(1) The lanes are real. Here is something I was not right about: I always thought that the “lane” theory of primaries was a mistake, that the lanes only existed in the heads of campaign managers. I believed that voters behave in weird and unpredictable ways and that you don’t need to fixate on winning your lane—you need to fixate on winning votes.
The results we’ve seen in this race since Nevada suggest that the lanes were real. Sanders owned the progressive lane while Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar were splitting the moderate lane. When Mayor Pete and Klobo dropped out, the consolidation moved overwhelmingly to Biden.
But I would add an important caveat: Even if the lanes are real, campaigns should pretend they aren’t.
Iowa and New Hampshire were always going to be tough states for Biden. But unlike campaigns in past cycles that simply declined to play in the early states where they thought they would perform badly, Biden competed, hard. He played to win, even though the main body of voters in those states were outside his lane.