Allow me to put on my Morpheus shades for a moment and go full election Matrix: What if I told you that Joe Biden still has a shot of being the Democratic nominee?
And not for governor of Delaware but for president.
While the political rats are furiously paddling away from the the listing USS Cornpop, there’s still a viable path for Biden to emerge as the Democratic standard bearer that doesn’t involve a brokered convention in Milwaukee.
And I’m not talking about a Lloyd Christmas “chance” from Dumb & Dumber.
Since Donald Trump was elected, the former vice-president stood out as the man to beat in is party’s primaries.
Total name recognition. Status that comes with being a former vice-president. A direct connection (though that’s no substitute for blessing) with the late Obama Administration. Support from the political establishment after a decade plus of collecting chits. And a full campaign treasury.
Yet despite all of those advantages, Team Biden faltered.
The why Biden has, to put it charitably, “underperformed” isn’t so much important at this moment.
Losing South Carolina will trigger that conversation.
Let’s consider how Biden gets back in to the thick of things.
1) Plenty of Time and States Left
Thus far only two states have registered their voices on the nomination. Two very small states. And though Biden did spectacularly awfully in Iowa and New Hampshire, being first does not give them veto power.
2) Striking Silver in Nevada
Surely Vegas will be kinder to Biden than the penny slots at the Mirage.
The ex-veep doesn’t need to win the Nevada caucuses in Saturday; he just needs to not get steamrolled. Second would be huge and mark a come back; third would show the Biden campaign still has a pulse.
Biden has either run first or second in Nevada polling and though caucuses are not kind to the establishment candidates, Mike Bloomberg skipped the early states and whatever machine Biden built there on the backs of party regulars should be sufficient to avoid a finish below third.
Also bear in mind that the early Nevada caucuses are a relatively new thing lacking the deep roots of New Hampshire and Iowa and most candidates have focused on South Carolina instead.
3) Biden’s Palmetto Firewall
Biden has benefited from the departure of all of the black candidates from the nomination fight and African-American voters appear to be sticking with Barack Obama’s running mate.
With the active support of former Congressional Black Caucus leader and current New Orleans congressman Cedric Richmond, Biden is expected to win South Carolina’s critical primary next Saturday.
Even a bad showing in Nevada will stay in Vegas.
4) A Helpful Calendar
While there was a relatively large ten-day gap between New Hampshire and Nevada and a seven day period between Nevada and South Carolina, the distance between South Carolina and Super Tuesday is a mere 72 hours.
A newsmaking comeback in South Carolina will demonstrate new found viability across a large map. More than likely Super Tuesday will be a split amongst the remaining candidates but Biden will win delegates that day and a few states of importance by healthy margins.
Momentum has proven to be significant for Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who parlayed his “first” place finish in Iowa* into a close second to Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders.
5) The Clinton ’92 Southern Strategy
Most people would be surprised to learn that Bill Clinton lost the first four Democratic contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota) in 1992 before finally bagging a win in Georgia.
But the Arkansas governor essentially sealed the deal with his Super Tuesday deep sweep of the south that gave him a seemingly insurmountable lead between him and his rivals.
Super Tuesday was engineered to nominate a centrist southerner and it finally worked for the Democratic Leadership Council.
Though the 2020 equivalent of Super Tuesday is no longer decidedly southern it’s southern enough for Biden, whose coalition consists of the last vestige of white courthouse Democrats and black voters.
And so far the Delaware politician has a lead or is polling competitively across the south (or the Old Confederacy as his opponents will inevitably frame his wins there).
6) Target: Bloomberg
The entry of the billionaire former mayor of New York has led to a redirection of attention away from Biden and on to Mike Bloomberg’s nine figure media buy and his “greatest rhetorical hits.” This is the breather Biden badly needed to regain his footing in the race and to take the heat off his authentic dog-faced malarkey.
I’m not saying that Biden is going to be nominated nor elected president. In fact I have a Ruth’s Chris dinner bet riding on dropping out.
But to write the former vice-president off is to deny political reality.