even rose into the ranks Bernie and Joe occupied, but while Elizabeth Warren enjoyed a big spike upwards (briefly snatching first place away from Biden), it almost immediately fell back to where she was really only challenging Sanders for second place. For all the media swooning over this candidate or that (this week it's Beto... no, no, it's Mayor Pete... wait, Kamala's looking pretty good!... hey, how about Amy's debate performance?), none of them ever saw their poll ratings live up to the lavish attention bestowed upon them by the media. The entire race, from even before Biden announced right up until the Iowa caucuses, was really one between only Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Which is where we now find ourselves, once again.

Of course, once people started actually voting, the political twists and turns really began in earnest, which wildly changed the race from a rather stagnant two-person contest into a true multi-candidate scramble. Iowa royally screwed up its vote-counting, which led to Pete Buttigieg winning the delegate race (while Bernie won the most votes), but he failed to really get the wave of enthusiasm he should have gotten, due to all the delays in reporting the results. Bernie went on to win New Hampshire over Pete, and it started to look like maybe the two-person contest was going to be between the two of them, as Biden faded into the background. But then Pete's Achilles' heel showed up, in his dismal showing with voters of color. First Bernie trounced him in Nevada among Latinos, and then Joe Biden began his comeback with a blowout win in South Carolina on the strength of the African-American vote. All the while, Michael Bloomberg spent money like a drunken sailor, only to shoot himself in both feet with his disastrous debate performances.

This is where politics-as-usual went out the window. Because while there were only three days between the South Carolina vote and Super Tuesday, the landscape of the race shifted radically during that period, in a political earthquake of historic proportions. First Pete dropped out, without endorsing anyone. Amy Klobuchar quickly followed with the announcement that not only was she dropping out, but that she was endorsing Biden. Pete suddenly decided to do so as well, which consolidated a lot of the moderate vote behind a single candidate. Mike Bloomberg stuck around (since he hadn't even been on a ballot yet), but his debate performances (which were universally seen as odiferously bad) had already cut the legs out from under any momentum he had been building.

All of which added up to Biden having the night of his political life last night, winning 10 out of a possible 14 states, including some upsets that nobody predicted (myself included) such as winning Massachusetts, Maine, and Minnesota. Biden went -- within a four day period -- from being considered almost out of the race to being the clear frontrunner. That's a political resurrection of historic proportions, obviously. This morning, Michael Bloomberg announced he was dropping out and throwing his support behind Biden. Elizabeth Warren, as of this writing, is considering her future prospects and may also soon announce a withdrawal from the race.

Whether Warren pulls out or not, though, it is now clearly a two-person race. Technically, there could be as many as four candidates on the next Democratic debate stage, since Tulsi Gabbard is still running, and since she picked up a single delegate from American Samoa last night. But whether Gabbard or Warren are on stage or not next time around, it is clearly now a race between two old, white men. So much for diversity among the candidates, eh?

The pressure on Warren to drop out is already intense, because the Bernie team is already pushing the storyline that Biden beat Bernie in so many places because the moderates consolidated while the progressives did not. That's unfair to Warren, because Pete and Amy dropping out was so unusual to begin with. Again, there were only three days between South Carolina and Super Tuesday, and Warren was in nowhere near as bad shape as either Pete or Amy were. But going forward, the argument for Warren staying in the race becomes almost impossible to now make. Which is what she is obviously pondering right now.

There are a few other takeaways from last night's results worth pointing out. The first is that while everyone loves to decry the influence of money in politics, there's a clear lesson here that money isn't everything. Michael Bloomberg spent a half-billion dollars to win... America Samoa. That's not exactly a good return on investment, as the Wall Street folks like to say. But it goes beyond Bloomberg. Democrats were not limited to a single billionaire this time around, after all. There was Tom Steyer, who spend a quarter-billion of his own money to win... nothing at all. And he wasn't even the only other deep-pocket candidate forced to drop out. John Delaney was actually the first Democrat to announce he was running, and he spent a whole lot of his own money on the early states to absolutely no effect whatsoever. Andrew Yang actually did excite a small faction of Democrats (the "Yang Gang"), but never managed to expand his base enough to be a contender. And they weren't even the only ones who had more money than actual political support (Marianne Williamson also springs to mind). So just having a bunch of money and a willingness to spend it freely simply does not equate to actual voter support, no matter how many television ads you force the public to watch. That is an important lesson, but it is one that few will be noticing today (other than to gleefully point out how much Bloomberg spent per vote or per delegate, as some are indeed already doing).

