(CNN)CNN contributors weigh in on the Super Tuesday results — and what they portend for the Democratic presidential primary. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Frida Ghitis: The #Joementum is real As Super Tuesday voters made their choices, the victories started stacking up for former Vice President Joe Biden, in one of…
(CNN)CNN contributors weigh in on the Super Tuesday results — and what they portend for the Democratic presidential primary. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.
Frida Ghitis: The #Joementum is real
As Super Tuesday voters made their choices, the victories started stacking up for former Vice President Joe Biden, in one of the most remarkable and sudden political resurrections in recent memory. By the time results started coming out from the middle of the country, two trends became evident. First, Biden’s South Carolina momentum was not a fluke.
The victory he crafted with the support of African Americans in the South propelled him forward, and Biden was able to win unexpected contests in other parts of the country — even if the demographic makeup looked nothing like the South.
Just as strikingly, another phenomenon became apparent. It wasn’t just Biden winning. Sanders started sliding — not only compared to Biden, but also compared to his own performance in 2016 when he ran against Hillary Clinton. In some states where Sanders ended in first place, where Biden had all but conceded, Sanders produced much weaker results than he and the pundits expected.
A shocking result came in Minnesota. That was the state that Sen. Amy Klobuchar was supposed to win, before she fell on her sword as part of the perfectly choreographed series of endorsements that came just in time for Super Tuesday. With Klobuchar out in her home state, Sanders was widely expected to win there. Biden hadn’t even campaigned in Minnesota. Sanders had crushed Clinton there in 2016 by a 62 to 38% margin in the states’ caucus. But Biden surged to victory this time.
Sanders won Colorado, but again he did it by a much smaller margin than four years ago. Texas, until just a few days ago, was expected to bring a Sanders landslide. It has turned into a hard-fought battle.
The reason for the parallel trends became apparent when both Biden and Sanders spoke to their supporters. Sanders launched a ferocious attack against Biden. In contrast, the former vice president, exuberant with joy, invited everyone to join his movement.
Biden’s wide embrace beats Sanders’ narrow appeal, especially for voters eyeing November.
The race is far from over, but the momentum — or #Joementum, in Twitter-speak — is clearly with Biden. A late bloomer to be sure, he may have peaked at just the right time.
Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to the Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis.
Scott Jennings: Four takeaways (so far)
A few things jump out at me as we wait (and wait and wait) to see who wins California and Texas on Super Tuesday, and reflect on the apparent irrelevance of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada:
The power of earned media: As pointed out by veteran Republican communicator Brendan Buck, earned media is king in presidential politics. And Joe Biden’s win in South Carolina provided the kind of restorative therapy that clearly made a huge difference for Biden. The brighter the lights, the less the TV ads matter. At this level, you just can’t top the sort of earned media Biden received from his Palmetto State win — and the subsequent endorsements of his vanquished rivals and Democratic Party leaders. Color this pundit surprised and humbled: I was certainly wrong about where I thought his campaign was going. His team deserves credit for actually understanding how to hold a firewall and then build on it. Biden’s campaign really had the stink of death about it after the first three contests, and his turnaround is an unprecedented and remarkable. Mike Bloomberg learned a $500 million lesson tonight.
Dems defragged their hard drive: Unlike the Republicans scrambling to beat Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, establishment Democrats consolidated around Biden in a serious and meaningful way at just the right moment. Interestingly, the alternative to Trump in 2016 ended up being Ted Cruz, who wasn’t exactly an establishment favorite. In this year’s iteration, you have a true establishment vs. outside choice within the Democratic primary. It is premature to write off Sanders at this point (the way we were writing off Biden the other day!), but clearly momentum has shifted. Can Biden hold it? Sanders, after all, has plenty of money to keep going.
The focus on African-American voters is critical now and later: black voters are clearly driving Biden’s resurgence, but the question later will be how the eventual Democratic nominee does with that demographic versus Tweety McTreason. Two things to watch: turnout and support levels. Hillary Clinton suffered mightily because African Americans didn’t turn out for her in 2016, and Tweety McTreason’s campaign believes they’ve made real inroads among black men over what the typical Republican presidential nominee would expect.
