How Joe Biden Can Win the Nomination
Author: Greg Valliere
November 5, 2019
AS IOWA HEATS UP, amid scenarios that frontrunner Elizabeth Warren or insurgent Pete Buttigieg could shake up the field, something interesting has happened: Joe Biden hasn’t made any significant gaffes. He has run a solid if bland campaign, focusing on blocking and tackling. Does he need to win Iowa? Not really; his target will be the delegate-rich primaries next spring.
IT’S DAWNING ON DEMOCRATS, especially in this city, that their infatuation with Warren, Buttigieg and the rest has overlooked the bottom line: none of the Biden challengers has a good chance of winning the general election, while the former vice president does.
SO HERE’S OUR SCENARIO FOR A BIDEN NOMINATION: First, he needs to survive the upcoming Nov. 20 and Dec. 19 debates without major slip-ups. Biden has never been a great debater, so a grade of B will be adequate; he was clearly rusty in the first debate and has gradually developed a decent stump speech and solid talking points.
BIDEN WILL HAVE AN ADVANTAGE in the two upcoming debates, as many of the candidates target Warren’s Medicare for All proposal, with its tortured explanation of how she would pay for it. Biden may not have to do the heavy lifting in the criticism of Warren; Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar will lead the assault.
BIDEN NEEDS TO FINISH IN THE TOP THREE in the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, which is do-able, assuming he improves his fundraising and hammers away on his two main attributes: his ability to beat Trump and his close association with Barack Obama, who’s enormously popular in the party. Get used to Biden beginning many sentences by saying “Barack and I.”
TOP THREE FINISHES ARE PROBABLE FOR BIDEN in New Hampshire on Feb. 11 and Nevada on Feb. 22, although Sanders or Warren could win in those two states — but again, by then voters may conclude that neither of them has a plausible chance of beating Trump. And after New Hampshire, the field almost certainly will narrow; gone by then will be Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, etc.
THEN BIDEN COULD SCORE A MAJOR VICTORY, riding his strong African-American support to a clear win in South Carolina on Feb. 29. That would give him momentum, and more contributions, heading into the March 3 “Super Tuesday” primaries.
CALIFORNIA VOTES ON MARCH 3, a huge wild card. We could envision Warren winning there, with a strong showing by Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders or Andrew Yang. But even if Biden finishes third in the Golden State, he should do well in some other races that day, including North Carolina and Texas. Then Biden should have a good night on March 10, potentially winning Ohio and Michigan, thanks to strong labor support.
WARREN MAY STAY IN THE RACE until the July 13-16 convention in Milwaukee, or she might concede after the June 2 primary in New Jersey. And she may crusade against the influence of the Democrats’ “super delegates.” Despite recent reforms, there will be 758 super delegates out of a total of about 4,500. Two big issues for Warren: can she explain her health plan, and when will Sanders withdraw and, in all likelihood, endorse her?
WE HAVE ONLY MODERATE CONFIDENCE IN THIS SCENARIO of a Biden nomination, because as his 77th birthday approaches later this month, he seems to be a step slower. But again, he’s running a gaffe-free campaign (thus far) in Iowa and, to be blunt, he’s the likely nominee by default. Could Warren take him out? At the end of this summer, we thought she could; now we think Biden is still the candidate to beat.
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