I’m going to blow your mind twice to start this post. First, here was the state of the race just 10 days before Super Tuesday:
— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) March 4, 2020
He was favored to win one. He ended up winning all 10. There’s momentum, there’s major momentum, and then there’s whatever the hell is happening with Joe right now.
Second, gaze upon these new numbers from Florida and bear in mind that this lead is more likely to increase than decrease before the state votes on March 17.
Eight days ago Biden led by single digits and was polling under 35 percent. Today: 61/12. That surge is partly due to the demise of Bloomberg 2020, which explains why this new lead is likely to climb. Bloomy still has the support of 14 percent here (more than Bernie!), as the pol was conducted partly before he quit the race yesterday. The vast majority of his votes will go to Joe, meaning that 70 percent of the vote isn’t out of the question for Biden.
Partly too, though, this is a matter of undecideds hopping off the fence and siding with Biden. The last poll had the race 34/25/13 among Biden, Bloomberg, and Sanders, respectively, a total of 72 percent. That means 28 percent of the vote was scattered among also-ran candidates or the “don’t know” column. Today the combined Biden, Bloomberg, and Sanders take is 87 percent. More than half of the voters who were holding out or voting for someone else in the last poll have made up their minds now, and they’re all but uniformly choosing Biden.
Bernie’s heavy breathing about literacy rates in Cuba under socialism at the last debate didn’t help either:
In new #AxeFiles, fmr FL Gov nominee @AndrewGillum says @BernieSanders praise of Castro will spur @JoeBiden rout in 3/17 primary. Quoting FL Hispanic leader: “It was like listening to Trump after Charlottesville say there were good people on both sides.”https://t.co/oZMsoGhyTk pic.twitter.com/NbEOIzchCQ
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 5, 2020
Cuban-Americans were only three percent of the Democratic primary electorate in Florida four years ago but it may be that their righteous hatred of Castro has influenced the wider population’s views there, creating a special liability for Sanders in Florida. Or it may be that Florida Democrats view this through a lens of electability: Even if praising Castro isn’t a dealbreaker for Dem voters, it’s certainly a dealbreaker for many swing voters in Florida, Cuban-American or otherwise. Florida Democrats obviously want to turn their state blue this fall, a heavy lift in an era when it’s been trending red. Biden, a centrist and former VP to a guy who won the state twice, gives them a fighting chance to do it. Sanders does not. The sharp break towards Joe is probably aimed at preserving the state’s battleground status, forcing Trump to spend money to win there instead of just pointing to the Democratic nominee’s Castro comments and winning the state in a walkover.
As for the primary, let me remind you that Florida is a populous state with a big chunk of pledged delegates at stake — 219, almost as many as Texas. And right now Bernie Sanders isn’t even at the 15 percent threshold that would earn him a piece of them. Biden’s going to take a major leap forward in the national delegate race by blowing out Sanders here. That’s why Bernie’s running that new ad in Florida showing Obama praising him — it’s not because the overall outcome in the state is any way in doubt, it’s purely because he’s straining to hit the 15 percent mark and hold down Biden’s delegate windfall to whatever small extent he can.
Something else to think about. There are six more primaries between now and the 17th, when Florida votes. Biden just landed a key endorsement in one of them, with the governor of Michigan hopping aboard. Michigan was Bernie’s biggest win of the 2016 primary cycle. If, hypothetically, Biden were to sweep next week’s states and polls suddenly showed him poised to win Florida 80/13 or whatever, might Bernie drop out? Democrats grudgingly tolerated a long run from him in 2016 because Trump was wreaking havoc on the GOP primaries at the same time and was expected to be a weak opponent in the fall. A long run from Sanders this year with no hope of catching Biden would be far more irritating to party leaders since it would risk weakening Biden while a formidable incumbent president looms in the general election. Not only that, Bernie himself has said already that the candidate with a plurality of delegates should be the nominee at the convention if no one gets a majority. A Biden sweep next week plus a landslide in Florida will all but guarantee that Joe will have no worse than a plurality in Milwaukee. What does Bernie do once the math says he can’t catch Biden?