The Democratic Presidential primary race appeared to be Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., vs. former Vice President Joe Biden in January, but with the first two major primaries past and two more to go before Super Tuesday, the proverbial leaderboard has been shaken, with Biden’s foundation marred with cracks.
During the early months of the primary race, Biden was seen as the most “electable” candidate, using his natural association with President Barack Obama to sell the idea that his administration would be a return to normalcy.
According to RealClearPolitics, Biden was polling between 24% and 32% nationally throughout January, with Sanders close behind, polling between 18% and 27% nationally.
However, his defeats by a wide margin in the Iowa Caucuses, where he came in fourth, and in the New Hampshire, where he came in fifth, have debased his former standing as the favored moderate candidate and led the campaign to place much of its hope in South Carolina, where Biden is popular with the older black voters who comprise a much larger portion Democratic Party there compared to Iowa and New Hampshire.
With Biden’s losses in predominantly white states, Northwest’s College Democrats President junior Spencer Owens said a loss in a southern state could be devastating to his chances.
“I think that the South Carolina primary is going to be one of the most exciting nights of this election season for that reason,” Owens said in an email from Jefferson City, Missouri. “The political life of VP Biden rests entirely on the shoulders of the Palmetto State.”
Following the New Hampshire primary Feb. 11, Biden dropped from 31% to 26% in South Carolina polls, according to RealClearPolitics. At the same time, Sanders made a 4% jump up to 21%. Billionaire Tom Steyer has steadily risen in South Carolina polls since January, sitting just below 17%.
“I still believe the Vice President will carry the state but not nearly by the margin he assumed he would at the beginning of February,” Owens said in an email.
Where former front-runners like Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Ma., have faltered, Sanders has continued climbing, with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg showing potential to fill Biden’s shoes as the lead moderate in the race.
“I think Senator Sanders has met or exceeded the expectations that were set for him many weeks ago,” Owens said in an email. “He won a commanding victory in New Hampshire and was able to nearly match Mayor Buttigieg’s delegate count out of Iowa. He has taken center stage as this race’s front runner, but shaky is the head that wears the crown.”
The Iowa Caucuses didn’t just deliver a blow to Biden, the reporting app fiasco that caused results to be announced days later could threaten the institution of caucuses and Iowa’s status as “first in the nation” for primary elections.
According to NPR, Head of the Iowa Democratic Party Troy Price resigned Feb. 12, saying “Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night” in his resignation letter.
“I think the issues revolving around this past caucus shined a bright light on the issue that Iowa does not represent the entirety of the Democratic Party,” Owens said in an email. “I would like to see the DNC choose a more diverse state in which to hold the first primary, so that all members of our party can have an early voice.”
Owens said he thinks many states will move away from caucuses and use a standard primary election system.
“The caucus system has been seen as archaic by many for quite a few years now, but we allowed them to continue because we found them to be a quirky idea that only a few states still employed,” Owens said in an email “I think the people of Iowa and of all caucus states would prefer to cast a ballot for their preferred candidate and ensure that their individual opinion was heard.”
The fate of primary caucuses may rest on the shoulders of the Nevada Democratic Party, which will host caucuses Feb. 22. The NDP originally planned to use the same Shadow Inc. app used in Iowa, but scrapped the plan following the app’s failure Feb. 3.
The NDP plans to use a “caucus calculator,” according to ABC News, on party-purchased iPads and will be accessed through "a secure Google web form." The calculator will be accessible only by trained precinct chairs.
However, the most telling day for the primary will be Super Tuesday, where Democrats in 14 states and abroad will cast their votes, comprising more than a third of all delegates for the Democratic National Convention.
March 3 could thin out the crowded, eight-candidate field before the Missouri Democratic primary March 10. Super Tuesday could deliver a swift blow to candidates like Biden and Warren.
It could also boost the campaign of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who will appear on ballots for the first time after pouring $350 million into advertising, according to the Washington Post.
“I haven’t the foggiest idea as to how this primary season will culminate,” Owens said in an email. “I think we are seeing one of the most contentious primaries since the Lyndon B. Johnson vs. John F. Kennedy primary of 1960. … I think there is an excellent chance that we may witness a brokered convention in which no candidate has enough delegate votes on the first ballot at the convention to acquire the nomination.”