What’s behind Biden’s Super Tuesday surge?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

Former Vice President Joe Biden transformed the landscape of the Democratic presidential primary race by winning 10 of the 14 states on Super Tuesday.

Biden’s campaign appeared to many experts to be on life support after disappointing finishes in the first three primary states. An overwhelming win in South Carolina on Saturday, however, set the stage for a Super Tuesday surge that has put Biden ahead of Bernie Sanders, who, as recently as last week, was considered an overwhelming favorite for the nomination.

Heading into Tuesday, pollsters expected Biden’s strong support among black voters to help him carry states like Alabama and North Carolina. He outpaced expectations by winning Minnesota, capturing Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts and claiming a narrow win in Texas. Sanders won four states on Tuesday, though his margin in delegate-rich California is smaller than many forecasters predicted.

Why there’s debate

The most commonly cited driver of Biden’s resurgence are the decisions by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to drop out of the race and endorse him after his win in South Carolina. This allowed moderate voters, who had been splitting their support among several candidates, to consolidate their support. This theory is bolstered by exit polls showing Biden with a huge advantage among voters who made their choice in the days before Super Tuesday.

Polls have shown that one of the top priorities for Democratic voters is selecting a candidate who can beat Donald Trump in the general election. This is especially true of black voters, some experts say. Biden’s success on Super Tuesday is seen by some as a sign that he has the strongest chance in November.

Others argue that Tuesday’s results were as much about Sanders’s shortcomings as they were about Biden’s strengths. Sanders has built his hopes for a primary win on inspiring unprecedented turnout from young voters, but that hasn’t happened so far. Voters might be turned off by Sanders’s progressive agenda and his adversarial stance toward the Democratic establishment, or they may worry about the prospects of a self-described socialist in the general election.

What’s next

Primary voting resumes Tuesday, when six states will be up for grabs. The big prize will be Michigan, a state Sanders won in 2016. A recent poll showed Biden ahead in the state.


Winning in South Carolina made Biden the clear moderate favorite

“Many in the party quickly recognized that Sanders was benefiting from a crowded field of more moderate candidates who were dividing up the rest of the Democratic electorate. But it wasn’t until Biden’s commanding victory in South Carolina on Saturday that they began to see him as the best alternative.” — Julie Pace, Associated Press

Black voters are especially focused on Biden as the hope to beat Trump

“Black voters, and I’ve said this before, they’re very clinical about it. They just want to win. They want Trump gone … and Biden is who they wanted because he’s a loyal second to Barack Obama.” — Joy Reid, MSNBC

Democratic enthusiasm drew in more Biden voters

“The massive turnout numbers — up exponentially from 2016 — are not a sign of a Democratic electorate that is dissatisfied with fewer options, but rather an indication of excitement that the party is uniting around a consensus pick to take on Trump.” — Jon Ward, Yahoo News

The Democratic Party establishment threw its support behind Biden

“Perhaps most surprising of all after the Trump insurgency of 2016 and the apparent Democratic chaos of the past couple of months, Biden's remarkable reversal of fortune this past week shows that the party decides presidential nominations after all — or at least it can still do so when the stakes are sufficiently high and leading members of the party resolve to intervene.” — Damon Linker, The Week

Concerns about Sanders’s electability drove voters to Biden

“The prospect of an avowed socialist at the top of the ticket has scared millions of Democrats into Mr. Biden’s arms no matter his liabilities.” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal

Endorsements from Buttigieg and Klobuchar made a big difference

“Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg sacrificed their ambition — and royally teed-off the Bernie bros — to endorse Biden in Dallas. In so doing, they set him on a path to victory.” — Paul Begala, CNN

Sanders has pushed a lot of voters away

“If you treat voters and officials in the party you want to lead as the enemy, a lot of people in that party aren’t going to trust you to lead them.” — Ezra Klein, Vox

Black voters are an important force in the primary

“The political maneuvering was real, but this wasn’t all the work of some shadowy ‘establishment.’ Biden drove up large margins across the South by winning black voters, and especially older black voters, overwhelmingly there — something Sanders has failed to do in two campaigns over four years.” — Tim Murphy, Mother Jones

Sanders hasn’t been able to expand the electorate

“Sanders has repeatedly said he will turn out new disaffected voters, rally the working class to his cause and spike youth turnout to unprecedented levels. None of it has happened.” — Ryan Lizza, Politico

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Mike Blake/Reuters)