In the words of MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews, yes, “It is over.” Joe Biden, once considered to be the frontrunner of the race, has bet the farm on what he described as his’ ‘firewall” in South Carolina. This time for Joe Biden, his proximity to Barack Obama was enough to earn him the favor of the state’s large African American voting bloc. But even after his crushing victory in South Carolina, it’s hard to see a path forward for the former Vice President.
Joe Biden staked his entire campaign on the argument that he was the only candidate capable of ousting Trump from office, an argument that quickly unraveled as he dramatically underperformed in the first 2 contests. In desperation, Biden then began funneling all of his time, energy, and resources into the South Carolina primary where a dominant victory forged no path forward. His first place finish in South Carolina will certainly give Biden a burst of positive media coverage Monday morning, but 24 hours later, attention will quickly turn to the Super Tuesday states Biden hasn’t campaigned in for months. Saturday’s primary will act as Bunker Hill victory for Biden; he won the battle but it cost him the war.
So what happened? How could the campaign of a former Vice President, seeking the nomination from a party who has prioritized nothing for the past 4 years other than undermining and unseating President Donald Trump? For starters, in a rather peculiar fashion, no one, not the political pundits on television or the candidates challenging him for the nomination, have pointed out what voters can clearly see, Joe Biden quite simply does not possess the cognitive ability to be president. Liberal pundits are quick to play home psychologist when it comes to Donald Trump, speculating about his narcissistic personality disorder, or his manic personality changes. And candidates were quick to pounce when Senator Bernie Sanders was hospitalized with a heart attack, hammering him over his medical records on the debate stage.
This is not about age or ideology, as candidates like Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, each 78 years old, remain in much better cognitive shape than 77 year old Biden , and it’s painfully obvious. We wouldn’t want Joe Biden behind the wheel of a school bus, let alone the world’s most powerful nation. Forgetting where he is,babbling incoherently on the debate stage, lying blatantly about his record, not to mention his history of being a little grabby. None of which have been challenged at any point over the course of the primary. Even Senator Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the party’s left flank, have been remarkably soft on Biden, perhaps out of courtesy because his cognitive shape is so blatantly compromised. Perhaps they all could see the collapse coming and didn’t think it was worth the political capital to go after him on the debate stage and grapple with charges of being a Trumpian Bully.
Biden’s poor public speaking and sequence of cringey gaffes at campaign events caused donors to lose faith in him. Donors once ready to open their wallets to Biden quickly began writing checks to Pete Buttigieg, who became a favorite in the race among the wealthy and siphoned away much of the funding Biden’s campaign was counting on. Fanning the flames of his campaigns financial woes was Biden himself, who according to the FEC, chartered nearly a million dollars worth of private air travel in the third quarter of 2019 alone. Bad turned to worse when Mike Bloomberg, so unconvinced that any of the centrists had what it took to secure the nomination, jumped in the race and began blanketing the airwaves. The math then became clear to donors, why would they donate to Biden if Bloomberg is just going to buy it for them?
Whatever the case, there’s no time left to pretend Joe Biden will have any more moments in the sun. In fact, when looking specifically towards Super Tuesday, Biden’s support is bleeding badly where it counts. Polls in California, the biggest prize of the day with 415 delegates up for grabs, show Sanders with a commanding lead, while RCP averages show Biden dragging below viability at 14%. Perhaps more troubling for the campaign than the looming threat of forfeiting any share of delegates in California is his polling in Texas, a state Biden needed to win desperately and one of the states Sanders struggled to win back in 2016. In the four years since the tides have changed and Sanders now boasts a comfortable 9 point lead in a state where the Vermont Senator has managed to galvanize first time Hispanic and Latino voters, who make up a significant, under polled voting bloc.
Even in states where Biden is positioned to win on Tuesday, like Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the delegate pools are too small to compensate for the states where he will likely receive no delegates, like California, Massachusetts,Colorado, Minnesota, and Vermont, where the candidate is likely to come in below viability. This leaves the door wide open for Sanders to not only claim victories in states he is expected to win, but he can also come in with a brush and broom and pick up delegates in second place victories wherever he can’t secure a win. A crowded race where many candidates finish consistently below the 15% viability threshold only stands to benefit Sanders by closing the delegate gap in states where voters are more likely to resist his messaging. Had the pool narrowed to 2 or 3 candidates by Super Tuesday, Biden would have a better chance at cleaning up among Southern, more moderate electorates as it stands, Klobuchar, Warren, and Bloomberg all plan to fight on.