Just how well did Joe Biden do in South Carolina today? We don’t know his margin of victory yet, but it’s large enough that multiple major media outlets declared him the winner just minutes after the polls closed. More to the point, it appears that other candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Steyer have performed horribly with black voters in the state today (Update, 9:20pm: Steyer just dropped out). Now that Biden is in the driver’s seat when it comes to stopping erratic extremist Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination, here’s the question: who should drop out right now in the name allowing mainstream voters to align behind Biden?
That depends on where you think this race is headed. The South Carolina results tell us that Joe Biden will very probably dominate with black voters in every upcoming diverse state. He’s also about to pick up a huge wave of fundraising and key endorsements as a result of his win tonight. If you think that Joe Biden has a chance to win more than 50% of the delegates, then it’s probably time for everyone else to drop out, because most of their would-be voters will shift to Biden.
On the other hand, simply due to the sheer number of people who have been picking off delegates thus far there’s the very real possibility that no one is going to win more than 50% of the delegates. When you consider that Mike Bloomberg almost certainly won’t drop out any time soon (his money can keep his campaign alive even if he’s losing), the odds are still good that no one will reach 50%. If this ends up being the case, then by rule, we’re headed to a brokered convention – where every candidate will be able to make an argument for why the delegates should rally around them.
If we are headed to a brokered convention, then the other candidates like Pete and Amy and Warren have no real motivation to drop out. They can stay in the race and pick up as many delegates as they can, to use as part of their argument at the convention. The only thing that’ll force them out sooner is if they run out of money. If they stay in the race, it might actually help Biden’s chances, because their mere presence could help ensure that Sanders doesn’t reach 50% of the delegates.
The bottom line is that it’s too early to call on anyone to drop out yet – at least for a few more days. Super Tuesday is just three days from now. Depending on how the results look on Tuesday, we could be looking at very different math. But for now, if you’re aligning behind Joe Biden in order to stop Sanders, it’s less about who should drop out, and more about simply getting behind Biden so he’ll have a big Super Tuesday. We can reassess all of this later in the week.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report