Super Tuesday was six days ago. I have been meaning to review the overall events of the evening, especially since the next big primary contest is tomorrow, and because other events have eclipsed the primary count in the news. The entire nation of Italy is now under quarantine, meaning the in-depth discussion of the shifting demographics of Duluth, Minnesota might be less important than they seemed a week ago.
On the weekend before Super Tuesday, I made a journey from Whitefish, Montana to Eureka, California, which, due to the routing of Amtrak, took me all the way through the San Francisco Bay region. In that trip, I visited Lincoln County, Montana, where the a county where the Republican candidate regularly gets over 70% of the vote, and I visited Multnomah County, Oregon, where the Democratic candidate regularly gets over 70% of the vote. I was asleep for much of the trip, sitting behind a Canadian whose hacking cough hopefully didn't expose me to Covid-19, so I can't really claim to have an innate, Yoda-like sense of the American populace. But: I did make an attempt. I travelled 1600 miles across the United States. It gave me a hint at the size and diversity of the United States.
Of the 15 states and territories that voted on Super Tuesday: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgina and American Samoa, I have visited 13 (I haven't been to Oklahoma or American Samoa), and have lived in two of them, California and Vermont. But the median time I have spent in these 15 states* is 3 or 4 days, a long weekend on vacation. Does me taking a leisurely afternoon stroll around Peaks Island, Maine, or spending a miserable 12 hours waiting for a lat bus in the Salt Lake City Greyhound station give me some insight into the complicated history and demographics of those states, and what voters are looking for? No, no it does not, but in acknowledging that, I am ahead of the pundits who try to describe entire states with one or two facile generalizations. The electorate that voted across those 15 states was diverse, and they voted for diverse candidates. Before Super Tuesday, the race was a four person race, with there still being an outside chance that Michael Bloomberg or Elizabeth Warren could pull into some type of lead, or at least be a strong niche candidate.
But the race was narrowing down and tightening up. Just a few weeks previously, it seemed a reasonable thing to suggest that the mayor of South Bend, Indiana was the Democratic Party's next choice for president. It was a giddy time. On Super Tuesday, things reverted to the mean. Joe Biden, who had served for eight years as the Vice-President under a popular president, started running up wins. His victories weren't overwhelming. In many places, he got in the low 30s, over Sanders, who scored in the high 20s. It was a marginal victory, but it was enough. After Super Tuesday, Joe Biden seems to have the clearest path forward to the nomination. However, his position has been exaggerated in some quarters. His victories are, like many primary victories, the result of how the voting calendar is scheduled, and how the narrative forms. The voters who find Biden too entrenched, too conciliatory, and generally too vanilla are many, and Biden will still have to prove himself in many more contests to come.