Also somewhat surprising is the fact that not only does money play less of a role in elections than you would think, but endorsements play an even bigger role than many had come to believe. Endorsements were "old-school" politics that didn't really matter in the digital social-media age, some said, and more attention was at times paid to big entertainment figures who endorsed one candidate or the other than to the traditional political endorsements from sitting members of Congress, sitting state elected officials, and respected former politicians. But Joe Biden simply would not have had such a good week if it hadn't been for his last-minute endorsements. In South Carolina, James Clyburn proved to be the kingmaker. An overwhelming amount of voters in the exit polls said that Clyburn's endorsement mattered when they were making up their minds. Many voters said they decided very late, which also meant that Clyburn's endorsement likely played a key role. But after Biden's big South Carolina win, he got the two biggest endorsements of all from Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Candidates who previously ran against you coming over to your team is a clear show of strength, and a lot of the voters who were planning on casting a ballot for Amy and Pete yesterday were obviously influenced by them throwing their support behind Biden. Beto O'Rourke's endorsement also must have mattered (on a lesser scale), since Biden scored an upset victory in Texas over Bernie. Endorsements still do matter, from key politicians that voters still look up to -- even when they come at the last minute.

The good news overall for Democrats is that we should all be thankful for Donald Trump, because he is unifying the party like nobody else ever has. Beating Trump is such an overriding concern that Trump is actually spurring voter turnout to record highs -- higher even than Barack Obama's historic win in 2008. Crucially, voter turnout is surging to all-time highs among suburban voters -- the same ones that propelled Democrats to such a big 2018 midterm victory. That bodes very well indeed for November. Suburban women gave the House back to Nancy Pelosi, and they may also prove to be the biggest force in Trump's defeat.

So where do we go from here? Well, a two-person race means a long slog, most likely. Since California is so slow to verify its results, there are still hundreds of delegates left to be assigned. It's even unclear who will have the lead in delegates after all the votes are counted. Right now, Biden is ahead in the count, and he may wind up retaining this lead. But Bernie could also wind up with more delegates, although the impact of this will be muted since it wasn't announced on the actual night of the election. Either way, it's a pretty close race right now, that either one of them could conceivably win in the end. Even if Bernie manages to edge Biden out in the final count from last night, this will be nowhere near the commanding delegate lead he was expected to now have.

One thing that should have died last night was the media's obsession with the possibility of a contested convention. As I've been pointed out for a while, the most important thing in the race was likely going to be when candidates dropped out, and so far this has proven to be true. The media had to pretend that all the top candidates were going to continue their campaigns right up to the convention, which never really made much sense. Sure, if Pete and Amy and Mike stayed in it for the long haul, then the possibility existed that no single candidate would have a clear majority of delegates; but in a two-man race, that's looking less and less within the realm of possibility. The media really should have realized (or admitted) in the past few weeks that this was going to be the much more likely outcome -- but it was more fun to engage in rampant speculation instead, I suppose.

Psychologically, Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner right now, no matter what the final Super Tuesday delegate count turns out to be. Biden won 10 out of 14 states, while Bernie only picked up four. Biden will also likely lead in the total number of voters who voted for him in all the primaries to date. And Biden obviously is the one with the momentum on his side right now.

But while the media may give itself whiplash in shifting from the storyline: "Bernie Sanders is going to be the inevitable nominee" to the new one: "Joe Biden is now all but inevitable," neither was ever really completely true. There are still a whole lot of states left to vote, and anything could happen. Bernie could have another heart attack. Biden could self-destruct in a future debate. Nobody is inevitable, at this still-rather-early date.

Even so, it is beginning to look a lot like the 2016 race at this point. Bernie Sanders will likely have to play catch-up in the delegate race, which could turn out to be impossible (as indeed it proved to be versus Hillary Clinton). Unless Bernie has a night comparable to Biden's big victories last night, he will be the underdog from this point on, fighting against the tide of Biden's newfound momentum. The real question for November is how ugly this race could get. If Joe and Bernie absolutely savage each other for the next few months, then they could build resentment among their respective voting bases against each other to the point where party unity becomes extremely hard to achieve once the primary race is over. If they can avoid personal attacks to the degree that allows for the voters to move on once the nominee is crowned, then that will obviously be a better situation for Democrats heading into the general election.

Bernie will likely be leaning heavily on the idea that "electability didn't work in 2016," and he'll definitively have a point. Clinton was easily seen as "the most electable" candidate, right up until she lost to Trump. Biden can't just coast on the wave of "I'm the safest candidate to nominate" -- he's got to start doing a much better job of giving the voters a real theme to vote for, instead of just being against either Bernie or Trump himself.

But for now, Biden can bask in a spectacular finish on Super Tuesday, on top of his equally-impressive showing in South Carolina. He not only beat all expectations, he pulled off one of the biggest political comebacks this country has ever seen. That's a monumental achievement, and it's what cleared all the other moderate candidates out of his lane. In one week we went from a fractured field with five major candidates down to what is now essentially a two-person race. That's a turnaround for the ages, and it's why Biden now has the wind at his back heading into the rest of the primary calendar.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


37 Comments on “And Then There Were Two”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Time for the Republicans to get back to work investigating Hunter Biden.

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Beto O'Rourke's endorsement also must have mattered (on a lesser scale), since Biden scored an upset victory in Texas over Bernie. Endorsements still do matter, from key politicians that voters still look up to -- even when they come at the last minute.

    Almost everybody here in Texas looks up to Beto O'Rourke; he is 6 foot 4 inches tall in his bare feet... 6 foot 6 with his boots on. ;)

  3. [3] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    It's a pretty dubious conclusion to say that because a big money candidate or two lost to other big money candidates that money has less of an influence than you would think.

    If big money candidates lost to a small donor candidate with less, the same or more money that would show money has less of an influence than you think.

    And the endorsements would be from the people that should be endorsing the candidates- ordinary citizens.

    The fact that voters listen to these endorsements from the big money establishment Dems is not a good thing.

    The Dems are repeating the same mistakes from 2016. They expect non-Dems to settle because Trump is so bad and are willing to risk that against upsetting the big money interests that they work for.

    The Dems need the non-Dem voters and the non-voters and Biden will not bring them in.

    As you said it's beginning to look like 2016.

    In 2016 Clinton was seen by DEMOCRATS as the most electable and non-Dems and non-voters as not electable. Biden is slightly better in that regard, but nowhere near Bernie.

    And Bernie is nowhere near as electable to the voters the Dems need in the general election than small donor only Bernie.

    And small donor Bernie would do much better in the primaries where non-Dems can vote which could change the course away from repeating 2016.

    Don't you want to win? Or do you only want to win if it can be done by preserving the status quo regarding big money controlling the our political process?

    But hey, maybe you are right that big money isn't a big deal anymore.

    But if that is the case then there is no reason for the Dems to continue to take big money.

    Seems like you lose on that one whether you are right about big money in politics not mattering much anymore or if you are wrong about big money not mattering as much anymore.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well one thing is certain, although money may matter, pie matters more.

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    So come on CW, help the party by helping the most electable candidate win the nomination and/or help the nominee become their most electable by becoming a small donor only candidate.

    Give Biden this week's MIDDOTW for winning the most primaries and Bernie an honorable mention for still being in the race.

    Then give them both the MDDOTW week award for continuing to take big money to ruin their campaigns as well as our democracy, challenging Bernie to become small donor only Bernie and asking Biden why if we can do anything if we work together why is he not running a small donor only campaign since he says it can be done.

    Can you honestly tell me that if small donor only Bernie were the nominee that he could not get the equivalent of 5% of voters that are loyal Dems to contribute an average of 100 dollars to his general election campaign, not mention to even more from independents?

    If Biden were the nominee and made the small donor only commitment would he not be able to get the same support from loyal Dems, but less from the independents?

    That's nearly 800 million dollars for the campaign from loyal Dems alone.

    That's easily enough money as the commitment will also get more independents and non-voters to vote Dem in 2020 than would vote for the big money Dems currently being offered.

    Votes are still important even if big money isn't-right?

    Wouldn't it be nice if the Dems could get the votes of the people that didn't get the memo that big money is not important (or just disregarded it as the bullshit that it is)?

    The theory that you can't fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of the people enough of the time only works for you when you are the only one trying to fool people.

    And it won't work against the master of fooling people. see 2016.

    The Dems ONLY CHANCE is to come clean and run honest small donor only campaigns up and down the ballot.

    The grand experiment of big money Dems has proved to be a disaster. see the culmination of this disaster- 2016.

    That is unless the Dems and you continue to make the same mistakes. Then see 2020.

    But don't look beyond 2020 because you won't like what you see.


  6. [6] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Pie is a dessert, like pudding.

    "How can you have your pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

    Small donor only candidates are part of a healthy balanced democracy breakfast.

    And it's definatley time to break our fast on small donor only candidates before democracy dies from malnutrition.

    The only thing worse than dying from malnutrition is when you are brain dead and you don't know it and all you are capable of is trolling by making ridiculous jokes about pie instead of having serious political discussions.

    At least Trump supporters have someone to legitmatley look down on. :D

  7. [7] 
    Kick wrote:


    well one thing is certain, although money may matter, pie matters more.

