EDITOR's NOTE: This piece was written, then posted on 2 March 2020, before the news broke about Senator Amy Klobuchar dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination later that same day.
As the dust settled in the wake of South Carolina's Democratic Presidential Primary this past Saturday, it appeared we were effectively down to the six contenders seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination who stood on stage in Las Vegas back on Wednesday night, 19 February (all due respect to Hawai'i Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, still in the race as well: but you've got to win some delegates [at least a few on 'Super Tuesday', maybe?]!). These 'Las Vegas' six (Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) would, in but three days, be facing a veritable "buzzsaw" come this Tuesday 3 March: one that would likely well "carve up" somebody's presidential ambitions (perhaps even the campaigns of more than one "somebody"?)
But, with Tom Steyer already having dropped out of the race while returns were still coming in from the Palmetto State, Pete Buttigieg (finishing a disappointing 4th in South Carolina, behind even Tom Steyer), decided- the next day (Sunday 1 March)- to also pull the plug on his own presidential campaign, potentially changing the equation for the rest of the Democratic field of candidates going into 'Super Tuesday'.
I, as ever, remain a Brokered Convention-skeptic: every four years (since at least 2004), at this same time of year (going into, and during, the earliest Presidential Primaries and Caucuses; and still going into at least the first 'Super Tuesday' or equivalent of that particular year), I find myself fielding queries- often from various and sundry media, electronic as well as print, Internet-based as well as Broadcast, as well as from ordinary users of The Green Papers- as to "just what will happen if [sometimes, it is even said 'when'!]" a National Convention of a Major Party with an 'open' presidential nomination contest (in which no incumbent President is seeking re-nomination by that Party) fails to nominate a presidential candidate outright on the First Ballot of Roll Call of the States on the floor of said Convention come that summer...
which, at least so far, never ends up happening!
In fact, the last time it took more than one ballot of Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination to choose a Major Party's presidential candidate was back in 1952, when the Democrats required three (count 'em: 3!) ballots to nominate then-Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois; add to this the fact that I will be turning 64 later this very month (thus, 1952 was even before *I* was born!), and one should so easily see why I continue to hold to my stance of "I'll believe a multi-ballot National Party Convention when I actually see one!".
No, I continue to think that- within but a few weeks (if not in the immediate aftermath of 'Super Tuesday')- we will be down to, at least functionally, a 'no more than four viable presidential contender' race on the Democratic side. I could be wrong this time round, obviously, but this is what recent American Political History tells me (with the ever-present caveat that, of course: "Past Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results").
And it is with the foregoing in mind that we must consider what just transpired in the Palmetto State this past Saturday, in order to then relate it to how best to watch what will happen come 'Super Tuesday':
As I said would be the case ('Thank you, Captain Obvious!') in my previous Commentary, the story coming out of South Carolina was 'How did the ex-Veep do?'... answer: "very well, thank you!". For Joe Biden has now well closed the delegate gap between himself and Senator Bernie Sanders (although Sanders still leads in total Delegate Count, Biden is now in second place overall: but a half-dozen delegates back).
I had written earlier that Nevada and South Carolina taken together were, in essence, a "Second Ballot" (Iowa and New Hampshire together having been the "First") of a presidential nomination process being "brokered" (as it were) by the voters in Presidential Primaries and at local caucuses themselves, but that, unlike each ballot at an old-time National Convention, these Primary/Caucus "ballots" are best viewed as cumulative (that is: one should look at the total number of delegates each presidential contender holds, rather than merely the number of delegates each contender might have received during a given Primary/Caucus week).
Analyzing delegate count coming out of this "Second Ballot" in this manner, we can see that Sanders and Biden (in that order), more or less, have split roughly 3/4 of the 155 delegates now pledged so far (much as Pete Buttigieg and Sanders had, more or less, split 2/3 of the 65 delegates coming out of the Primary/Caucus process's "First Ballot" as heretofore defined); and, in each case, neither Senator Sanders nor his nearest rival (formerly Buttigieg, now Biden) have held a majority of the delegates so pledged. Thus, we now go on to what is effectively a "Third Ballot"- 'Super Tuesday' itself, its 1344 total delegates up for grabs some 35 percent of the Democratic National Convention delegates still to be pledged to that Party's presidential contenders!
I will not here go on to a State-by-State analysis of what to expect come 3 March, as the questions 'Super Tuesday' now poses (and which can only be answered via the aggregate of the results coming in that evening on into next day) are themselves (especially with 'Mayor Pete' now out of the race) rather obvious:
- Can Joe Biden maintain his momentum coming out of South Carolina? (Or was the Palmetto State his one "big bang" in this 2020 contest?)
- How well- or not- will Mike Bloomberg do the first time he faces those actually "voting in anger"? (Has his well-funded "air war"- allowing him to skip all the earlier Delegate Selection events- helped him? Or will his own presidential ambitions prove to have merely been as ephemeral as the very wavelengths over which his television ads over the past few months have so incessantly traveled?)
- Assuming Bloomberg can, indeed, stay viable in the race past 'Super Tuesday', just who will join he, Biden and Sanders as the potential 4th contender (once we, as I say is still the more likely to happen, soon enough get down to a "no more than four" race)?
- Elizabeth Warren? (5th in South Carolina, although still 4th in total delegate count  behind even the now-departed Buttigieg, she has to do much more than simply win her home State of Massachusetts on Tuesday).
- Amy Klobuchar? (6th in South Carolina, and back in 5th in total delegate count , she likewise has to do much more than merely win her home State of Minnesota).
Just about the only thing I can, right now, say for certain (and even this hinges on his own health) is that Bernie Sanders (whose own State of Vermont will also be voting this coming Tuesday, though its result will neither help- nor hurt- his candidacy in the longest run) will be one of the four still-viable presidential contenders in just such an eventual "no more than four" scenario. During 'Super Tuesday', as with the Delegate Selection events to follow during the ensuing few weeks, much else within the Democratic Party presidential nomination contest is still very much up in the air!
Nonetheless, however, all eyes will certainly be on CALIFORNIA Tuesday night (and, given the State's recent vote-counting history, well into- and through- Wednesday [if not even beyond!]): for, by the time the Golden State's polls close at 8 PM local time (11 PM Eastern [0400:4 Mar Greenwich Mean]), we will already have a fairly good handle on just how well- or, perhaps, not- the now 5 leading candidates (Biden, Bloomberg, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) have already done in the other 13 States (where the polls will have already closed, and from which at least some returns- where not most, or even all- will have already been reported) holding Presidential Primaries on 'Super Tuesday'...
indeed, by that hour, we will surely have more than a few clues as to just what each presidential contender might have to do coming out of the Golden State (with more than 3/10 of the Democratic 'Super Tuesday' delegates in play [indeed, more than 10 percent of the total number of Democratic Party pledged delegates to begin with!]) in order to "stay in the hunt" beyond this coming week. And, if we don't already know by that point (based on what has already occurred in those other 'Super Tuesday' States), California itself may well begin to indicate to us all the name of the next possible political casualty amongst the current Democratic Party presidential field.
Like I've said, 'Super Tuesday' will be a "buzzsaw": California being merely the last, as well as the largest, blade!