I don’t know if there’s anything to say in this post that wasn’t said in yesterday’s post. Second verse, same as the first: It suuuuuure looks like the Biden comeback in South Carolina is real.
Which is the opposite of what I would have expected after Bernie ran the table in the first three states. In particular, his surprising blowout in Nevada had every indication of Democrats nationally beginning to warm up to him and accept him as a viable nominee. South Carolina would be the fourth and final domino to fall, and that would be that. Instead Biden’s gone from an average of 23.3 percent in SC on February 22nd to 34.3 percent today — 10 points in five days, all amid hype that Bernie had at last solved his problems with black voters by performing well among that group in Nevada. Unless there’s a massive polling error here, clearly late-deciders are coming home to Joe.
So South Carolina really does look like it’ll be a firewall for him, for a brief moment at least. New from Monmouth:
Among South Carolina voters who are likely to participate in the Democratic primary on Saturday, support currently stands at 36% for Biden, 16% for Sanders, and 15% for Steyer. Candidates who currently fall below the statewide delegate viability threshold include Elizabeth Warren (8%), Pete Buttigieg (6%), Amy Klobuchar (4%), and Tulsi Gabbard (1%). Another 15% of likely primary voters remain undecided and do not lean toward any candidate at this time.
“A key metric for Biden in this make-or-break state is that his support appears to be firm. There is still a large chunk of the electorate who are undecided, but they are mainly moderate black voters. That’s a group that tends to like Biden,” said Murray.
He’s sitting on a 20-point lead with reason to believe that lead will grow once the remaining undecideds make up their minds. Forty percent suddenly isn’t out of the question, exactly the sort of dunk he needs to build hype before Super Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bernie’s sitting right at the brink of the 15-percent viability threshold for delegates. If he’s going to lose badly in SC, he’d at least like to get a delegate haul out of it. Might not happen. In fact…
New #SC2020 poll from SC-based political firm Starboard Communications (1,102 likely Dem primary voters; Feb 26; MoE +/- 2.82%)
Biden – 40%
Steyer – 12%
Sanders – 11%
Warren – 9%
Buttigieg – 9%
Klobuchar – 6%
Gabbard – 2%
Undecided – 12%
(54% watched the #DemDebate in Charleston)
— Andy Shain (@AndyShain) February 27, 2020
It’s not just South Carolina that’s seeing a Biden resurgence either. New from St. Pete Polls’s latest survey of Florida:
It’s surprising what a nonfactor Sanders has been there. Obviously Biden took a hit over the past few weeks from his bad showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, with Bloomberg benefiting, but it looks like Bloomy’s evisceration by Elizabeth Warren at the first debate hurt him badly. A YouGov national poll today finds that Bloomberg’s favorable rating among Democrats went from 53/38 before the debate to 41/53 now. Sources “close to and involved with” his campaign are whispering to Politico that they’re “concerned” about his recent internal polling in Super Tuesday states. The public polling isn’t great either, with Bloomberg third in North Carolina, sixth in Minnesota, way behind in Texas, and largely irrelevant in California despite having spent $60 million in that state alone to try to nuke Sanders. He can and will still hurt Biden by siphoning off moderate votes next week; in fact, Monmouth found that 25 percent of South Carolina voters would be at least “somewhat likely” to vote for Bloomy if he were on the ballot there. But the Bloomberg moment may have passed already.
Biden’s the obvious beneficiary. Nate Silver looks ahead and wonders what a Joe landslide on Saturday might mean for the rest of the primaries:
In the scenario above — after a big South Carolina win — Biden would be the plurality favorite in every Southern state on Super Tuesday, namely: Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas…
Moreover, in this scenario, commentators could rightly point out that Biden and Bloomberg had more combined delegates (630) than Sanders (578). Furthermore, the broader moderate lane — Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — would have more combined delegates (766) than Sanders and Warren (726). That could give credence to the theory that the majority of Democrats did not want a nominee as progressive as Sanders.
Bernie’s still going to win California, which is the big prize, but Silver notes that because CA takes so long to count its votes there may not be as much buzz on the evening of Super Tuesday for him as there is for Biden if Joe sweeps the southern states. It’s also possible, if not likely, that a Biden landslide on Saturday will convince Amy Klobuchar that it’s hopeless at this point and might accelerate Pete Buttigieg’s eventual exit from the race, both of which are important to Biden in trying to consolidate the centrist vote. He’s already leaning on them to take a hint: “They would have to consider dropping out, not because I want them to or anybody else does, but because the victories and losses are going to dictate it… How do you stay in if you have demonstrated you can’t get any African American support?”
But there’s also a reason to be skeptical of Biden’s chances in Super Tuesday states: Namely, he hasn’t made much of an effort. (“Yet a number of Democratic state chairmen and other party leaders said in the last week that outreach from Mr. Biden continued to be light. Some said they had not heard from Mr. Biden personally…”) He doesn’t have Bernie’s or Bloomberg’s cash or organization, which is why he’s so dependent on an impressive win in South Carolina. He needs the media to be his advertisers by spending the 72 hours between Saturday and Tuesday buzzing about him. Maybe that’ll be enough to fulfill Silver’s prediction, but I keep thinking of Newt Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina back in 2012. Remember that? Romney and Santorum essentially tied in Iowa, then Romney won comfortably in New Hampshire. He was poised to wrap up the nomination in South Carolina but Newt, from neighboring Georgia, came storming back thanks to a strong debate and won by double digits. For a moment it looked like we were headed for a long primary, with Romney consolidating business-class Republicans while Gingrich consolidated Romney-skeptical grassroots conservatives.
Then Romney won Florida by 15 points and that was that. Between Sanders’s strength and Bloomberg’s cash, I’m not sure we’re not headed for something similar this year. Joe gets his big “momentum-generating” win in South Carolina and suddenly finds that … it just doesn’t carry over to other states. It should carry over: Biden’s strength with black voters should translate into strong showings across the south, especially with Bloomberg beginning to fade. But it’s easy to imagine him and Bloomy splitting black voters and white moderates (especially with lots of ballots banked for Bloomberg via early voting) while Bernie’s GOTV effort pushes him to surprisingly higher numbers across the board. It’s hard, intuitively, to imagine a candidate like Joe who’s been underwhelming on the trail, who’s underfunded, who’s not running a first-class operation, somehow roaring back to beat the Bloomberg machine and the Sanders movement. It’s hard. But maybe it’s possible?