The 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination race has been a whirlwind, with lots of ups, downs, and unforeseen twists. But as of right now, it seems to very well have concluded. Joe Biden, the former vice president in the Obama administration, is all but certain to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president. For a presidential primary with so many new and diverse faces–people like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg spring to mind–how did the safest, most “establishment” candidate secure victory? This victory is even more impressive as Biden’s campaign was deemed to be basically dead early on in the primary, with Biden placing 4th and 5th in early state primaries. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the remarkable rise, fall, and return of Joe Biden.
When the Democratic primary began in 2020, Joe Biden immediately became the front runner for a number of reasons. High name recognition played a huge role–as the former Democratic vice president, Biden has long been eyed to be a candidate for president. Furthermore, his status as a moderate candidate and general nostalgia for the “Obama years” drove many voters to support him. Biden also dominated early polls, maintaining a generally strong lead over the other candidates even as new faces surged. Given Hillary Clinton’s upset loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, many Democrats were eager to support the safest candidate, one that they could be sure could overcome Trump. From early on in the race, many turned to none other than the former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden himself.
However, the Democrat primary seemed to have far more surprises in store. Despite maintaining a lead in the polls, Biden began to struggle in popular opinion across the internet. His series of public gaffes–ranging from quotes such as “poor kids are just as bright as white kids” and calling himself an “O’Biden-Bama Democrat” to stumbling through debates and arguing with interviewers–caused many to doubt his mental ability to perform well in a general election. Furthermore, as public opinion of Biden dropped, several moderate opponents rose to challenge him: former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Biden’s fall continued as early states began to vote, as Biden significantly underperformed in all three earliest voting states–placing a dismal fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire (behind even longshot candidate Klobuchar), and a distant second in Nevada. Instead, the primary momentum went to Bernie Sanders, the former 2016 primary challenger of Hillary Clinton. With a fractured moderate field, Sanders managed to coalesce the progressive vote and surge to victory in all three states. At this point, it seemed over for Biden’s campaign, with the race morphing into a Sanders-led one, with Buttigieg and Klobuchar close behind. Based on the data, many pundits and journalists thought that Biden’s campaign was, undoubtedly, finished.
However, the 2020 Democratic primary’s tendency of breaking expectations persisted, and Biden’s campaign was, in fact, far from over. Notably, all three frontrunner candidates had weak support from the African-American population. Unlike the first three early-voting states, the state of South Carolina has a fairly large African-American community, who largely threw their support behind Biden. Biden won by a landslide in South Carolina, proving himself to be THE candidate of choice among moderates. Following his landslide win, a series of surprising events happened. The day before Super Tuesday–where many delegates were up for grabs–Biden’s moderate challengers, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, dropped out and endorsed Biden, essentially clearing the field of most other moderate Democrats. Biden also racked up endorsements from several other Democrats, including Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke. Biden went on to over-perform expectations in Super Tuesday, generally crushing the campaigns of fellow Democrats Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg. Before long, the math pointed to Biden as the presumptive nominee, and several other primary challengers endorsed Biden for president–Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Michael Bloomberg. Even with his early primary momentum, Sen. Sanders could not overcome Biden’s massive delegate lead, and eventually dropped out and endorsed the former vice president.
While Biden may have been seen as the “safe” Democratic candidate all along, the full Democratic primary did not always go in his favor. However, through a series of crazy twists and turns, the popular support moved away from Biden before resoundingly returning. While several Democrats were disappointed with the choice of Biden as the nominee, many are uniting around the former vice president in an attempt to defeat Trump in the general election. Biden’s victory in the Democratic primary was certainly hard-fought, and only time will tell as to how he performs against the incumbent President Trump.