The big narrative of the evening, as Super Tuesday votes roll in, is Joe Biden challenging Bernie Sanders’s front-runner status and perhaps winning more delegates on the night than his progressive rival. He’s winning in every state that’s been called so far (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma) that’s not in Bernie’s home region of New England, and is showing no signs of weakness other than possibly in Texas, where exit polls show him locked in a close fight with Sanders. Indeed, some respected national handicappers are already projecting Biden as the delegate winner of the night, which would have been an astounding prediction just a week ago:
But aside from the battle for first place between Biden and Sanders, the other big issue on Super Tuesday was the performance of the two other major candidates who have not dropped out: Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren. The former candidate famously spent an unprecedented amount of money in the Super Tuesday states, while the latter was national front-runner not that terribly long ago and was reputed to have built a formidable organization across the country.
So far the results for Bloomberg have been, in a word, terrible. He fell far short of expectations and relatively recent polling results in every state that has reported significant votes so far. His numbers might look better in states (e.g., Texas, Colorado, and California) with big early voting percentages. But it’s pretty clear he’s been dropping like a rock from the precipice of his upward trend lines before that disastrous debate performance in Nevada on February 19. In most states, in fact, he’s battling Elizabeth Warren for third place far behind Biden and Sanders–and both are falling short of the 15 percent viability threshold for winning delegates. In his own Super Tuesday appearance in Florida, a state that votes on March 17, Bloomberg cracked jokes and seemed to be unperturbed, as were his highly paid spokespersons and other staffers.
Running even with Bloomberg in states like Virginia initially brightened Elizabeth Warren’s prospects, until a home-state disaster began to go down: In both raw votes and the exit polls, she’s running third behind Sanders and Biden — who are battling for the lead — in Massachusetts. No matter what else she accomplishes on Super Tuesday (e.g., perhaps a solid performance in California), it will be difficult for her to overcome that disappointment. And that’s arguably good for Bernie Sanders, even as Bloomberg’s swoon help Joe Biden. The two great combatants in the Las Vegas debate may have ultimately just aided their rivals.