Just when it seemed as if the Biden campaign was on life support, there are signs that the former vice president’s campaign is stirring. After weeks of Bernie Sanders surging in the polls, a couple of strong debate performances by Joe Biden and some optimistic new polls have breathed life back into the Biden campaign.
A few weeks ago, it seemed as though the Sanders surge paired with self-funded campaigns by Bloomberg and Steyer might upend Biden’s chances of carrying the Palmetto State. Now, however, Biden is trending upward in a number of recent South Carolina polls with several showing him holding a double-digit lead over Sanders.
Biden’s resurgence comes not at Sanders’s expense, but at the expense of pretty much every else. The Real Clear Politics average shows Sanders stagnant while Steyer, Buttigieg, Warren, and Klobuchar are all in decline.
Biden undoubtedly owes his comeback to good debate performances in Nevada and South Carolina as well as a surprisingly strong second-place finish in Nevada. Voters who had written him off are now giving him a second look, especially since he is the only candidate positioned to stop Bernie Sanders.
Nationally, Sanders is still the frontrunner. The Real Clear Politics average shows the Vermont socialist with an average lead of 11 points. However, if Bernie turns in a disappointing performance in South Carolina and Super Tuesday, which includes many states with large minority populations, it could slow his momentum.
Here is a rundown on Super Tuesday polling (based on the current Real Clear Politics averages) :
- Alabama primary – no polls
- American Samoa caucus – no polls
- Arkansas primary – Bloomberg leads Biden by one and Sanders by four
- California primary – Sanders leads by an average of 16 points
- Colorado primary – Sanders at 30 percent, Biden in fifth at 10 percent
- Maine primary – Sanders at 25 percent, Biden in fourth with 12 percent
- Massachusetts primary – Sanders averages 23 percent, Biden in fourth with 11 percent
- Minnesota primary – Klobuchar leads with 28 percent followed by Sanders at 22. Biden in fourth with nine percent.
- North Carolina primary – Biden and Sanders are in a statistical tie with about 20 percent each
- Oklahoma primary – Bloomberg leads Biden by about four percent with Sanders in third
- Tennessee primary – no polls
- Texas primary – Another near-tie for Sanders and Biden
- Utah primary – The sole recent poll gives Sanders 28 percent and shows Biden in fifth with nine percent
- Vermont primary – Sanders up by 38 in his home state
- Virginia primary – One poll shows a Sanders-Bloomberg tie and the more recent shows Sanders up by nine. In both cases, Biden is in third.
The big question for the Biden campaign is how much has changed in these states after the last two debates. Poor performances by Sanders and Bloomberg may have hurt those candidates while benefitting Biden. There is also the question of how many early voters may have locked in their votes before the debates began to fuel the Biden surge.
Biden can also hope to gain from attacks on Sanders from the media and Democratic establishment. Many prominent Democrats have warned voters that Sanders would be likely to lose the election to Donald Trump.
“If you want to vote for Bernie Sanders because you feel good about his program, you don’t like the banks on Wall Street or you don’t like pharmaceuticals, that’s legitimate, I understand that,” Democratic strategist James Carville said on MSNBC. “If you’re voting for him because you think he’ll win the election, politically, you’re a fool.
Some Democratic voters may also be put off by the Republican glee at the prospect of a Trump – Sanders race. The movement by some Trump supporters to cross party lines and vote for Bernie in the Democratic primary should be a warning sign to the Bernie-curious.
At this point, Biden is fighting to stay in the race. A win in South Carolina could fuel a strong showing on Super Tuesday. A good Super Tuesday would increase his momentum going forward, but would likely mean a long, tough race to the convention.
Joe Biden’s plan has long been to focus on South Carolina and not seriously contest the other early primary states. He currently looks set to win the Palmetto State, thanks in large part to black voters. With Bernie Sanders’s momentum, however, South Carolina may be too little too late.