Former Vice President Joe Biden’s ten-state victory upended the Democratic race, ended the campaigns of Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. His big Super Tuesday victory sets up a Democratic presidential race between Biden and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, limping along with one delegate.
How will the rest of the 2020 Democratic race look? Will it be like 2008 and 2016 when the two leading candidates slugged it out through the primary process even though delegate math showed they losing candidate did not have a chance. Or will it be like 2004 when Democrats consolidated their votes behind their nominee? We’ll have a very good idea after the next primary day.
Six states will vote Tuesday, March 10. Idaho and Washington are among the four states voting that voted for Senator Sanders in 2016, and their votes this time will tell us whether we’re in for a repeat in 2020.
Based on how the race has gone so far, it seems safe to assume Biden will win Missouri and Mississippi, the two states that went for Hillary Clinton. Given his win in Minnesota and the much larger population of moderate blacks in Michigan, it’s likely Biden will also win the state that Sanders carried narrowly in an upset four years ago. While a repeat victory for Sanders with the very-white Democratic electorate in North Dakota is a possibility, it’s Washington and Idaho that are the most likely prizes for Sanders.
Both are in the West, the only region where Sanders won outside of his home state of Vermont on Tuesday. Both have relatively small Black populations, and both states’ Democratic parties have been trending pretty far left. Washington Democrats have been moving further to the left, led by Seattle progressives. In Idaho, the North End of Boise and Sun Valley, two very left-wing constituencies, dominate the Idaho Democratic Party.
If Sanders can win both states, it’s conceivable he also wins North Dakota. However, the rest of March looks like a horror film for Sanders. In 2016, he lost all of the four states that will vote on March 17. The only one he might have a chance to improve in is Arizona, with his better standing among Hispanic voters, but there’s little chance he wins. He’ll lose Georgia and likely Puerto Rico in routs.
His best chance comes in April. If he can win party-run primaries in Alaska and Hawaii and the Wyoming caucuses, he’ll capture three of four contests that vote on April 4. Then if he can follow that up with a win in Wisconsin the following Tuesday, he can hope that early April momentum will carry over and allow him to upset Biden on April 28 in enough states to make this a fight in May and June.
If all this works out (and there are possible complications in this best-case scenario), I doubt Sanders wins the nomination. However, he, at least, will present a credible challenge. None of that is going to happen if he loses Washington and Idaho.
Losses in these states may make enough progressives ready to unite behind Joe Biden and begin the general election campaign. Sanders and his supporters could then expect an ever-shrinking return on the time and money invested in the campaign. Maybe Sanders wins the Oregon Primary or some other random contest, but if Vice President Biden wins Idaho and Washington, he’ll be the Democratic nominee with little further difficulty from Senator Sanders.