Old vs. young. Hispanics vs. African Americans: Come the fall, Democrats may face a critical reckoning, as there are massive gaps in who is supporting Biden and Sanders. Older and African-American voters support Biden; younger and Hispanic voters prefer Sanders. Whoever gets the nomination will need to recapture and motivate those blocks that supported the other guy or face a similar reckoning as Clinton in 2016.
Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.
Aisha Moodie-Mills: Black voters matter
Joe Biden is poised for big wins on Super Tuesday, thanks to the overwhelming support of black voters who make up a significant portion of the electorate, particularly in the South. Building on his sweep of South Carolina last weekend, he’s handily won Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee– and I suspect he’ll do well in Arkansas as well.
Tonight’s results affirm that the pathway to the Democratic nomination runs directly through the black community. Candidates who are unable to break through to black voters just aren’t viable contenders despite how great they might be on issues of racial justice and regardless of how many endorsements they receive from black influencers.
Take Elizabeth Warren, for example, who literally has a comprehensive plan to address everything, including a host of issues that disproportionately impact black people. Even though she amassed an impressive list of endorsements from black leaders — from Black Womxn For to the founders of Black Lives Matter — she’s been unable to break through to black voters in any contest thus far.
Bernie Sanders — despite performing well overall — will likely hit a wall tonight because he too has been unable to draw a significant portion of black voters, even as he’s captured the hearts and imaginations of black youth. Warren and Sanders’ passion and policies just aren’t translating with the folks who cast their ballots on primary day. Why?
The reality is that relationships matter more than being right. Sure, Warren and Biden, and all the other Democratic candidates in this primary, are on the right side of the issues that matter to black communities. But black voters know Joe Biden, and they love him largely because of the goodwill he amassed as the affable wing man to our first black President.
But that’s not all: I was in South Carolina last week and heard several times from voters who planned to vote for Biden, “We know Joe Biden. He came down here and worked with us before there ever was a Barack Obama.” That makes sense, Biden has had a long career, and has been around longer than almost everyone else in the race.
Those relationships built over decades foster trust. He may not be as well-versed on issues of racial justice as other candidates, but black voters know Joe Biden and clearly, that is more than half the battle.
Aisha Moodie-Mills, a CNN political commentator and former president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, was formerly a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. Follow her on Twitter @AishaMoodMills.
Sarah Isgur: A brokered convention looks less likely
Were predictions of a brokered convention too hasty?
As of 24 hours ago, most pundits agreed that no candidate looked likely to get to the 1,991 pledged delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. This would have meant that Democrats wouldn’t have had a nominee until July and only then after a messy, multi-ballot process that would have given the 771 superdelegates an outsized role in determining the eventual nominee. Any outcome of a brokered convention was sure to divide the party only months before the November general election.
But what a difference a day makes: The night was still young and Joe Biden had already won Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee with numbers that signaled overwhelming support from the African American community, the backbone of Democratic support, and a convincing edge with the college-educated suburban vote that Democrats need for November.
In terms of sheer numbers, Texas and California—still to come at this writing– are critical to see how this race will play out. But if reports are true that Mike Bloomberg’s advisors are pressuring him to drop out of the race after tonight, this could quickly become a two man race. There’s still about 60% of the delegates up for grabs in the coming weeks and months, and that should be enough to avoid that second ballot in July.
Sarah Isgur is a CNN political analyst. She has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
Raul Reyes: Do voters want a revolution — or a restoration?
Speaking at a rally in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden declared, “It’s a good night! They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing!” With results still coming from the western states, one thing is clear: It has certainly been a good night for Biden. Just a few weeks ago, his candidacy seemed to be on life support, and there was speculation that he might have to drop out of the race. Now, his political resurrection is complete.
Three key states give a good picture of the fluidity of the race. Biden won the Minnesota primary, no doubt benefiting from Amy Klobuchar’s exit from the race and her subsequent endorsement. Four years ago, the state was Bernie Sanders territory, yet that was not the case tonight. This time around, the former vice president also likely benefited from the state switching to a primary rather than caucuses.
In Colorado, Sanders again won a state in which he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Texas — at this point in the evening — Biden seems to be on track to at least blunt Sanders’ momentum in the Lone Star State. It is to Sanders’ great credit, though, that he has energized Latino voters nationwide. Just as African American voters powered Biden’s comeback in South Carolina, Latino voters are poised to remain an integral part of Sanders’ base (evidence: his win in Nevada).
