It is possible – perhaps even probable – that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders could win in both Iowa and New Hampshire. In terms of delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Iowa has 49 delegates and New Hampshire has 33 – out of the 3979 regular delegates and the 771 so-called superdelegates that are designated by the Party. The superdelegates will not be allowed to vote unless no one gets the required majority on the first ballot.
If Sanders should win in the first two states, he will gain a psychological or perception advantage. To date, Sanders has been splitting the hardcore left vote with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. This division has given the lead to former Vice President Joe Biden – but he does not have more support than Sanders and Warren combined.
For months, Sanders and Warren have essentially been vying for second place – one topping the other in one poll or another. In more recent weeks, Sanders seems to have secured the lead among the progressive left – but Warren still holds enough support to remain in the race and for most of her supporters to remain loyal. Unless her numbers collapse or she drops out of the race, Biden could hold the lead.
BUT … if Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, it could be the death blow to the Warren campaign. This is especially true if Warren winds up coming in third or fourth in either Iowa or New Hampshire.
Going into the South Carolina primary, the race for the Democrat presidential nomination could polarize around Biden and Sanders as the respective leaders of moderate and progressive factions of the starkly divided Democratic Party going into Super Tuesday.
As the leading progressive candidate, Sanders may have a few advantages heading into Super Tuesday. That is where uber billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has staked his claim. With hundreds of millions of dollars to buy ads and hire staff, he could rise out of the ranks of single-digit candidates. He could further divide the moderate vote currently being shared by Biden, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and South Bend Major Pete Buttigieg.
If Warren is out of the race – or has descended into single digits – Sanders has no real competition for the left-wing vote.
Sanders may benefit from the fact that many of the states casting ballots on Super Tuesday have a tradition of leaning far left in primary elections. They include California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota.
Three of the states have candidates in the race at this point – but maybe not then. They are Warren in Massachusetts, Klobuchar in Minnesota and Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado. None of these, however, are likely to significantly cut into the Sanders vote.
A third advantage Sanders gains by winning Iowa and New Hampshire is increased donations. He is already doing very well with his small-donor strategy – and that pace would likely pick up as he becomes an increasingly viable candidate.
More and more, it looks like Sanders is going to be the leader of the progressive faction. It is the moderate faction leadership that is in doubt. Biden is ahead now, but he constantly looks like he is about to fall off the top of the political mountain. If Buttigieg or Klobuchar pick up steam, it is not likely to get them a nomination. But it could pave the way for Bloomberg – as the moderate candidate without the baggage, the gaffes, and the age issue.
Anything can happen in politics – and life – but it is starting to look like the Sanders/Warren contest is shifting to advantage Sanders. For the moderates – too soon to tell.
So, there ‘tis.