Before South Carolina and Super Tuesday, it was plausible to foresee Sanders doing well in South Carolina and then locking up the nomination on Super Tuesday. In a splintered field where the other candidates barely fell short of the 15% threshold, Sanders might have won a wildly disproportionate share of delegates.
Instead, Biden romped in South Carolina and in most of the Super Tuesday states.
There are two big reasons why Biden is now a favorite to win the nomination.
First, he has the support of African American voters -- who have been the nominating wing of the Democratic Party since 1992.
In July, Steve Kornacki wrote at NBC:
Who won the black vote in the Democratic presidential primary?
|2016||Hillary Clinton (won 77 percent of the black vote)||Hillary Clinton|
|2008||Barack Obama (82 percent)||Barack Obama|
|2004||John Kerry (56 percent)||John Kerry|
|2000||Al Gore (86 percent)||Al Gore|
|1992||Bill Clinton (70 percent)||Bill Clinton|
|1988||Jesse Jackson (92 percent)||Michael Dukakis|
|1984||Jesse Jackson (77 percent)||Walter Mondale|
|1980||Ted Kennedy (45 percent)||Jimmy Carter|
Second, Biden has turned 2020 into a two-person race and built an early advantage in the delegate count. As we pointed out in Epic Journey (p. 94) and Defying the Odds (p. 57), is a Democratic nomination candidate is hard put to catch up after lagging in the delegate count. With winner-take-all primaries, such a candidate might be able to leapfrog the leader with a big win in a big state, but Democratic rules effectively bar such an approach. As we explained in the 2016 book:
Under Democratic rules, each candidate's share of a state's convention delegates is roughly proportional to his or her vote share. Even if one candidate wins a plurality of the vote in a state, another candidate can still take a substantial number of delegates. So once one candidate builds up a sizable lead in delegates, it is hard for rivals to erase it.