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Joe Biden gets his 'comeback kid' moment

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Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses supporters after his win in the South Carolina Democratic primary.

Posted: Mar 1, 2020 8:10 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2020 8:10 AM

What a difference 24 hours can make.

A couple of days ago, former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign was on life support. Saturday night, with just a fraction of the South Carolina primary vote counted, it seems that Biden has won a commanding victory in a state whose demographic makeup truly reflects the diversity of the Democratic Party base.

South Carolina was always at the heart of Biden's electoral strategy — his first opportunity to establish himself as the clear choice of the party, positioned right before the critical delegate binge of Super Tuesday.

But that was before Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders built a growing head of steam with a near-win in Iowa and dominant victories in New Hampshire and Nevada. Meanwhile, mediocre debate performances, a series of embarrassing gaffes, fourth and fifth-place finishes in the first rounds of voting, and the disruptive entry into the race of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg set Biden back on his heels.

If Biden's South Carolina "firewall" had shattered, his presidential bid would've moved rapidly from intensive care to the coroner's office. It held. And his campaign's messaging calling him the new "comeback kid" has already begun.

What remains to be seen is what South Carolina means for the rest of the field.

Sanders, who'd recently been trying on a mantle of inevitability for size, clearly now faces a different kind of fight. Moderate voters may well snap back into the Biden camp, and other centrist candidates may feel the pressure to make an increasingly hard decision: Whether to stay in the race and continue to fragment the vote against Sanders — or bow out and lend support to Biden.

It seems almost certain that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — her brief surge likely over — will consider folding her campaign after Super Tuesday. Billionaire Tom Steyer has now dropped out, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg may well debate ending his run.

The wild cards remain Bloomberg — a centrist for whom money is no barrier — and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the only progressive alternative to Sanders. Her campaign has been hurt by media dismissal, unlucky timing (what would this race look like if so many Nevadans hadn't already voted by the time of her stunning debate victory in the state?) and, in all candor, misogyny.

Given a decent showing on Super Tuesday (perhaps strong seconds in California and Colorado or a win in her home state of Massachusetts), Warren likely has the resources to keep her fight going. Her passionate supporters, myself included, want her to stay in — given her critically important anti-corruption message, Sanders' recent heart attack (from which he says he's fully recovered) and Warren's status as the most frequent second choice of Democratic voters for candidates across the ideological spectrum.

But it's likely that if Sanders comes in well behind Biden in South Carolina and finds his momentum blunted, Warren could find herself playing a critical role in shaping the outcome of a race that could well end with a contested battle on the Democratic convention floor.

Keeping her in the race is likely in Biden's interests, as a critical progressive counterweight to Sanders.

Yet Sanders might strategically prefer her to stay in — she's the most devastatingly effective foil for Bloomberg. She's also a potentially important aggregator of delegates that Sanders might otherwise lose to Buttigieg and others, assuming that he believes he can dependably reconcile with his longtime ally-turned-rival as the race comes toward its conclusion.

And while the path to victory is admittedly narrow for Warren herself, the cycle has been surprising enough that one can't seem to count anyone out. Coronavirus outbreaks, unexpected news events and rebalancing of support from candidates dropping out of the race all still hold the possibility of changing the game dramatically before the convention comes.

Either way, the action seems like it's only just beginning — and the endgame is anyone's guess.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 455783

Reported Deaths: 6166
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin945441502
Ramsey40698749
Dakota33623354
Anoka31398368
Washington20579237
Stearns18111190
St. Louis14006251
Scott1221199
Wright11811107
Olmsted1083075
Sherburne831270
Carver705639
Clay660684
Rice624774
Kandiyohi558772
Blue Earth549533
Crow Wing490678
Otter Tail464968
Chisago460438
Benton423788
Winona394948
Douglas379766
Nobles374847
Mower374429
Goodhue358163
Polk330760
McLeod328647
Beltrami316148
Morrison314645
Lyon306139
Becker289439
Itasca287843
Isanti286143
Carlton284443
Steele279510
Pine270515
Freeborn254723
Todd233730
Nicollet230538
Brown218634
Mille Lacs215745
Le Sueur214416
Cass210824
Meeker201533
Waseca193316
Wabasha17483
Martin172026
Roseau166517
Hubbard151138
Redwood141327
Houston140314
Dodge13974
Renville138540
Chippewa133232
Cottonwood129118
Fillmore12778
Wadena120818
Rock112012
Aitkin111533
Faribault110116
Sibley11017
Watonwan10698
Pennington101016
Kanabec99818
Pipestone97223
Yellow Medicine95016
Murray9137
Jackson87310
Swift84718
Pope7485
Stevens7078
Marshall70415
Clearwater68814
Lake66415
Lac qui Parle66116
Wilkin63510
Koochiching60810
Lincoln4912
Big Stone4703
Unassigned43968
Grant4388
Norman4268
Mahnomen4167
Kittson37420
Red Lake3204
Traverse2623
Lake of the Woods1981
Cook1160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312194

Reported Deaths: 4433
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46975465
Linn18114279
Scott15900172
Black Hawk14123243
Woodbury13145181
Johnson1231752
Dubuque11651159
Pottawattamie9182115
Dallas910872
Story883538
Cerro Gordo474372
Webster473377
Warren461539
Sioux460457
Clinton459168
Marshall432262
Buena Vista397230
Muscatine396578
Des Moines395543
Plymouth353670
Wapello351798
Jasper333359
Lee326932
Marion310853
Jones275250
Henry269131
Carroll258934
Bremer250448
Crawford235824
Washington224133
Boone223517
Benton213950
Mahaska198637
Jackson195332
Tama190959
Dickinson189229
Kossuth180944
Delaware176536
Clay173021
Wright167624
Fayette166324
Hamilton162530
Buchanan162324
Winneshiek161020
Harrison158762
Hardin157831
Cedar155819
Clayton153949
Butler152324
Page148115
Floyd141936
Cherokee140327
Mills138517
Lyon137933
Poweshiek135424
Hancock132424
Allamakee131530
Iowa128022
Madison124210
Calhoun12379
Grundy122828
Jefferson122425
Winnebago122329
Mitchell117137
Louisa116430
Cass115343
Chickasaw113812
Appanoose113040
Sac112815
Union111723
Emmet111332
Humboldt107819
Shelby106427
Guthrie104624
Franklin103618
Unassigned10210
Palo Alto92611
Montgomery89224
Keokuk86426
Howard85919
Monroe82620
Clarke8199
Pocahontas78711
Ida76430
Davis70421
Adair69720
Greene6977
Monona68418
Lucas66910
Osceola65011
Worth6224
Taylor6009
Fremont5276
Van Buren50515
Decatur4994
Ringgold45511
Audubon4258
Wayne42021
Adams3023
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