Potentially wild sprint ahead in Democratic race
The months-long slog leading to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are now behind the Democratic candidates. What awaits is a sprint that could do much to determine the nominee.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg have the wind at their backs heading to Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, following their performances in New Hampshire last week. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also are well positioned.
The same cannot be said for former Vice President Joe Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Their campaigns, once promising, are flagging badly after New Hampshire.
Warren finished fourth in her neighboring state and Biden came in fifth. Both won single-digit percentages of the vote. Biden knew it was coming — he exited the state before the votes were counted and headed to South Carolina, whose primary is Feb. 29 and where he hopes to do well.
South Carolina’s primary will be followed three days later by Super Tuesday, when 14 states, including Oklahoma, hold their primaries or caucuses.
Biden’s decision to bail on New Hampshire was criticized by many pundits. “Leaving like this,” said Jim Merrill, a strategist and veteran of many Republican campaigns in New Hampshire, “just says to the world, ‘My campaign is toast.’”
Biden believes otherwise, although that may be bluster. The Real Clear Politics polling averages have him trailing Sanders in Nevada but leading the field by a wide margin in South Carolina. However, Sanders leads nationally with 23.6%, followed by Biden (19.2%), Bloomberg (14.2%) Warren (12.4%) and Buttigieg (10.6%).
And in the RCP betting odds to win the nomination, Sanders is at 39.2%, Bloomberg at 34.5%, Buttigieg at 12.6% — and Biden at a lowly 9.4%.
Buttigieg has been building momentum for some time. He turned that into a narrow victory over Sanders in Iowa, then he gave Sanders a scare in the popular vote in New Hampshire — where Sanders beat Hillary Clinton decisively four years ago. Buttigieg and Sanders each won nine of the 24 available New Hampshire delegates. Klobuchar took the other six by finishing third.
Klobuchar’s good showing came a few days after she performed well in the latest Democratic debate. But will her run continue?
The weeks ahead will help determine whether Democratic voters align with the far left of the party (Sanders) or more moderate voices (Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bloomberg, Biden). Moderate is a relative term, given how far left the party has tilted since the progressive Obama administration.
Former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is among those who believe a moderate will win out. However, she also noted on NBC’s “Today” show that after Super Tuesday, about half the delegates will still be up for grabs.
“Buckle up,” she said. Good advice.