What a difference a week makes!
A week to remember
A week ago, the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada preseason contests had played out. Bernie was shining and gaining momentum, seeing mainstream numbers that gave the lie to the notion that his following was passionate and deep, but not wide. First-tier stars were emerging like Mayor Pete, Liz Warren, and Klobuchar.
Meanwhile, the Default Guy had led the polls, from the beginning of the campaign and throughout the long, long debate season. But the air of place-holder was always about him: he was weak in the debates; the big money and big names had never really backed him; and perhaps worst, he had never received the endorsement of Obama, after having served him enthusiastically and worshipped his slavishly for 8 years. He had been favored to win South Carolina, since the heavily black and moderate constituency favored him much more than the first three states. But at this point what had been his firewall might be his Waterloo. It was thought that anything less than a decisive win would doom him.
He dominated South Carolina, smashing Bernie 49-18. Then in quick succession, promising (relative) moderates ButtigiEg and Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden, giving him the moderate lane all to himself. Super Tuesday was a great day in which Biden, momentum, and delagates all found themselves in the same dimension. In the wake of that win, Bloomberg dropped out as well, pledging his support and his billions to Biden.
Biden was never a strong candidate
For more than a year, Biden had been the front runner in all the polls. He was considered the leader of the moderate lane, with Sanders and Warren leading the socialist lane. But about Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg it could be said that they had strong debates and devoted followings. Biden merely had default voting base, inspiring nobody.
The Establishment was hoping that somebody from 10-ish moderates in the 20-person field would rise to the top and make a run at Biden. Although others flashed at some point, only Klobuchar and Mayor Pete drew discernable support.
ABB – Anybody but Bernie (or Liz)
The Establishment has always bitterly opposed Bernie Sanders as a candidate – not because his beilefs or intentions are a radical departure from the mainstream Democrat platform, but because he so shamelessly states such beliefs and intentions, and they have calculated that the American public will not stomach undisguised socialism. The resulting electoral enstompenation would also cause downstream carnage, costing the Party the House, a worse Senate minority, and quite likely similar setbacks across the country at the state level.
Trump most likely cannot be beat, but they have to make a fight of it and keep the House. They feel their best shot is with a solidly mainstream Democrat.
Two so-called moderates survived the earlly contests and were set to face Super Tuesday. But Klobuchar was uninspiring and had probably peaked. Buttigieg was an interesting case: magnetic, refreshingly young and energetic in a remaining field full of post-70 faces, He inspired a dedicated following, and actually won Iowa. But his negatives were not small things: super-thin resume as a mayor of a small city, and arguably not distinguished in that endeavor; flamboyantly gay played great in most of Democrat-land, but was a huge negative in the crucial black bloc; and his frequent attacks of mainstream Christians was a turn-off to what remains of the blue-collar and union whites. He was perceived to have a ceiling as well.
The clock ran out
After the three warm-up contests behind them, and South Carolina popping 3 days before Super Tuesday, the Establishment was out of time. With Bernie showing so strong, it was not permissible on that day for the moderate lane to split its votes among three candidates (4 if you count Bloomberg), while Bernie was allowed to gain momentum.
Biden was not ideal; his appeal was broad but not deep, and he was showing signs of mental issues. Buttigieg and Klobuchar had potential but both were risky. South Carolina would be Biden’s final chance to prove he could turn potential into an actual win. If he lost, or won unconvincingly there, then with three days to Super Tuesday, the Establishment would have had to make a hard choice and back one of the three.
Fortunately for them, Biden made it easy by dominating South Carolina.
Finally, Establishment support
(or) only one girl left to ask to the prom
So in spite of Mayor Pete being clearly viable, the southern and midwestern states ripe for Klobuchar to make a strong move, and both of them financially and organizationally viable, they both bowed out and threw their support to Biden. The Establishment made their choice, and Biden will have their full support. Not because of him, but because Bernie cannot be allowed to win.