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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Comeback Codger

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.

Biden won South Carolina with 48% to Bernie Sanders' 20%.  Steyer got 11% and dropped out. All others were in single digits.

According to exit poll results, Black voters were 56% of the D electorate, and they favored Biden 61-17%.  Whites (40% of D electorate) voted Biden 33-34%.

Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsed Biden this week. In the Edison exit poll, 61% said the endorsement was an important factor in their decision, including 27% who said it was “the most important factor.

At WP, Matt Viser and  Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report that the 77-year-old became the Comeback Codger revived his campaign over the previous 18 days:
His campaign had been haunted by small crowds, an absence of energy and a pervasive feeling that the Democratic Party had passed by a 77-year-old out of step with its current contours. Crowds wowed to a host of candidates, including a small-town mayor half Biden’s age who outpaced him in fundraising and, in Iowa and New Hampshire, votes.

Over the course of the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary, the third and fourth contests of this presidential year, Biden would streamline his campaign. He brought in reinforcements, and his campaign aides worked to calm skittish donors.

But perhaps most important, those 18 days saw Biden find firmer footing as a candidate. He reveled in a state he had always considered like home. He received blunt advice from his friends, and took it. He adopted a stiffer edge on two debate stages. His verbal miscues persisted, but even rival campaigns noticed that he was more focused. A grace note came Wednesday, when a nationally televised CNN town hall showcased to the state the empathy-on-his-sleeve candidate who forges emotional connections with voters better than any other in the race.

But until Saturday night, it still was not clear whether that was enough. Voters in the first three states to cast ballots may have seen that side of Biden and respected, even loved him; they may have respected the people endorsing him. But they still didn’t vote for him.

That changed here. South Carolina became the place that a nearly five-decade career, stumbling toward what seemed its end, would at least temporarily be revived. His sweeping victory was the first time in three presidential campaigns that Biden actually won a contest. Everything ahead remained unknown, including whether he could replicate his success when the race turns to a national swarm of primaries on Tuesday. But on Saturday night, his candidacy was at least alive, courtesy of South Carolina.