Super Tuesday is here, and the Democratic candidates’ list has come down to five with two frontrunners. The nomination race has also turned into an ideological battle. Vermont Senator and self-professed democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, continues to be in the lead for the nomination and as per current polls, is likely to secure the majority of the pledged delegates.
The Super Tuesday will have the state Democratic Party members of 14 States and one US territory, American Samoa, voting for the nominees. The reason why this is the single-most important stage in the primaries is because of the number of delegates it will contribute to the Democratic National Convention.
1,357 of the 3,979 pledged delegates shall be sent to the convention on a single day, which is more than a third of the total number. Sanders performance today will pretty much decide whether or not he will have to deal with a contested convention, where horse-trading and back-room deals can easily steal the nomination from him.
But the path for the nomination is not easy for Sanders. He is up against the long-time establishment favorite Joe Biden, former vice-president in the Barack Obama administration, who has promised continuity with Obama-era policies.
Biden’s presidential campaign has received a boost after his performance in the South Carolina primary, where he secured 39 of the 54 pledged delegates and 48% of the member votes. Sanders, on the other hand, got only 20% of the votes, even though he came in second.
Of the total 155 pledged delegates allocated from contests in four States so far, Sanders leads with 60, followed closely by Biden with 52. Pete Buttigieg has 26 delegates with Elizabeth Warren (8) and Amy Klobucher (7) being the other candidates to whom delegates were pledged. Sanders won two of the contests and Biden one, and even though Buttigieg technically “won” the Iowa caucus Sanders emerged with the most number of popular votes.
By Monday, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg withdrew their candidacy and suspended their campaigns to endorse Joe Biden. Biden has received wide range of support from career politicians of the Democratic Party, including Beto O’Rourke and Jim Clyburn, with many so-called moderates endorsing his candidacy.
Even though Sanders has an edge over Biden in almost all the States going for the primary today, a simple lead would not be enough for him to secure a party nomination. California, for instance, which has a history of voting against insurgent candidates, will return 415 pledged delegates. The same goes for Texas with 228 pledged delegates.
In both States, most opinion polls have put Sanders well ahead of Biden, but are not accounting for the last-minute withdrawals of Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Even if Biden trails behind Sanders, if he can keep the margin of votes as narrow as possible, there is a good chance he can go to the convention with a large chunk of the delegates.
Biden is also very likely to get most of the unpledged delegate votes in the convention, as he is a long-time establishment democrat. So for Sanders to get over half the decisive votes at the convention, he will have to do exceptionally well in States scheduled to hold their primaries later.
All of these factors can work against Sanders’ chance at a straightforward convention, yet again. This in turn can divide the Democratic Party, as the progressive sections of the party are likely to be furious over what they might see as the betrayal of the popular mandate.
At the end of the day, an endorsement is not a matter of simple arithmetic. Several opinion polls have pointed to the tendency of Buttigieg and Klobuchar voters being more likely to opt for Sanders as their second choice. The same is the case with supporters of Elizabeth Warren, the only other candidate in the race with delegates right now. If the race ends up becoming a two-way contest between Biden and Sanders, there is a great deal of chance that those who voted for the outgoing candidates may inadvertently leak a lot of their support base to the latter.
Super Tuesdays were never known for being predictable affairs. This one will be the same. But the matter has reached to point where the future of the Democratic Party is on the line.