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The Democratic Primaries

COVID-19, a few months ago nobody knew what it was and now it is all anyone ever talks about. The current pandemic has caused many their lives and has halted the economy to a standstill. The news media are hyper-focused on the subject to a point where it feels like there is nothing else going on in the world. While everyone feels like time is standing still – due to the quarantine – there is one date that is slowly but surely approaching. That date is Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. While the Coronavirus has temporarily taken away its spotlight, the U.S. presidential election will have a massive impact not only on how we – the world – recover from this crisis, but also on the global political status quo. Since President Trump is running unopposed on the Republican side, the focus will mainly lie on what has happened during the Democrat’s primary process.

Starting in January 2019, candidates began announcing their bid for the Democratic Party nomination. This included candidates such as Representative Gabbard (D-HI), Senator Harris (D-CA), and Mayor Buttigieg. During this period Howard Schultz – the founder of Starbucks – announced that he was considering running as an independent. Immediately after this, he received immense backlash on social media which changed his mind. Over the following months many more candidates – such as Senator Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice-President Biden – would throw their hat in the ring. From June 2019 until March 2020 these candidates would go on stage to participate in a total of eleven debates. Some of these debates have been heavily criticized as messy and incoherent shouting matches with very weak moderators who had no control over the candidates. The field appeared weak enough that former-mayor Bloomberg – who a few months earlier had said he had no interest in running for president in 2020 – changed his mind and launched a massive campaign just months before the first state primary elections began. He decided not to play a role in the early contests and instead place his bets on Super Tuesday.

In the beginning of the primary process, it started to look as if the DNC (Democratic National Committee) was going to have the same problem that the RNC (Republican National Committee) had in 2016: An overcrowded and fragmented field in which then candidate Trump ran straight to the nomination while the other candidates would take votes away from each other by not getting out of the race. As will be seen later in this article, the DNC is systematic enough to stand up to the less likely candidates and force them to acknowledge defeat. This organization structure would eventually help former vice-president Biden win the nomination. What also helped was that unlike the RNC’s method – in which the candidate with the most votes wins all the primary delegates of that state – the DNS’s method of splitting up delegates based on the percentage of vote won (after a 15% threshold) makes it easier for candidates to stay in close proximity to the front runner. Unlike in the Republican primary in 2016, where then candidate Trump was able to stack up a massive delegate lead while often only winning a state by a few percentage points, no such situation would easily happen within the Democratic primary.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Iowa Caucus (February 3rd, 2020)

The first primary election in the race for presidential nominee were the Iowa caucuses. Historically, they are perceived to be very important even though they are not representative of the nation’s overall demographics. This is not only just because they are the first major contest in the primary process, but also because many see them as a good indicator of how candidates will do in later primary elections. By being first, the Iowa caucuses have been able to provide candidates with momentum going into the following contest. This time around, however, it was an undisputed mess. The Democratic party wanted to digitalize the voting, but the technology they turned to – which they promised would be accurate and efficient – let them down completely. By the end of the day, no results were in. The party’s communications director came forward and stated that this was due to inconsistencies in the reporting of the results. When the candidates realized that no winner would be named, all of them rushed to stage to claim victory. The official results were published on the 9th of February. These results indicated – and would be reaffirmed after a requested recount on February 27th – that Mayor Buttigieg narrowly won the state over Senator Sanders (26,2% to 26,1%), Senator Warren ended in third place (18%) and former Vice-President Biden ended up forth (15,8%). The rest of the candidates did not reach the 15% threshold. The top four candidates ended up with 14, 12, 8, and 6 delegates respectively. The turnout rate among eligible voters was also lower than expected. For more than a year, Democrats have been emphasizing that there is high enthusiasm among their voters. However, only 176 000 Iowans attended the Democratic Caucus (in 2008 this number was around 240 000). Meanwhile, President Trump’s turnout, while running virtually uncontested, totaled 32 340 voters. This is higher than former President Obama had when he was running for reelection in 2012 (approximately 25 000).

New Hampshire (February 11th, 2020)

Next up was New Hampshire. Unlike the Iowa Caucuses, the New Hampshire primary was not a chaotic disaster. The results indicated what the polls had predicted. Senator Sanders won the state by 25,7% of the total vote (9 delegates), Mayor Buttigieg came in second with 24,4% (9 delegates), Senator Klobuchar third with 19.8% (6 delegates). Both Senator Warren and former Vice-President Biden did not meet the threshold, getting 9,2% and 8,4% respectively. There were three main takeaways from this primary. First, Bernie Sanders was not able to consolidate the New Hampshire voter base behind him. This is clear because, even though he won the state of New Hampshire, he did so with a far smaller percentage of the vote compared to what he had received in the 2016 primary election (60.14%). Second, Joe Biden’s showing in the state was awful, he only won about 24 000 votes. He underperformed so badly that he left the state early to fly not to Nevada – the next primary state – but to South Carolina. This action showed that the Biden campaign had little faith that they would perform well in Nevada, and that they wanted to make sure that South Carolina – the state his campaign put most of their funds and resources in – would remain locked down. Third, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign highly underperformed, showing that she is not a viable candidate. The reason for this is because New Hampshire borders her home state of Massachusetts, which normally almost guarantees that a candidate will be competitive in that state.

Nevada (February 22nd, 2020)

Nevada marked a change in voter background with its high proportion of Latino voters and union members. Senator Sanders also won this state with a total of 46,8% of the vote (24 delegates). Thereby overtaking Mayor Buttigieg in total delegate count. Former vice-president Biden actually performed decent, ending second, getting a total of 20,2% of the vote (9 delegates). Mayor Buttigieg came in third with 14,3% (3 delegates). No other candidates passed the threshold. Sander’s victory led many to claim that the election was his to lose. This terrified many old-school Democrats, who do not agree with Senator Sanders extreme viewpoints.

South Carolina (February 29th, 2020)

The first primary in the South plays a key role in who will become the Democratic nominee for president. This is not only because it is the last stop for candidates before Super Tuesday, it is also the first state where the majority of the Democratic electorate consists of African American voters. Former Vice-President Biden won the state by a landslide, winning a total of 48,4% of the vote (39 delegates). The only other candidate to win any delegates was Senator Sanders with 19,9% of the vote (15 delegates). This remarkable comeback from Joe Biden changed the odds for who would win the nominee dramatically. No longer was Bernie Sanders the clear front runner, Biden finally had enough delegates to be seen as competitive. The terrible result on the part of other candidates led to the dropping out of both Mayor Buttigieg and Senator Klobuchar. Both candidates endorsed Joe Biden for president, leading to an anti-Sanders consolidation. By doing so it became obvious that this would be a Biden versus Sanders race. That being said, Michael Bloomberg had up to this point not partaken in any primary race and thus it was not yet clear what role he would play in the states to come. Curiously enough, Senator Warren, whom up to this point had not been competitive in any state, did not drop out. Thereby not consolidating the left-wing of the Democratic party. Clearly, after his victory and his endorsements, former Vice-President had built up the momentum to go into Super Tuesday and be competitive against Senator Sanders


Super Tuesday (March 3rd, 2020)

On Super Tuesday a total of fourteen states and one U.S. territory (American Samoa) simultaneously hold their primary election. These states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The winners of this day massively boost their delegate count and gain the momentum needed to win this race or be competitive at the national convention. Going into this day Senator Sanders had a small lead of 60 delegates over former Vice-President Biden’s 54 delegates, Senator Warren had a total of eight delegates, and former Mayor Bloomberg had not been on the ballot, so he had zero delegates. However, Michael Bloomberg did spend a lot of money (over $500 million) on advertisement and name recognition in the Super Tuesday states.

Alabama: Biden won this state by a landslide, winning a total of 63.3% of the vote (44 delegates). Sanders was the only other candidate to pass the threshold by getting 16,5% of the vote (8 delegates).

Arkansas: Biden won his state by a large margin, getting 40,5% of the vote (17 delegates). Sanders received 22,4% (9 delegates) and Bloomberg 16,7% (5 delegates).

California: This state flipped for Sanders, who got 34% of the vote (221 delegates), however his victory was smaller than expected. Biden accumulated 27,2% (172 delegates), Warren received 13,3% (12 delegates), and Bloomberg 13% (9 delegates).

Colorado: Sanders won this state with 36,8% of votes (25 delegates). Biden came in second with 24,7% (18 delegates). Third was Bloomberg, receiving 18,7% (9 delegates). Lastly, Warren got 17,6% (8 delegates).

Maine: Biden narrowly wins this state with 34,1% of the vote (11 delegates) to Sanders’ 32,9% (9 delegates). Warren comes in third with 15,7% (4 delegates).

Massachusetts: This state also went for Biden, who accumulated 33,6% of the vote (37 delegates). Second came Sanders with 26,7% (29 delegates). Warren came third in her home state with 21,4% (25 delegates).

Minnesota: Joe Biden claimed victory in this state by receiving 38,6% (38 delegates). Sanders came in second with 29,9% (27 delegates). Lastly, Warren got 15,4% of the vote (10 delegates)

North Carolina: unsurprisingly Biden triumphed here, accumulating 43% of the vote (68 delegates). Sanders was able to get 24,1% (37 delegates). Bloomberg managed to get 13% (3 delegates) and Warren 10,5% (2 delegates).

Oklahoma: Biden won this state with 38,7% of the vote (21 delegates). Second came Sanders with 25,4% (13 delegates). Next was Bloomberg, who received 13,9% (2 delegates). Warren only got 13,4% (1 delegate).

Tennessee: Biden was the winner here with 41,7% of the total vote (33 delegates). Sanders got second place with 25% (20 delegates). Bloomberg was somewhat competitive, accumulating 15,5% of votes (10 delegates). Warren totaled 10,4% of the vote (1 delegate).

Texas: This battle went in favor of Biden with 34,5% (111 delegates) to Sanders’ 30% of the vote (102 delegates). Bloomberg was able to get 14,4% (10 delegates) and Warren got 11,4% (5 delegates).

Utah: Sanders won the state, getting 35,3% of the vote (16 delegates). Second came Biden with 18,5% (7 delegates). Third place was for Warren with 16,3% (3 delegates). Bloomberg ended up with 15,8% (3 delegates).

Vermont: Unsurprisingly, Sanders was able to win his home state, getting 50,8% of the votes. Biden, who received 22% of the vote (5 delegates), was the only other candidate to pass the threshold.

Virginia: This was another landslide victory for the former Vice-President. He received 53,2% of the vote (66 delegates). Senator Sanders came in second with 23,1% (31 delegates). Warren was able to accumulate 10,7% (2 delegates).

American Samoa: This was the only competition won by former Mayor Bloomberg. He received 49,9% of the vote (6 delegates). Tulsi Gabbard, the representative from Hawaii, got second place with 29,3% (2 delegates). No other candidate passed the threshold.

Looking at these results it is clear that the big winner of the night was Joe Biden. The former Vice-President massively overperformed the predictions, winning a total of 648 delegates. This not only puts him on a total of 702 delegates, it also instantaneously made him the clear front runner to win the nomination. After this landslide victory, the chances that the primary would end up in a contested convention dropped and the prediction became that Biden would be winning a plurality of the delegates. Bernie Sanders performed decently in most of the states and winning 558 delegates – putting him at a total of 618 delegates. He underperformed in the States that he wanted, such as California, Texas, and Massachusetts. On top of that, he is not a popular candidate in some of the primaries that would come next. This gave validation to the idea that Sanders is a candidate that does well when he is seen as outside of the establishment, fighting against the frontrunner. The moment he himself became the frontrunner a lot of people started to feel uncomfortable with his ideas. Elizabeth Warren, who performed far worse than expected, only managed to score 73 delegates. This put her on a total of 81 delegates. The Senator from Massachusetts would officially pull out of the race three days after the results were known.  She did not endorse any candidate at this time. Super Tuesday was devastating to Michael Bloomberg. He only managed to win 55 delegates, showcasing that having the most money behind your campaign does not mean you will win the nomination. The former Mayor of New York dropped out of the race as soon as the results were in. In his speech, he endorsed Joe Biden for president.

Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington (March 10th, 2020)

With a field that has now been reduced to two candidates, the battle of ideas could fully begin. Biden representing the moderate Democrats and Sanders the left-wing Democrats. Going into this day, Biden had a lead of 84 delegates over Sanders. However, the Democratic-Socialist was hoping he could decrease the distance by performing well in Michigan, which is a blue-collar battle state for becoming the Democratic nominee.

Idaho: Biden narrowly won this state by 48,9% to Sanders’ 42,5%. The former Vice-President picked up 11 delegates in this state, while his competitor picked up 9.

Michigan: Coming as a devastating blow to Senator Sanders, Biden claimed victory, winning 52,9% of the vote (73 delegates). Sanders only managed to receive 36,4% (52 delegates).

