The Path Forward from Nevada

Joe Biden’s performance last night in Nevada proved what we’ve long believed: when voters in states that looked like America started to vote, his strengths would show.  Heading into South Carolina and the diverse states that follow, the path for candidates such as Mayor Buttigieg & Senator Klobuchar all but disappear.  Furthermore, among the billionaires, Tom Steyer’s blanket early state spending has netted him two sixth and one seventh place finish, and every day brings several new revelations that should give Democratic voters real pause about Mayor Bloomberg’s ability to match-up against Donald Trump.

As Joe Biden said last night, we are confident in him winning South Carolina – and the good news for Joe Biden, the month of March is full of states that look a lot more like Nevada and South Carolina than they do the first two states of the contest.  In fact, in the month of March, nearly 60% of the delegates will be selected, and roughly 75% of those will come from states as diverse or more diverse than the electorate we saw in Nevada.

The challenge we face is obvious:  Senator Sanders has a solid, though not nearly majority base among Democratic primary voters, and the rest of the Democratic vote is split 4-5-6 ways.  We also face a financial challenge due to the unprecedented spending by both Tom Steyer and Mayor Bloomberg.  At the same time, we have very real opportunities.

We are at the stage of the game where it’s all about delegates.   In Nevada last night, just as we’ve seen in public polling elsewhere, Vice President Biden’s strength is rooted in support from the African American community. On Super Tuesday alone, there are seven states where the share of the electorate comprised by African American voters is higher than it was in Nevada, and among those seven, five of them: Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have electorates where at least 30% of the likely vote will come from the African American community.  

Furthermore, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Mississippi, all will vote in the critical month of March, and are all states with significant African American populations. While both Mayor Pete and Senator Klobuchar are great candidates in their own right, the fact that entrance polls showed their share of the African American vote was 2% and 3% respectively is proof that they simply won’t be able to build a coalition that unifies white moderates and communities of color.

We also believe there are a number of states, that even with a crowded field, where we can make smart targeted investments in specific regions to help drive up Vice President Biden’s delegate totals.  While we – like everyone not named Michael Bloomberg or Tom Steyer — can’t afford significant statewide buys in places like Texas and California, smart targeted digital investments combined with traditional TV and mail in key constituencies can help drive the VP’s support to levels that will help with the delegate math.    We’ve seen in our research, for example, that driving home the Vice President’s support for protecting and expanding Obamacare, as well as his plans to invest in community colleges so hard-working individuals can go to community college without any debt can help solidify the Vice President’s support.

We also believe that as the field narrows, Joe Biden’s support among moderate and liberal whites will grow, as he retains generally high favorable with many in this group, which is currently split between Biden, Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar. For example, our most recent poll in South Carolina showed Bernie Sanders is the second choice of only 7% of white South Carolina voters, pointing to the ceiling he has outside of his base.

It boils down to this:  The month of March will decide whether Democrats will nominate Senator Sanders or someone else.  The only other viable option at this point is Joe Biden.   But the time to act is now: over 1/3 of the delegates will be selected less than 10 days from now, with several large states to follow in quick succession.  Today, Joe Biden is, without question, the best positioned Democrat to unite the party, provide Democrats up and down the ballot a candidate they can run with, and give actual Democrats a real chance to beat Trump.