    An indubitable and undeniable fact. I think we should spend a whole day celebrating it... say about 10 days from now. I say we make this thing go national, and I expect full cooperation from the author of this blog.

    I'm all in. Who's in for pie day on May 14? ;)

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Blah, blah, blah. Get real.

    We're talking pie day on May 14. Either get with the program or zip it, skippy. :)

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    yikes, it's march not may. get yer pie straight!

    Then shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

    ~monty python

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:


    Well, duh! I had said "10 days from now" and then declared that to be in May. *still hammered*

    Yes, 10 days from now -- definitely March 14 -- when we make pie day go national... with the full cooperation and participation of the author of the blog as his duty to God, America, and We the pie People.

    And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals. ~ Monty Python

    What, no effing pie? ;)

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Pie is a dessert, like pudding.

    "How can you have your pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

    pink floyd are English you dolt, pudding means any dessert and the pies have meat! i am deeply offended that you don't consider pie to be a serious political discussion. pie-based voting is the best idea since pie itself!

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    pink floyd are English you dolt, pudding means any dessert and the pies have meat! i am deeply offended that you don't consider pie to be a serious political discussion. pie-based voting is the best idea since pie itself!

    Monty Python are also English...

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    The answer to this who miraculous Biden comeback is very obvious..

    It was the Russians....

    Ya'all predicted Russian interference and ya'all were obviously dead on ballz accurate...

    Biden is obviously a Russian plant and takes his marching orders from Putin...

    What's that?? That's sounds utterly ridiculous???

    Yea... About the same as it sounds when ya'all say it.. :eyeroll:

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yunno, ya'all really have to appreciate the irony here..

    For all the Democrat talk of diversity and intersectionality (whatever the FRAK that is!), Democrats can't decide whether to choose the Establishment Old White Guy or the Communist Old White Guy as their champion.. :D

    The conflict is simply DRIPPING with delicious irony... :D

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:


    You were talking about "credibility" yesterday??

    How credible are your Democrats with all their DIVERSITY talk that they can't decide which Old White Guy to nominate?? :D

  16. [16] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "ya'all really have to appreciate the irony here...
    For all the talk of diversity and intersectionality...."

    Pie jokes and "get with the program or zip it."

    "Do you really want to kill the one person that is trying to help you?"
    -Not Sure

  17. [17] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The real irony is that the people in that movie were supposed to be 500 years stupider than people today, and even they were smart enough to try Not Sure's "idea" of putting water on the crops instead of a sports drink filled with salts.

  18. [18] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "There are many angry, ignorant people in this world. And they seem to be breeding in record numbers."
    - Dalton Trumbo

    And several of them seem to enjoy proving this out with their comments here.

  19. [19] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    You really think that you know more about pudding and meat than Tuba Pudding, Jr.? :D

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    'It’s not OK to lie to the community' | MPD whistleblower details alleged crime underreporting in the first interview

    Sgt. Charlotte Djossou says she faced retaliation for reporting downgrading of crimes to supervisors.

    Typical Democrats...

    If the FACTS don't fit the agenda.... Change the facts..

    It's Democrat's Climate "science" all over again...

  21. [21] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Warren out

  22. [22] 
    John M wrote:

    [15] Michale wrote:"


    You were talking about "credibility" yesterday??

    How credible are your Democrats with all their DIVERSITY talk that they can't decide which Old White Guy to nominate?? :D"

    If that were true, you would have a point. But it isn't, so you don't.

    It's not white people deciding, it's people of color. Latinos are supporting Sanders, and African Americans are choosing Biden, with white suburban voters following THEIR lead.

    They had an opportunity to choose Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, or Julian Castro, etc and didn't. It was voters who decided, not a group of white men in a smoke filled room backstage.

  23. [23] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Ny poet-
    I know how you feel.

    But if you're warren out already how will you ever find the strength to make it to November? :D

  24. [24] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Too bad the voters didn't get to choose between big money candidates and small donor only candidates. Yet.

    "The best choice is more choices."
    -Olive Garden commercial

  25. [25] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    How bad has our political system become for Olive Garden to be offering more than the Dems?

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:


    If that were true, you would have a point. But it isn't, so you don't.

    It's not white people deciding, it's people of color. Latinos are supporting Sanders, and African Americans are choosing Biden, with white suburban voters following THEIR lead.

    YOu can spin it all you want..

    But the FACT remains.. The DEMOCRAT PARTY is trying to decide between two old white guys to be their nominee..

    Ergo, all their talk of "diversity" is just bullshit talk..

    The Democrat Party likes to talk the talk..

