A resounding victory at the South Carolina primary together with the withdrawal of former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar from the race to become the Democratic Party nominee in the 2020 Presidential election, have given the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, a much-needed boost. Both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are likely to endorse the candidacy of Joe Biden.
Joe Biden admitted that the victory in South Carolina "brought me back" in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. This was largely helped by the endorsement of House Representative James Clyburn with the state having sizeable African American voters.
All eyes are now on what is termed as 'Super Tuesday' when primaries are being held in 14 states and American Samoa (Democrats abroad would also be voting) where 1,357 pledged delegates (34% of the delegates) are at stake. These include the big states of California and Texas which together account for around 650 delegates.
Of the 155delegates declared so far, Bernie Sanders is in the lead with 60 closely followed after the South Carolina victory By Joe Biden with 54 delegates. 1,991 delegates are required to win the nomination.
Looking at the polls of these two states, Sanders is likely to carry the lion's share of the 415 delegates in California, with a 12% lead in the polls. However, the result in South Carolina could be a factor in the decision of some voters. Similarly, in Texas, which accounts for 228 pledged delegates, the lead of Sanders over Biden in the polls is around 15%. There has already been some early voting in Texas and so whether the South Carolina result would have any impact is difficult to say. Another factor in the Super Tuesday voting is which way the supporters of Pete Buttigieg would sway, now that he is out of the race. Many are of the opinion that his votes would go the Biden-way and that will make the results of Super Tuesday all the more interesting.
North Carolina, with 110 pledged delegates, also votes on this crucial day where both the front-runners Sanders and Biden are shown to be neck-to-neck in the polls. Again, there have been early voting, and whether the victory in the South will spill over to the North, is open to question. As in South Carolina, African-Americans make up a large percentage of Democratic voters in North Carolina and exit polls showed that Biden secured 64% of black votes in the state on Saturday. This would be a state too close to call.
In the three New England states of Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, Bernie Sanders is expected to do well. Massachusetts, it must be remembered, is Elizabeth Warren's backyard, and although polls predict Sanders to win and bag most of the 32 pledged delegates at stake, a Warren victory is not being discounted. Joe Biden could also take some delegates from this northern state. Although Sanders has solid support in Maine, Joe Biden is likely to get enough votes to clinch a few delegates of the 24 that are at stake. Again, the votes of other candidates will have a bearing on the delegates bagged by the main contenders. Vermont, the smallest state to vote on Super Tuesday, is Sanders' home turf and the big question is whether any other candidate can get 15% or more votes to have any delegate in their favour. Vermont offers 16 pledged delegates.
Six southern states, including Texas and North Carolina, are heading to the polls on Super Tuesday. Joe Biden considers Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia as his strongholds and is clearly the frontrunner. It has been seen in the past that southern states generally have voted the same way for the Democratic nominee as South Carolina. If this trend is repeated this time as well, largely due to the similar demography of voters, Joe Biden's campaign will receive a major boost. Apart from Texas, there are 356 delegates up for grabs.
As regards the other candidates, billionaire Tom Steyer, despite spending a huge amount of money fared badly at the South Carolina primary and dropped out of the race after the results were announced. On Sunday, Pete Buttigieg, after running a very bold and impressive campaign, declared that he is withdrawing from the race. Former mayor of New York, billionaire Mike Bloomberg is still in the fray. He has reportedly spent $500m in TV advertisements and is still not expected to do well on Super Tuesday. There is a fair chance that he will also drop out. Elizabeth Warren had been running an aggressive campaign but has failed to do as well as expected. Although she has been campaigning in Super Tuesday states, her run may also fizzle out. In that case, her supporters may get into the Sanders camp.
Only winning in the southern states will not secure the nomination for Joe Biden. One must take into account the 643 pledged delegates of California and Texas where Sanders is now leading. And then there are states like Massachusetts and Colorado where neither of the top contenders may come out as winners. Joe Biden, to remain a serious contender, must bag delegates from the states where Sanders has the edge at the moment.
California will remain the prime target for Bernie Sanders where he hopes to win by a substantial margin. If he can manage that, he could build up such a 'delegate lead' that it would be impossible to catch up to him in the ultimate delegate count.
The withdrawal of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar from the race is seen as an attempt to install the 'establishment' candidate Joe Biden as the Democratic Nominee and stop the Sanders 'bandwagon'.
A clearer picture of how this race for the Democratic Presidential nomination pans out will emerge after Super Tuesday.
Uday Sankar Das, is a senior journalist, political commentator and sports analyst