Tuesday, May 28, 2024
19.8 C

Full of potential, but it’s going to be a while

At I/O 2024, Google’s teaser for ...

X is changing how the block button works

Elon Musk has made no secret that...

Explaining the Joe Biden Wave on Super Tuesday

OtherExplaining the Joe Biden Wave on Super Tuesday

Joe Biden continued his remarkable political comeback by winning a number of states across the country on Super Tuesday, giving his campaign a lead in pledged delegates and establishing him as the clear front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Only four days earlier, the former Vice-President had still not won a single primary. But after a huge victory in South Carolina on Saturday—and endorsements from the former candidates Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke—he saw his poll numbers rise nationwide. On Tuesday, he beat Bernie Sanders decisively in Southern states such as Virginia and Alabama, as well as in less diverse places, like Minnesota. He even triumphed over both Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, and in Texas, where Sanders had once been favored.

To discuss the results, I spoke by phone with Harry Enten, a senior political writer and analyst for CNN. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how Biden was able to pull off his surge, what Michael Bloomberg’s campaign can tell us about money in Presidential politics, and what we can learn from Tuesday’s turnout numbers.

Can you think of any equivalent in modern American political history to the speed with which Joe Biden turned this race around?

I think that there might be two—one that worked out and one that didn’t. But I will give you both of them. I think the first one is 2008 on the Democratic side. If you look at the polling pre-South Carolina and post-South Carolina, you see that Barack Obama erased about a ten-point deficit to pull into almost a tie in the national polls—and that is basically what happened in the Super Tuesday result in 2008. He basically came out to a delegate tie, and that was good enough, because he expanded upon that when he had more favorable states later that month.

The other one, which probably in all honesty doesn’t get as much play, but I was leaning on quite heavily leading into this Election Night, was the Republicans in 2012. You may recall that Newt Gingrich in that year basically came out of nowhere to win the South Carolina primary. Biden didn’t come out of nowhere, but the momentum of him coming up seemed to make no sense. Why would Biden get momentum after losing Nevada by a significant margin? And in 2012, on the Republican side, Gingrich used that South Carolina win and jumped to about a five-to-ten-point lead in the national polls and the Florida polls, which was the next primary. All of this happened in about forty-eight hours, just like the current Biden boom.

The difference was that it was only about a week until the Florida primary, and Gingrich was not well liked by the establishment, and so they went after him with knives. And there were two debates between South Carolina and Florida. And in this particular case there wasn’t that. Biden had forty-eight hours, the results came, the establishment liked Biden and rallied around him, so he was able to take advantage of the big boom in support.

To take a step back, though, did I phrase that wrong? Did Biden not so much turn it around as simply survive until he found himself on more demographically favorable terms?

I think that is certainly not a bad way to phrase it. African-Americans had been the main reason why Biden had done so well in national polls, and specifically black voters in the South. And those voters were very favorable toward Clinton in 2016, in just the way they seem to have been favorable to Biden on this particular evening. That being said, Clinton did very well with black voters in Nevada in 2016; Joe Biden only won black voters in Nevada by ten points. Those two results don’t jibe with each other. Yes, it is true that African-Americans in the North and West weren’t as favorable to Clinton as African-Americans in the South, but not in the same sort of margin that you saw shift from Nevada to South Carolina. So, I think, certainly, it was that it was more demographically favorable, but I also think it is that black voters had more of Biden’s back than in Nevada.

Also, white voters with a college degree, and specifically white women with a college degree, had basically been splitting their voters fairly evenly. This is a group that Klobuchar did very well with in New Hampshire, for example. And then you hit South Carolina, and all of a sudden Biden is running away with that group. So it is demographically more favorable, but it is also the case that Biden basically improved across the board.

What about the campaign has surprised you over the past few days?

In Nevada, Bernie Sanders wins a majority of the delegates. And you are thinking: Joe Biden’s lead in South Carolina is falling, and there were a bunch of polls published before Nevada, and he was basically up by maybe five points. And all of a sudden there was one poll, that Public Policy poll, that came out that Monday that had Biden up fifteen. That seemed odd. And then a second and third poll. And then a Monmouth poll had Biden up twenty points. This was before the James Clyburn endorsement. It was before the debate. So something happened there. I don’t know what. Either the polling was always underestimating Biden, or maybe that second-place Nevada finish was good enough. And people were searching for an alternative to Sanders, and they didn’t know who that alternative was, and, finally, when they were pushed in that direction, voters just said, “O.K., we are going with that.”

I think, obviously, there was a question as to whether or not Sanders had a ceiling. I honestly did not believe he did, especially with his favorable ratings being quite high. But these results are certainly suggestive of the fact that there was a group of voters who were not necessarily voting for Biden and did not want Sanders, and, when it became clear that Biden was the Sanders alternative, they came rushing back.

In terms of how different demographic groups voted, or in terms of over-all turnout, what were your biggest takeaways from Tuesday?

There is going to be a lot of focus, and rightly so, on Biden’s strength in the Southeast—he obviously did well in North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee—but you find me someone who thought Joe Biden was going to win in Massachusetts and Minnesota a week ago, and I might as well ask them for the lottery numbers. And he is going to be dead even in Maine at the end of the evening. So I think Biden’s strength in Northern industrial states, and with working-class white voters in the North, is a big difference from Clinton back in 2016.

If you are talking turnout, there has been all this talk about how Sanders wants to make the play that he is going to bring new voters into the process and win that way. Well, obviously, there haven’t been that many new voters brought into the process in a number of the early states, at least until Tuesday evening. But look at a state like Virginia, where the turnout was nearly double what it was four years ago. And where were those new voters? Those new voters were in the suburbs. And who was winning those voters? Joe Biden. That is the same thing that happened in South Carolina. If you look at how the Democrats won the midterms, it was winning those more moderate voters in the suburbs. They seem to be turning out in larger numbers, and they are supporting Joe Biden, which kind of flips the turnout argument on its head.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles