What Happens If Joe Biden Flops in Nevada?
Is the former vice president all done if things don’t go well?
Tomorrow is the Nevada caucus, the third contest in the Democratic presidential primaries following Iowa and New Hampshire. The first state that is not overwhelmingly white, Nevada’s results will broaden the perspective on the Democratic field and determine the narrative of who will continue to be viable.
The latest poll from Nevada, conducted by Emerson College, has Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in first place with 30%. Sanders, who has been the frontrunner since the start of February, has polled well among Hispanic voters since the start of the campaign.
After a significant drop-off, there’s a near tie between moderate candidates, former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, who both come in at 17% and 16% respectively.
Following them are Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 12%, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 11%, and billionaire Tom Steyer with 10%. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is in last place with 2% of the vote. Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has opted not to compete in Nevada or next week’s South Carolina primary, instead putting his financial largesse behind Super Tuesday and other March contests.
While it’s likely that Sanders will win the state with a solid margin, Nevada is infamously a difficult state to poll. This leaves second and third place finishes largely a toss up between the rest of the field. For Biden, a good showing might be his last chance to hang onto his firewall of South Carolina, where polls show him in a tight race with Sanders.
The other candidates all have liabilities that might prevent a second-place finish. Elizabeth Warren, coming off of her viral debate performance and record-breaking fundraising, is hobbled by Nevada’s early state voting. 75,000 people already cast their votes before her campaign got its last-minute shot in the arm. Buttigieg has had enormous difficulty attracting minority support for his candidacy, while Klobuchar has invested little infrastructure in the state (having recently purchased former candidate Beto O’Rourke’s Nevada team).
Meanwhile. Biden led in Nevada’s polling throughout last year when he was the national frontrunner and has the quiet support of retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who controls as close to a machine as Nevada’s Democratic Party has. This could result in a surprise, defying conventional expectations.
Biden built his 2020 campaign around electability, with the promise that he was the candidate who was best positioned to defeat President Donald Trump in November. His fourth-place finish in Iowa and fifth-place finish in New Hampshire have done innumerable damage to that brand. Nevada is his last chance to recuperate before what might be his final test in South Carolina.
Hunter DeRensis is senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.
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