After a long and slow burn, the Democratic Presidential nomination process exploded into life this week and Tuesday’s slew of primaries could prove the decisive factor.
Following his lacklustre performances in the Democratic debates and on the campaign trail, Joe Biden propelled himself back into contention with a stunning victory in South Carolina on Friday, simultaneously knocking out his main centrist rival Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg had outperformed expectations in the early votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, but his moderate message didn’t capture the imaginations of Democrats in Nevada, where he picked up only three delegates, and he trailed in a dismal fourth in South Carolina, behind rank outsider Tom Steyer, a performance that clearly convinced him that there was no path to the nomination.
But the withdrawal of the Mayor of South Bend, and Biden’s heavy win has dramatically changed the complexion of the race. Bernie Sanders remains the clear favourite but he is no longer odds on with many bookmakers, while Biden has shortened significantly to 2/1. Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is the third favourite at 7/1 while Elizabeth Warren, who had a disastrous night, finishing fifth, is now regarded as a 40/1 long shot to get the nomination.
But the South Carolina result poses two significant problems for the Sanders camp. It underlines concerns about his ability to appeal to southern African American voters, who form a key demographic in many states. And it means that one of Biden’s two main moderate rivals has been knocked out of the race, while Bloomberg, the other potential drain on Biden’s support, has yet to see his support tested at the polls, having sat out all of the primaries to date.
With 15 states voting on Tuesday, Sanders could deliver a knockout blow to his rivals, but Biden’s camp clearly sense a revival, and if they can pick up some of Buttigieg’s supporters and squeeze out Bloomberg, the former Vice President could yet come through on the rails.