Super Tuesday Lesson: Biden's Back, Big League

Posted: Mar 04, 2020 9:15 AM

The political world started to get an indication of just how good of a night it would be for Joe Biden just after 8pm ET.  Virginia had been called instantly for him an hour earlier, with North Carolina projections following suit at the bottom of the hour; the Tar Heel State was at least supposed to be close.  It wasn't.  Then Massachusetts was declared too close to call -- not because Elizabeth Warren was in a tight battle to win her home state, but because Biden was locked in a close fight with Sanders.  More dominoes started to fall.  The South went solidly for the former Vice President, whose strength among black voters and suburbanites dwarfed Sanders' traditional bases of support.  When Minnesota fell to Biden (Klobuchar's drop-out and endorsement was clearly decisive), Biden demonstrated that his appeal extended beyond states with heavily African-American primary electorates.  

If Minnesota was a tremor, the first real earthquake of the night was Biden winning Massachusetts outright.  The landscape shook again when he completed a comeback victory delegate-rich state of Texas.  Just as importantly, even where Bernie was winning, Biden was hitting viability thresholds, thus holding down Bernie's delegate hauls.  California landed solidly in Sanders' column, as expected, and it his winnings there will certainly help him stay in the thick of the hunt (although the exact margins and delegate count will likely take some time to sort out, given the state's interminable vote-counting process).  But the story of the night was Joe Biden's resurgence.  He has, in my estimation, reclaimed his national frontrunner status.  Here's why:

Aside from Bernie, who won't go gracefully into the night, the only person standing in Biden's way is Biden himself.  He could have more terrible moments in debates or on the trail, hindering his momentum.  More twists and turns are sure to come.  But it's hard not to see his path to the nomination as the most straightforward -- or at least seriously enhanced -- coming out of this monster performance.  How did it all unfold?  Roughly two weeks ago, we wrote that any semblance of a Biden comeback would have to start with a second place finish in Nevada, followed by a strong victory in South Carolina.  He hit both of those benchmarks.  Many people are rightly crediting Jim Clyburn's endorsement of Biden as a game-changing moment in the campaign, helping the struggling erstwhile frontrunner to make a needed show of force.  Fair enough.

But as writer Josh Barro (quoted above) shrewdly noted, the real turning point was Elizabeth Warren's evisceration of Michael Bloomberg in the early stages of the Vegas debate.  Over those excruciating few minutes, the mirage of Bloomberg as a white knight 'savior' for the center-left evaporated, almost instantly undoing any progress Bloomberg had purchased with nine-figures of ad buys.  The table was then set for many within the party to 'come home' to Joe.  All Biden had to do was have a decent debate of his own, then solidly meet or surpass expectations in South Carolina.  Mission accomplished, and it was off to the races.  Biden, running on financial fumes and with little organization, rode a wave of positive press to a Super Tuesday romp:  

We told you yesterday that the data and indications on the ground were looking strong for Biden, which turned out to be an understatement.  The Great Consolidation absolutely helped, too:

Late deciders broke heavily for Biden across the map.  Some additional thoughts from a memorable election night:

(1) Michael Bloomberg will "reassess" his campaign today, according to multiple reports (UPDATE: He's out, and backing Biden, likely with lots of resources).  He has no rationale to stay in the race.  His entire raison d'etre was to stop Bernie because Biden was too weak.  That is gone.  The Nevada debate killed it.  Bloomberg has spent more than $500 million of his own money to prevail in a nominating process in which he's unlikely to carry a single state.  Another body blow to the "money in politics" panic:

How much more cash is he willing to set on fire?

(2) What an abject humiliation for Elizabeth Warren.  She finished in third place in her own home state.  That's almost as extraordinary as Biden actually winning it.  As a persistent critic of Warren, her implosion has admittedly been a true pleasure to watch.  She may trudge ahead with a zombie campaign, but she's done.  She took out Bloomberg, and if she sticks around, she may put a stake in Sanders, too.  Have a chuckle at this fundraising plea featuring, er, "momentum" (UPDATE: She's now in the ominous "assessing" phase).

(3) Sanders enjoyed a period of about a week in which he may have manuevered to build an unstoppable head of steam toward Milwaukee.  Instead, he railed against the establishment and praised Fidel Castro.  Scowling radicalism, all the way down.  This did not inspire confidence among some people who may have been trying to reconcile themselves to a Sanders nomination.  A fire was lit, and his campaign may get consumed by it.  Above all else, however, this is Bernie's biggest problem:

His electability argument has sustained a number of blows, while Biden's has been revived.  I'll leave you with my moment of satisfaction from last night, followed by a demographic warning about where the Democratic Party remains headed, despite last night's enjoyable and relieving rejection of socialism: