Carolina and Corona

John Ellis
10 min readMar 1, 2020

1. The “Front-Runners.

In the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden got 15% of the “first vote.” In New Hampshire eight days later, he got 8.4% of the primary vote. In the Nevada caucuses, 11 days after that, he got 20% of the “first alignment votes.” Last night in South Carolina. Mr. Biden got 48.4% of the vote, winning every county and beating the party’s putative front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by a margin of nearly two-and-a-half to one. Had Biden not done so, and as convincingly as he did, he probably would have had to end his campaign.

Sen. Sanders got 25% of the “first vote” in the Iowa caucuses, 26% in the New Hampshire primary and 34% of the “first alignment vote” in the Nevada caucuses. Last night in South Carolina, he got 20% of the vote. Put another way, he has won, in four states in four different regions: one quarter of the vote, one quarter of the vote, one third of the vote and one fifth of the vote. That he is the party’s “putative front-runner” tells you a lot about the weakness of the field. (All of the above data can be found here.)

The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination revolves around one data point from a Gallup analysis that was “posted” on the company’s website last November. It said:

Six in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer to see the party nominate the candidate with the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, even if that person does not share their views on key issues. By contrast, 36% say they would rather have the reverse: a candidate aligned with them on almost all the issues they care about, even if that person is not the most electable.

Whoever is the candidate of the 60% is going to defeat Bernie Sanders, who is the candidate of the 36%. And as noted in the numbers from the four states that have already “voted,” Sanders has only succeeded once in capturing a third of the Democratic Party’s primary and caucus-attending electorate. And that was in Nevada, where ~100,000 people participated. In Iowa, ~175,000 people participated in the caucuses. In New Hampshire, ~300,000 people voted. In South Carolina, ~527,000 people voted. Boiled down: the larger the electorate, the lower Sanders’s percentage of the vote.

Sanders is all but certain to continue to attract no more than one-third of the vote in Tuesday’s Super Tuesday primaries (except in Vermont and, perhaps, Maine). In so doing, he will continue to amass delegates (one third of…

John Ellis

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.