Looking ahead, this race is shaping up as two clear choices for Democratic primary voters. Sanders is offering a reshaping of what he sees as our country’s broken and inequitable institutions. Biden is promising a return to an era when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle could work together. The question for voters is whether they want a revolution — or a restoration.
On another note, Tuesday was not a good night for Michael Bloomberg. His whole campaign was built around the idea that Biden would falter, and then the former New York City mayor would help save the day for Democrats. But Biden has not faltered — so where does that leave Bloomberg? The billionaire needs to set aside his ego and his wallet and consider whether he wants his ultimate role in this race to be that of a spoiler.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.
Joe Lockhart: The South delivers big for Biden
Ever since the polls closed in South Carolina Saturday night the political debate has been dominated by this question: how big a bounce is Joe Biden getting from his blowout victory there? Tonight Virginia — and North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee — told us that that bounce was big. But like many things in the race, it’s not as simple as it looks.
Just last week, the race in Virginia had tightened, and some polls showed Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders trading the lead from day to day. But the only poll that really matters comes on primary day, and those voters delivered Biden big victories.
Virginia, for one, was in many ways set up structurally for Biden. Exit polls show that nearly 50% of voters made up their mind in the last few days, a big plus for him after his South Carolina win. But among black voters, so far solidly in the Biden camp, the majority said they made up their minds before the start of February.
Watch tonight for the difference in margins in Virginia from North Carolina. They will give us insight into the impact of early voting, voting before South Carolina, that will be a big question as we look west to the big prize tonight, California.
Joe Lockhart was White House press secretary from 1998-2000 in President Bill Clinton’s administration. He co-hosts the podcast “Words Matter.”
Nayyera Haq: Alabama shows Biden can build bridges
No one expects a Democrat to win Alabama in the general election, but the Democratic primary in the state tells a different story – one that bodes well for former Vice President Joe Biden. While the Heart of Dixie qualifies as Trump country politically and socially, black voters make up 54% of the state’s primary electorate and their turnout recently helped elect Democrats in local races.
Alabama Senator Doug Jones credited his special election victory in 2017 to the support of 96% of African-American voters who turned out to vote for him, many of whom also identified as evangelical. In 2018, Montgomery, a city synonymous with racial tension and considered the birthplace of the civil rights movement, elected its first black mayor.
Democrats identifying as moderates cite Jones as the prime example of how the party can win votes away from Republicans in the November presidential election; Biden’s victory in a state like Alabama indicates there is a significant Democratic population looking to the 2020 race to heal America.
Biden’s record and message of building bridges hits the sweet spot between black voters and socially conservative, religious voters of all demographics who are using their votes not only to reject Trump policies, but also reject radical social change.
Nayyera Haq is a host on SiriusXM Progress and CEO of an international communications firm. She served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department and a senior director in the White House. Follow her on Twitter @Nayyeroar
Ian Sams: Bloomberg’s bad bet
It certainly looks like Michael Bloomberg’s experiment has failed.
Super Tuesday was supposed to be the former New York mayor’s triumphal entry into the presidential race, the opening salvo in a primary strategy so unorthodox it had never been tried before. Behind hundreds of millions in advertising, Bloomberg chose to bypass the first four states on a gamble that he could outspend his Democratic rivals in key March states and emerge victorious.
In Tuesday’s early results, Bloomberg’s plan has apparently flopped.
Two key contests in the South reveal the scope of his problems: Virginia and North Carolina.
In both, former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner the minute that polls closed. But beyond the outcome, the results portend something worse for Bloomberg.
In Virginia, he reportedly spent nearly $6 million in advertising alone, yet he will not meet the 15% threshold to receive any delegates. In North Carolina, where he spent nearly $13 million on ads, he is hovering right around that threshold.
Meanwhile, Biden is thundering to big victories in spite of spending a fraction of that. How did he do it? He won the South Carolina primary. Then he forced his moderate rivals out of the race. Then he got their endorsements. And all of it has dominated the news for the past three days.
Momentum is everything in this race, and earned media — the press coverage you receive in a campaign — is proving the most valuable currency a candidate can have. Narratives continue to supersede ad spending, field organizing, rallies, and all the old metrics.
Bloomberg will earn some delegates in states like California and Texas, and he may try to cling to those as rationale for continuing his run. But Super Tuesday is likely to show he will trail Biden and Bernie Sanders by a steep delegate margin, effectively ensuring there is no real path to a pledged delegate lead for Bloomberg.
