If these numbers hold, it would be a recipe for political chaos heading into Super Tuesday. If Buttigieg wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he would still have trouble translating those wins into the traditional momentum front-running candidates receive. The demographic makeup of the Nevada and South Carolina Democratic electorates would be kryptonite for a candidate who has struggled with outreach to black voters, despite valiant efforts. At the same time, a Buttigieg victory in Iowa would mean Warren underperformed in her most favorable state, badly damaging the campaign of another front-runner.
Warren and Sanders would face similar difficulty translating early success into later momentum. Both have made some inroads with younger black activists, but their outspoken progressivism hasn’t found a broader audience among one of the party’s most-moderate constituencies.
Biden looks like the only candidate who would be able to put the nomination away quickly, if he wins or comes close in Iowa and New Hampshire while sealing his good fortune in the subsequent two states. But it’s just as likely that Biden underwhelms in Iowa—where several polls place him in fourth place—which could lead to a panic in New Hampshire and a wide-open presidential nomination fight to come. That would be the scenario that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is anticipating as he prepares for his own possible last-minute bid.