The 10,000 Foot Primary

Democratic Voters Come Home to the Initial Two Front Runners — But Don’t Get too Close

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If there is one word to describe the culmination of the 2020 Presidential Race after Super Tuesday it’s “uninspiring.” Voters flirted with choice, but ultimately the older more conservative parts of the party flinched and went for more of the same, leaving for all intents and purposes, the Democratic primary back where it started.

After a year of campaigning and 10 debates, on Super Tuesday voters came home to Biden and Bernie. They had certainly cycled through enough of them. At one point the field swelled to 29 candidates, and required two separate debate stages on successive nights as voters flirted with Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, Gillibrand, Booker, Castro and Klobuchar. But none had staying power. Bloomberg’s jumping in was one more moment of FOBO (fear of a better option) before he fizzled, too (though to be fair his candidacy was universally among the most problematic).

At the end of the day voters returned to where they had started — the two candidates with the most name ID and known quantities to the electorate. And while Bernie won those under 45, signalling that his progressive agenda is the future of the party, Biden coasted to victory on the over 45 who comprise the majority of the electorate. For all intents and purposes, no one ever got fired for using IBM. That the company interviewed widely only to pick the candidates widely perceived as the likeliest choice from the get go should be all too familiar to millennials.

Biden is not inspiring candidate. Yet for all of the inevitability, he is also not the solid bet. Biden is known for his gaffes, has at best a problematic reputation for making women uncomfortable, and during the brief time he spent on the campaign trail as the front runner he bombed miserably. Even his support is less about support for Biden than a distaste for Sanders and his politics by a coalition of splintered moderates who only managed to find unity in opposition.

Given a few more weeks, the primary might radically shift again to the newest flavor of the month— but alas we are out of time. Both the math and the path to the convention are narrow enough that the window may already be closed. But make no mistake — this was a dispassionate arm chair calculus. And that’s a potentially dangerous calculation going into what is likely to be a base election. Voters are going to be down in the mud — but they made their choice at the 10,000 foot level. It remains to be seen whether that decision looks as good up close as it did from a distance.

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