He has tough decisions to make about whether to continue his campaign in the hours and days ahead, but one thing is clear: his multimillion dollar bet that Super Tuesday would deliver him big wins and a breakout moment turned out to be a bust.
Ian Sams is a Democratic strategist with experience on seven state and federal campaigns. He was most recently national press secretary on Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign.
Van Jones: Super Tuesday leaves us with a lover and a fighter — we need both
On the strength of one night in South Carolina, Joe Biden is back in the race after Super Tuesday. While Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg picked up delegates, neither had the big night they needed to take over one of the top two spots. That leaves us with a Biden vs. Bernie Sanders race.
Everyone is pointing to Biden’s strength with African-American voters, but based on returns across the Super Tuesday states, I see a generational divide that points to real challenges for both candidates. There is tremendous passion on both sides. Biden resonates with older African-American voters, especially older African-American women. They have gone to a lot of funerals. They have buried children. They have buried spouses. They understand that he understands. And they have not moved in their support for him.
But there is a younger generation, one that feels very real pain and frustration. They see a system that is rigged against them and feel like no one wants to fight for them — except perhaps Sanders. Sanders’ sense of urgency appeals to them. They see willing to fight for them.
We are left with two candidates with distinct strengths and flaws. Sanders could win the young Obama voters of color who did not vote in 2016. Biden could combine older African Americans with Obama-Trump white voters.
Sanders would come to Washington D.C. ready to fight for those younger voters. Biden would come ready to build the bridges that older voters long for. One is a fighter who seems unwilling to love, and the other a lover who seems unprepared to fight. The problem is that to piece the country back together, you need to be able to do both.
One of these candidates is going to have to show an ability to expand their appeal. The one who does it first will likely win the nomination.
Jen Psaki: After Super Tuesday, these talking points should go
After Joe Biden’s huge win in South Carolina on Saturday night, the big question was whether that support from African Americans would repeat in other states, and whether he would be able to parlay that momentum into wins in other states. So far, the answer to both questions is yes.
There are also a few talking points that have been frequently used that should be thrown out now, including:
1. “Iowa and New Hampshire determine the direction of the primary.” After Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, the collective wisdom was that he would hang in just to make it to Super Tuesday and then drop out. As it turns out, when states that look like the Democratic electorate vote, the results can change the trajectory of the race.
2. “Enthusiasm is a direct indication of support at the voting booth.” Senator Sanders has built an impressive campaign apparatus with effective online fundraising, a huge volunteer base, and rock star like rallies. This has not translated — so far — to an expansion of the electorate or dominance in the primary.
3. “Biden’s support is a result of the coalescing of the Democratic establishment.” There is no question that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s support and apparatus helped Biden in her state, and the endorsement of former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s may be helpful in Texas. But unless the “establishment” is a new term for the African American vote, this is completely off base.
Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki.
Jeff Yang: Biden owes Warren for Bloomberg’s poor performance
Joe Biden brought his juice from South Carolina into Super Tuesday, as late-breaking voters went in his direction. In Texas, nearly 50% of Biden voters made up their minds in just the last few days. Some 64% of voters in Virginia did the same. And in Minnesota, this was 59% of voters, with an additional 44% deciding just today after yesterday’s late withdrawal of Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Bernie Sanders’ hopes of a dominating lead coming out of this 14-state primary night were crushed.
Joe has the mo; less clear is whether he can keep his mojo going as the map expands into the industrial Midwest and big Eastern states, where Sanders has strong beachheads among white working class and Latino voters. Meanwhile, the harsh reality of the momentum-driven electoral map hit my preferred candidate hard.
Elizabeth Warren had hoped to come out of the night with a few hundred delegates and the chance to break a media narrative that had prematurely written her off after the misbegotten Iowa primary. That looks unlikely. But at least she’s likely scored another set of billionaire antlers for her trophy collection. It’s hard to imagine Mike Bloomberg continuing the race beyond today after his disappointing (and absurdly expensive) Super Tuesday outcome. If Warren hadn’t handed Bloomberg his silk shorts at the Nevada debate, this might well be a very different looking race.
