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Joe Biden's Only Chance to Recover and Consolidate Moderates Will Be Stymied by ... Tom Steyer

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | February 24, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | February 24, 2020 |


I think it’s awesome that South Carolina has its Democratic primary on a Saturday when everyone can get out and vote, but with only three days remaining until super Tuesday, it may not be enough time for the moderates to figure their sh*t out and stop cannibalizing each other ahead of Super Tuesday. If they don’t, Bernie is going to run away with it a week from tomorrow when he gets the majority of the progressive votes in delegate-rich, diverse states like Texas, California, and Colorado, while moderate voters continue to apportion their votes between Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and … Steyer.

Weirdly, it’s billionaire Tom Steyer who may present the biggest challenge to Joe Biden consolidating the moderate wing of the party after South Carolina. The South Carolina Democratic Party is 60 percent Black, and Biden has held a steady lead among Black voters in South Carolina, thanks in part to his relationship with Barack Obama. However, Biden has struggled in debates, he’s struggled mightily in Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Nevada, where he came in second but lost by 27 points. He’s also apparently been taking South Carolina for granted. He hasn’t been visiting as much as he should (he hasn’t been to York County, home to about 15 percent of the state’s Democratic voters, since last August!) while Bernie’s ground game in South Carolina has been impressive.

The polls in South Carolina show a tightening race, and while Biden is still likely to win there, it won’t be a commanding victory, and he won’t run away with the Black vote. Part of the reason why is Bernie’s surge, as well as Bernie’s organizing efforts. The other part of the reason is … Tom Steyer, who polls show has 24 percent of the Black vote and is running third in the state.

In other words, neither Klobuchar nor Buttigieg are factors there, but Steyer is, so if he fares moderately well, he’s just one more moderate to toss into the Super Tuesday mix, along with Bloomberg, who will start to show up on all the ballots next Tuesday.

It’s still possible that Warren saps some support away from Bernie. She’s still running second nationally (though, no one ever talks about that!) and second in California, where there are a lot more progressives than moderates, and her debate performance gave her a strong shot in the arm (there’s another debate this week, too, ahead of the South Carolina primary).

In all likelihood, however, Biden is not going to run away with it in South Carolina, so none of the moderates are going to drop out. That means Bernie probably gets 45 percent of Super Tuesday’s delegates, Warren gets 10 percent, and Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and Bloomberg split the rest. After that, everyone probably drops out except Biden and Bloomberg, and good luck moderates trying to fire up Biden and Bloomberg’s “Our Candidate Kind of Sucks But He Has the Best Chance to Beat Trump” supporters the rest of the way.

Really makes you wish Kamala were still in this, huh? She’d have stolen the, “I’m afraid of Bernie but don’t care for Biden/Buttigieg” vote that Klobuchar got in New Hampshire, but she’d have actually had a chance in South Carolina, and the moderates would probably be lining up behind her right now. I’d have loved to have seen her and Warren double team Bloomberg in the debates, too. It would have been beautiful to behold.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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