    But when it comes to walking the walk?? They are as intolerant as they accuse the GOP of being..

    It's not white people deciding, it's people of color. Latinos are supporting Sanders, and African Americans are choosing Biden, with white suburban voters following THEIR lead.

    Oh... So if black Americans and hispanic Americans choose to support President Trump, that proves President Trump is not racist..

    Is THAT yer claim??? :D

    Face reality, sunshine..

    The Democrat Party only pays lip service to "diversity" and "intersectionality"..

    When it comes to choosing their champion, they can't get the women or the colored people or the gay people out of the way fast enough.. :D

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    McConnell slams Schumer on Senate floor for controversial remarks directed at Supreme Court justices

    Democrats are REALLY in a bad place right now..

  28. [28] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    "Democrats are REALLY in a bad place right now.."

    Glad to see the shared delusion is still alive a kicking in the cheap seats. I'm happy to defer to ?????? (Michale in its original, Russian on this one, the more he thinks ????? (see above)is a shoe-in for re-election, the more likely his right-wing brethren will stay home on election day, secure in their own empty minds that ????? has got this and therefore their ballots are superfluous...

    ???? ????? & ??????????

  29. [29] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    *seems CW's page wont allow Cyrillic.

  30. [30] 
    Michale wrote:

    Glad to see the shared delusion is still alive a kicking in the cheap seats.

    Says the guy who is STILL deluded that President Trump colluded with the Russians..

    I have to ask.. You disappeared when yer ego took a HUGE beat down when President Trump was TOTALLY exonerated and vindicated by Mueller & Barr during your delusional Russia Collusion phase..

    How is your ego going to handle when President Trump has a landslide re-election and Democrats lose the House???

    *seems CW's page wont allow Cyrillic.

    But it DOES allow morons and idiots, which explains your presence here... :D

  31. [31] 
    Michale wrote:

    I mean, let's take stock, 'Nuck... Can I call you 'Nuck??

    You predicted that Hillary would win the Presidency..

    EPIC fail..

    You predicted that President Trump would be frog marched from the oval office.

    EPIC fail..

    Where did you EVER have a factually accurate prediction???

  32. [32] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    The olive garden offers pie, so obviously it's well ahead of the political curve.

  33. [33] 
    Michale wrote:

    Olive Pie???


  34. [34] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Pie is in the eye of the beholder.

    Spinach is the only thing Popeye eats more than Olive pie. :D

  35. [35] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I have to ask.. You disappeared when yer ego took a HUGE beat down when President Trump was TOTALLY exonerated and vindicated by Mueller & Barr during your delusional Russia Collusion phase..

    Wow! You are still crowing this propaganda bullshit that no believes, but are saying it because you think it pleases your Orange God.

    But I must give you credit, you did not completely lie...this time. That’s because instead of saying, “President Trump was TOTALLY exonerated and vindicated by Mueller,” as you typically do, this time you added ”& Barr.”

    Because Barr DID claim that Mueller’s investigation “totally exonerated and vindicated” Trump — but Barr was lying as anyone who bothered to actually read the Mueller report will attest to. So while you weren’t completely lying, you are actually still making claims that are dishonest. You have to lie, because there is no way to honestly defend Trump’s actions!

  36. [36] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kick [7] -

    Best pi day of the century was a few years back:

    nypoet22 [9] -

    "O LORD, bless this Thy hand grenade, that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits... in Thy mercy."

    Heh. That was always my favorite part...

    Michale [13] -

    So... still waiting for the news that Biden has dropped out...

    I mean, you told me it was going to happen, so it must be happening soon, right?

    (Heh. Couldn't resist.)

    [26] -

    I know not this "DEMOCRAT PARTY" you speak of... perhaps you meant the Democratic Party?

    James T Canuck [28] -

    Isn't "Mikhail" the name you're looking for? Heh...

    [29] -

    Oh, Cyrillic... sorry, I don't think we're Unicode compliant...

    Michale [31] -

    Still waiting for Biden to drop out, o master of predictions...


    Don Harris [34] -

    OK, now that was funny!



  37. [37] 
    Kick wrote:

    White people and old people are definitely a part of the diverse coalition that defines the Democratic Party, which is the Party that hasn't had a white male as their presidential candidate in 16 years -- circa 2004 -- and has never in the entire history of their Party chosen a septuagenarian as their presidential candidate.

    Anyone who claims there's no diversity in the remaining Democratic Party candidates quite obviously hasn't got a clue about historical events and is in dire need of cracking open some books.

    Education: It's the cure for what ails the terminally and perpetually ignorant and the gift that keeps on giving. :)

Comments for this article are closed.