It is not an exaggeration to say that this Tuesday, March 3, was a truly historic day in the history of American politics. The stunning outcome in the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries marked one of the most thrilling and unpredictable outcomes ever, one, as they say, for the history books.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s rise from the dead to take a decisive lead in the delegate count leading to the Democratic nomination for president this summer has been breathtaking, and very rare on the political landscape.
The wise Cajun Democratic strategist James Carville was right when he hailed the outcome by saying South Carolina U.S. Rep. James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden in that state’s primary last week literally “saved the Democratic Party.” It can be viewed as hardly an overstatement.
After underperforming fiascos in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden was on the ropes going into South Carolina, and the enthusiastic endorsement he received from Clyburn, which set in motion a get-out-the-vote mobilization in South Carolina especially among African-American voters turned into a rout in favor of Biden. He wound up winning every single county in the state, and that set off a new burst of energy for him nationally that then carried right into Super Tuesday in a most remarkable way.
Of course, Biden helped himself by picking himself up from his slow start with a significant increase in his energy level in his speeches beginning late in Nevada and carrying over to South Carolina. His own brand of home-grown, people-centered campaigning sparked the enthusiasm that grew for him in South Carolina, and carried over from there.
Before these developments emerged, the Democrats were in serious trouble, with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders surging to the lead in the first primaries and with polls showing he was about to pull off a blowout on Super Tuesday.
For many Democratic Party leaders, this spelled a potential disaster, as Sanders, despite his populist support among millennials in particular, refused to disassociate from his brand as an independent and socialist, which threatened, among other things, to destroy gains made by the Democrats in down-ballot races for the House and Senate.
There was also grave concern that he would be vulnerable in his own race against hated GOP incumbent Donald Trump.
Of course, these concerns continue to exist. While Super Tuesday provided an enormous boost to Biden and compelled him into the lead in the delegate race going into the convention, Sanders continues as a serious contender in what now has swiftly morphed into a two-person race for the nomination.
But it’s the powerful shift in the momentum that is the most decisive result from this week. If Biden can keep up his recent strident campaigning profile, he’s going to be very hard to stop from now on.
Kudos, too, to viable candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar for pulling out of the race to throw their support to Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday, and to Beto O’Rourke, too. They’d all built their own solid bases of support, reflected in the case of Buttigieg in a record turnout Tuesday among LGBTQ voters.
The real subject of the Super Tuesday surge, however, was none other than Trump, himself. The prospect of the re-election of worst president, by far, in the history of the U.S. proved too much for Democratic voters, who not only showed up for Biden as their newly-revived hope, but in unexpectedly big numbers, too.
If it turns into a fight between Trump and Biden, Biden will prevail with the help of a massively mobilized American electorate this fall.
Imagine had the work of the Democratic-controlled House Intelligence and other committees not uncovered the devious Trump plot to pin phony allegations on Biden over the Barisma case in Ukraine. Had that succeeded as Trump hoped, his most formidable foe would have been crippled by now.
So the effort leading to Tuesday’s result goes back to the work to flip the House in the 2018 midterm election that turned over 40 House seats and gave the Democrats the majority they needed.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]