What a whirlwind the world of politics has been the past couple of weeks. The Democratic Primary has quite literally done a 180 from where it was merely a week ago. Before Super Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had been viewed as the clear frontrunner in the quest for the Democratic nomination — having scored wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and having won decisively in the Nevada caucuses. Yet former Vice President Joe Biden netted a triumphant win in South Carolina by nearly 30 points in what couldn’t have been better timing for his campaign, as a poor showing in South Carolina likely would have spelled the end for his presidential ambitions. The blowout victory led to billionaire Tom Steyer, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to all drop out in quick succession — with Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsing Biden — which undoubtedly helped him on Super Tuesday, as the moderate wing of the Democratic Party all coalesced behind him. Sanders had partly benefited from multiple moderates being in the race who split votes between each other, but with a flood of endorsements behind him and less competition for votes with the likes of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, Biden ended Super Tuesday performing far better than anyone anticipated, winning ten out of fourteen states.
Sanders was partly marred by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren staying in the race, who also ran in the progressive lane and undoubtedly peeled votes away from him. Margins were close enough in states like Texas, Maine, and Massachusetts to where had Warren dropped out before Super Tuesday, Sanders could very well have netted wins in those states. Thus, the narrative of the primary would be different than it is now, where Biden is heavily favored to win the nomination. Big Tuesday on March 10 is make or break for the Sanders campaign, as six states hold their primaries and caucuses: Michigan, Idaho, Washington, Mississippi, Missouri, and North Dakota. Michigan, in particular, is make or break for Sanders — he pulled off a massive upset over Hillary Clinton there in 2016, and losing the state this time around would dramatically hinder his argument that he could perform better than Biden in mid-western battleground states that flipped to Trump in the general election. Democrats are focusing much of their efforts on key battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, as they were once perceived as reliably blue states that shocked the nation when they went to Trump four years ago. Democrats also have their sights set on states like Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida. Arizona, in particular, has shown signs of emerging as a critical purple state in the past few election cycles.
Since Super Tuesday, Warren and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have dropped out of the race, effectively making it a two-person battle between Biden and Sanders. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard remains in the race, despite generating virtually zero traction, stirring speculation that she’s at this point aiming for a pundit position at Fox News. While it’s too premature to call the primary for Biden, Sanders is going to need to score victories in critical states just to remain viable, while Biden is slated to clean up southern states as well as delegate-rich states like Florida and Illinois.
In some ways, it’s an echo of the 2016 Democratic primary, though if Sanders under-performs how he did in 2016 juxtaposed with Biden doing better than Clinton’s marks, I’d be hard-pressed to see this primary lasting until the very end as it did last go ’round. It could be over in a few weeks if Sanders doesn’t find new footing soon. What’s promising is that one of his top campaign surrogates, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has said that she’ll support the Democratic nominee regardless of whom it is — a sign that perhaps there will be more unity among Democrats going into this election than there was four years ago. It will be a necessity, as Democrats can’t enact an agenda without holding the House of Representatives and retaking the Senate.
There are promising signs of the Senate being in play, as polls show that Republican incumbents like Martha McSally of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Susan Collins of Maine are looking vulnerable going into November. As the primaries slog on, coronavirus has dominated public discourse. As of March 9, according to NBC News, there are more than 650 confirmed cases in the U.S., including 26 deaths.
NBC News also reports that containment measures are being applied to the entire country of Italy, where more than 9,000 people are confirmed to have the virus. Trump has been downplaying the virus, perhaps seeing it as a reelection hindrance should his administration’s handling of it be seen as subpar and not efficient.