Jeff Yang is a frequent contributor to CNN Opinion, a featured writer for Quartz and other publications, and the co-host of the podcast “They Call Us Bruce.” He co-wrote Jackie Chan’s best-selling autobiography, “I Am Jackie Chan,” and is the editor of three graphic novels: “Secret Identities,” “Shattered” and the forthcoming “New Frontiers.
SE Cupp: The Utah surprise and California’s riches
While Utah doesn’t get as much attention as California and Texas on Super Tuesday — it offers just 29 delegates versus a combined 643 from the top two — it may give a unique look at the eventual Democratic nominee’s ability to take dissatisfied Republican voters away from President Tweety McTreason. As Associated Press reporter Lindsay Whitehurst says of Trump’s domination of red states elsewhere, “his powers just don’t work as well here.”
Maybe that’s why the state was one of the few bright spots for Michael Bloomberg, on a night of huge disappointments. While Bernie Sanders, who won the state in 2016, took first place, Bloomberg finished second ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. The one-time Republican campaigned in Utah in February and spent money on ad buys there.
We’ll learn more from exit polls, but Utah may portend a willingness, at least among some conservatives, to vote for a Democrat this time around.
Meanwhile, over in California, Sanders expectedly performed well in the delegate-rich state, but….
It’s worth pointing out that just last week, his lead in California was double-digit. A CNN poll had Sanders at 35% among likely Democratic primary voters, Elizabeth Warren at 14% with Joe Biden in third at 13%. That gap closed significantly tonight.
Granted that poll was before South Carolina. Biden’s domination there on Saturday changed the whole game, not only resurrecting a flailing campaign but shifting the momentum and narrative his way. People like a winner, and clearly Biden showed he could be one — that buoyed his campaign all over the country.
On Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders learned the hard way that when you dismiss, insult and challenge the so-called “Democratic establishment,” sooner or later the party faithful will respond.
“We’re not only taking on the corporate establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment,” Sanderstold cheering supporters in Vermont. “You cannot beat Trump with the same old same old kind of politics. What we need is a new politics that bring working class people into our political movement.”
That verbal backhand slap at Democratic leaders has long been a standard part of Sanders’ stump speech. He says it at rallies, in press interviews, on the floor of the US Senate and anywhere else people ask for his opinion.
Sanders’ supporters love to hear it. But on Super Tuesday, from New England to the Deep South and the Midwest, Democratic base voters said to Sanders: enough already.
Biden relied on the traditional backbone of the Democratic Party: the network of political clubs, labor unions, churches and low-level local officials who gather and grow the party by registering new voters and urging people to the polls every election season. These are the people who get turned off Sanders’ constant talk about how rotten the party is and how everything about it must change.
As Biden told his supporters: people don’t want a revolution, they want real results. And in state after state, they decided that Biden and not Sanders can deliver the goods.
States as varied as Massachusetts, Alabama and Minnesota all swung in Biden’s direction, giving him enough support to make him the party’s actual or near front-runner for president.
Biden’s next challenge will be to swiftly build a national campaign infrastructure that is capable of delivering on the high hopes his Super Tuesday wins will create among Democrats eager to select a candidate to take on President Tweety McTreason in the fall.
Joe Lockhart was White House press secretary from 1998-2000 in President Bill Clinton’s administration. He co-hosts the podcast “Words Matter.”
Alice Stewart: Biden’s campaign is no longer on life support
While this race is far from over, Biden’s sweep of much of the Bible Belt (and then some) on Super Tuesday puts him on path to be the most viable candidate against President Tweety McTreason in November.
Biden’s strong showing is testament to his ability to consolidate the Democratic Party in an effort to block the democratic socialist policies of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Democrats are understandably concerned about down-ballot races if Sanders ends up at the top of the ticket. Americans do not want his far-left policies.
Exit polls show that voters decided on Biden late, signaling that his South Carolina victory provided a much-needed wind for his sails. Endorsements from South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, former challengers Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Kloubchar were also big factors.
A moderate voice like Biden, with a unified party, is the best option for Democrats. Bringing the party together is a vital building process. Biden continued to make a call for unity during his speech, saying “there’s a place for you in our campaign.”
That being said, Tweety McTreason has the power of incumbency, an energized base and a strong economy, all of which make him difficult to beat.
Alice Stewart is a CNN Political Commentator, Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy Institute of Politics, and former Communications Director for Ted Cruz for President.
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