So much for a squeaker. Joe Biden needed a big win yesterday and boy did he get one. He finished with 48 percent of the vote in South Carolina, 28 points higher than Bernie Sanders, who was in danger of running away with this race. Now that’s what I call a firewall. Give credit to Jim Clyburn, who’s endorsement of Biden turned what would’ve been a solid win into a laugher.
The good news for the former vice president is that he’s back in the hunt. Indeed, even though this is his first victory, he actually has the overall lead in the popular vote through four contests. That will undoubtedly change once we get past Super Tuesday, where California and Texas – two of the three biggest states – vote. California is the crucial one. It has 415 total delegates. It’s encouraging that a recent poll by CBS / You Gov has Biden at 19 percent, but the RCP average still shows him falling short of the 15 percent threshold needed to qualify for delegates. If Sanders somehow manages to be the only candidate to finish above that threshold, this thing could get out of hand real quick.
Thats why, if I were Biden, I would’ve gotten on the first red eye to LAX and stayed there until I memorized the lyrics to every Beach Boys song. It is absolutely critical for him that he not let Sanders walk away with the entire haul. With Bloomberg still reeling from his disastrous debate performances, he has a golden opportunity to build off of his success in the Palmetto state and make some noise this Tuesday. He’s ahead in several contests and in second place in several more. If he can emerge from Super Tuesday only a buck fifty down, he can pretty much hold his own the rest of the way.
And if Biden, who’s been forced to share the center lane with several other moderates and is running his campaign on a shoe-string budget, manages to get to Milwaukee only trailing Sanders by 200 delegates, he can make a very strong case on the second ballot for why he, and not Sanders, should be the nominee. But if he limps his way into that convention trailing Sanders by 500 or more delegates, I honestly don’t see how on Earth the Democratic Party can deny him the nomination without starting a riot. And trust me, there WILL be a riot if that happens. Just look what happened in 1968 and 1980 when the party merely flirted with the possibility of a contested convention. This one could make those two look like a simple disagreement at a PTA meeting.
So this Super Tuesday, it’s either going to be California Dreaming or Nightmare on Elm Street for Joe Biden. We’ll know soon enough.