Mississippi: Joe Biden won a landslide victory in this southern state, getting a total of 81,1% of the vote (34 delegates). Senator Sanders was only able to procure 14,8% (2 delegates).

Missouri: The midwestern state voted in large numbers for the former Vice-President. He won the state by 60,1% of the vote (44 delegates). Bernie Sanders received 34,6% (24 delegates).

North Dakota: This state swung in favor of Bernie Sanders. The Democratic-Socialist won by 53,3% of the vote (8 delegates). Joe Biden procured 39,8% of the vote (6 delegates).

Washington: In what came as a big surprise, Joe Biden won a tight victory with 37,9% of the vote (46 delegates). Senator Sanders won 36,5% (43 delegates).

Former Vice-President Biden was able to increase his lead, winning 5 out of 6 of these primaries. His delegate count increased by 214, totaling to 916 delegates. In what was a disastrous day for Bernie Sanders, the Senator was only able to procure 138 delates. Giving him a total of 756.

Arizona, Florida, and Illinois (March 17th, 2020)

Senator Sanders would need to be victorious in order to stay close to Joe Biden in total delegate count. However, even before the primary election day, it was quite certain that he would not win Florida. Since a very large proportion of the voters in this state are Cuban immigrants, who had fled from the Castro regime. Bernie’s Democratic-Socialism combined with uncovered tapes of him praising Castro diminished all chances he had in winning this state over. Both Arizona and Illinois were also, according to polls, unlikely to swing in favor of the Senator.

Arizona: Just like the polls had predicted, this state went for Biden. The former Vice-President won with 44,4% of the vote (39 delegates). Senator Sanders was able to muster up 32,9% (28 delegates).

Florida: Joe Biden won this state easily, getting 62% of the vote (162 delegates). Bernie Sanders received 22,8% of the total vote (57 delegates).

Illinois: This state also proved the polls correct. Joe Biden won by 59% of the vote which landed him 94 delegates. The Senator from Vermont received 36,1% of the vote (60 delegates).

The polls were proven right in another devastating day for the Democratic-Socialist. The gap between him and Biden had now widened up so far that the chances of him being able to make a comeback were extremely small. Definitely, since he was not a popular candidate in some of the higher delegate states that were still coming up such as Georgia. On March 17th he had won a total of 145 delegates, while the frontrunner – Joe Biden – had received 295. They now totaled 901 and 1211 delegates respectively.

Wisconsin (April 7th, 2020)

Wisconsin is the proof that even during the Coronavirus elections can go on. Senator Sanders was still in the race for the nominee, so the people of Wisconsin went to vote, in person. The northern state still had a reasonable number of delegates to offer (84 delegates in total). The Sander’s campaign hoped that if they were able to win this state, it would show that they were still competitive for the candidacy. However, when the votes came in this proved not to be the case. Joe Biden easily won the state by receiving a total of 62,9% of the vote. This boosted his total delegates by 65, to 1276. Only 31,8% of the people in Wisconsin voted for Senator Sanders, putting his total on 920 (an increase of 19 delegates).


After having suffered another painful defeat by the hands of Joe Biden and with a global pandemic happening, Bernie Sanders threw his glove in the ring and decided to drop out of the race. This lead many to criticize him for not dropping out earlier. By staying in the race and thus forcing people to go out and vote during a global pandemic in which people were supposed to self-isolate. The polls leading up to this primary were not promising for the Sanders Campaign and even if he had miraculously won the state, he would still be lacking the number of delegates to make him truly competitive with Joe Biden.

In an effort to unify the party behind the candidacy of Joe Biden, prominent Democrats came out in support of Biden. It took Senator Sanders almost a week before he came out and stated that he would support whoever won the Democratic nomination. In a televised interview in which he was joined by Joe Biden he said: “Today I’m asking all Americans to come together and support your [Biden] candidacy, which I endorse.” That same day former President Obama also came out to endorse his former V.P. The next day Senator Warren, who had dropped out quite a bit earlier, also gave her endorsement to Joe Biden. Now that it is clear who will be the nominees from both parties, the actual campaign for the presidency can begin. However, it is unclear what form this campaign will take on given the current crisis and the need for social isolation. Currently, according to the polls, Biden is the favorite to win in the general election. His lead, however, is far from solid.


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