Podcast | Race to the White House: Episode 6 - Joe Biden's big surge

V Nivedita | Updated on March 15, 2020 Published on March 15, 2020

In this week's podcast, we will focus on the results from Tuesday's election and other important issues that could impact the presidential elections in the future.

This week, former Vice President Joe Biden increased his lead in the race to win the democratic party's nomination to contest in the presidential elections.

In the various primaries and caucuses held on Tuesday, Joe Biden won Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri. His rival Bernie Sanders has won only North Dakota. Both candidates are currently neck-to-neck in Washington.

Hi! I am Nivedita Varada rajan, and this episode we'll look at two aspects of the US presidential election this week: the results from Tuesday's election and other important issues that could impact the presidential elections.

Just like Alabama and Arkansas, Biden won by a big margin in Mississippi as African-Americans voted for him. He won 81 per cent of the votes and 31 delegates. Sanders won only 14 per cent of the votes and got 2 delegates.

There are two reasons for Biden's victory here: The Hill reported that about two-thirds of Democratic voters in Mississippi are black, and about 75 per cent of voters said that Biden understood the concerns of people of color best.There is an other big reason for Biden's victory: 50 per cent of the democratic electorate describe themselves as moderates, 25 per cent as somewhat liberal, and only 25 per cent as very liberal. So, Biden had an edge before the first vote was cast.

Similarly, Biden won in Missouri, winning 60 per cent vote share and 44 delegates. A report by Vox listed two reasons as to why Biden did so well in this State: African-Americans supported him, and so did non-college educated whites -- many of whom supported Sanders against Clinton in 2016. At that time, Sanders lost narrowly to Clinton, and this was not the case this time around.

Political pundits were looking at the Idaho results closely, as the State has backed the eventual general election winner six times in the last 11 elections -- Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, George W Bush and Donald Trump. Back in 2016, Sanders won Idaho with 78 per cent of the vote, winning all, but one, county. But, in this election cycle, a poll by Data Progress said that Biden had a four per cent lead over Sanders. The poll actually underestimated the lead -- Biden won a little under 49 per cent of the votes, while Sanders won a little over 42 per cent of the votes. With this victory, Joe added 11 more delegates to his tally, and Bernie added 9.

This was a biggest blow for Sanders' campaign of that evening was losing Michigan, a State he won in 2016. Michigan awards 125 pledged delegates, the most among the States that voted on Tuesday.  Biden won almost 53 per cent of the votes, while Sanders got on 36 per cent vote share.

Moderate and conservative voters of the Democratic party preferred Biden. African Americans also voted for him in large numbers. Most importantly, he was able to flip white men and women, both college-educated and otherwise, who preferred Sanders in 2016.

At the time of recording, both Biden and Sanders were tied in Washington. But Joe had a slight lead in the vote share compared to Bernie – 37.8 per cent to 35.8 per cent.

Bernie Sanders supporters felt that the results was  “difficult and frustrating”, but they believed that Sanders must carry on to address the “grotesque inequality” in the US. They were disappointed that Biden won in places where he didn’t even have an organizational structure!

They believed that Sanders' programmes like "Medicare for All", "Green New Deal" and increasing wages are popular, but they were disappointed that the youth didn't come to vote in large numbers. They only solace for them was North Dakota's result. Sanders won 8 delegates and 53 per cent of the votes, while Biden won 6 delegates with nearly 40 per cent of the votes.

So, why did Biden win?

One factor is electability: After the big victory in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, people started to see Biden as the potential winner, who could not only win the nomination, but also defeat Trump in the general election. But, many Hillary Clinton supporters believed that there was a tinge of sexism involved here -- both Clinton and Biden have similar policies, but many people believe that Biden was better.

Another factor that helped Biden was the support he recieved from the mainstream media and the "party establishment". Progressives accuse the party of supporting a candidate who wants to return to the "good old Obama era" even though a workers were not well off. "The Obama era" was good for the corporates, as they got a bailout after the financial crisis, while the federal government did not work to uplift the workers who bore the brunt of the crisis.

Unsurprisingly, on the other side, President Trump has swept Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washighton. He now has 1,132 delegates and needs less than 150 delegates to win the nomination.

At the moment, Biden has a massive lead in the delegate count over Sanders – he has 854 delegates, while Sanders has 702. He needs 49.8 per cent of the remining delegates to win the majority, while Sanders needs 56.4 per cent. There are 2,284 delegates left to allocated.

What are the factors that can impact elections from here?

Many States are yet to go to polls. This includes delegate rich states of Florida, Illinios, Ohio, New York, Georgia and New Jersey. If Sanders can win some of these States with a big margin and if he is able to push Biden in other States, the contest gets pretty close again.

Last week, I told you that Trump tweeted a list of Biden's gaffes. Sanders was questioned about it in a Town hall conducted by Fox News, he said, "I'm not here to criticize Joe, but to say that I think the American people, at this incredibly complicated and difficult moment in our history, are entitled to thoughtful answers to the crises we face."

As the coronavirus spreads in the US, many States, like Georgia, are postpoing elections. Campaigns have postponed meetings and rallies across the country. Polling booths are being moved out of schools and nursing homes to avoid the spread of the infection and the elderly, who participate in the elections, have been asked to stay away from crowded areas. The coronavirus could also change how people are voting -- if they believe that Trump is not handling the situation well, then, they will not back him. His poll plank so far is that the economy has been been performing well in his presidency, and that can go for a toss if the US economy goes into recession.

Sanders' 'Medicare for all' scheme, paid sick days and a overhaul of the health care system could get more backers. It is under this circumstances, that Sanders and Biden will return to debate on Sunday. I'll focus on this debate and other issues in the next podcast. Stay tuned.

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Published on March 15, 2020