Super Tuesday Showdown: What Wins, the People or the Machine?
With moderates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg bowing out and endorsing Joe Biden, will the political establishment capture more voters than the grassroots energy behind Bernie Sanders?
After Joe Biden’s massive victory in South Carolina, establishment Democrats have coalesced around the former Vice President’s campaign in an attempt to halt the momentum of Senator Bernie Sanders after his victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
15 contests are up for grabs on Super Tuesday with delegate-rich California and Texas on the line.
Two days before Super Tuesday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg suspended his campaign after a surprise delegate win in Iowa along with a strong finish in New Hampshire. Super Tuesday polling was looking bleak for Buttigieg who failed to build a viable campaign nationally.
Perhaps more surprising, Senator Amy Klobuchar suspended her campaign Monday, and alongside Buttigieg, endorsed Joe Biden at a Texas rally. Klobuchar had a shot at winning her home state Minnesota before calling it quits.
Endorsements from establishment Democrats have been pouring in since Biden’s first victory including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, and former primary rival Beto O’Rourke. Biden’s campaign was boosted in South Carolina by the all-important endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn.
No individual endorsement is likely to equal the effect of Clyburn’s, and it remains to be seen how much they shift the playing field heading into states where competitor Bernie Sanders has had a ground game for months and strong polling numbers.
Nonetheless, the consensus among the moderate Democratic establishment and his South Carolina win is likely to greatly increase Biden’s chances of pulling in more delegates on Tuesday.
No Ground Game
While Biden has racked up endorsements and enjoyed a three-day media glow in the wake of an impressive South Carolina result, it does not change Biden’s lack of ground operations in many Super Tuesday states.
Biden’s campaign built a ‘firewall’ in South Carolina, and it paid off. But the Sanders campaign has long had their eyes on delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, and to a lesser extent, the Warren and Bloomberg campaigns have poured resources into key states.
Last week, the New York Times visited a Biden campaign office in East Los Angeles to find it just recently opened after being padlocked.
Michael John Gray, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, told the Times, “he hasn’t been here. Of all the campaigns, the least organized in Arkansas is Biden.”
The Biden campaign is banking on stemming the tide on Super Tuesday through the slew of endorsements and raising enough money to build a more robust campaign going forward.
But for Super Tuesday, the Sanders campaign has built out an unprecedented grassroots campaign with a focus on the key states of California and Texas.
Bernie Sanders’s greatest resource is his network of volunteers and passionate supporters. His campaign continually breaks donation records, and they raised $46.5 million from 2 million donations in February.
The Sanders campaign is mostly built on small donations and has leaned on its grassroots organizing to get out the vote.
The Biden campaign announced a surge of donations after his South Carolina win, but he cannot instantly build out a campaign in key Super Tuesday states.
In contrast with the Sanders campaign, Biden is betting on voters being swayed by the power of the Democratic Party.
The Sanders campaign strategy often puts it at odds with the Party establishment. In an interview with ABC Sanders said, “for too long the Democratic Party and leaders have been going to rich people’s homes, raising money, and they’ve ignored the working class and the middle class and low-income people in this country. That has got to change.”
While the Democratic race will not end on Tuesday, it sets the tone for the rest of the race. The machine of the Democratic party and the grassroots organizing behind the Sanders campaign will not stop fighting any time soon, the question is who wins and who breaks?