New York, March 3 (IANS) Democrats in 14 US states will go to the polls on Tuesday in an ideologically sharpened race to choose between a radical and a moderate to oppose President Donald Trump in November after two moderate candidates dropped out of the race to back the centrist Joe Biden.
With the party establishment and moderates shuddering at the prospect of a self-described Democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders, getting the party nomination, former Vice President Biden can now consolidate the support of the two.
Sanders and Biden are the top contenders with two others, billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, a centre-right candidate, and the leftist Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren still in the race. Hindu-American Tulsi Gabbard is also continuing to run, although she has polled only about 1 per cent or less of the votes in the four polls and was formerly a Sanders supporter.
The 14 primaries in what is called the “Super Tuesday” can determine if they will still remain in the race.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race on Monday and appeared with Biden at a rally in Dallas on Monday night where she said: “We want to win big, and Joe Biden can do that.”
Former Sooth Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday and at another rally on Monday endorsed Biden. “I’m encouraging everybody who was part of my campaign to join me because we have found that leader in vice president, soon-to-president, Joe Biden,” he said.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire who had spent about $40 million for his campaign has also dropped out after a poor showing in the South Carolina primary but has not formally endorsed Biden.
Biden, who had fared badly in the first three polls roared back in South Carolina on February 29 with nearly half the votes polled and more than twice as many as Biden showing his candidacy was still viable.
He said in TV interviews on Sunday that he raised $5 million in campaign donations after the South Carolina results were known.
The sudden withdrawal of Klobuchar and Buttigieg with the new realignment scrambles all the opinion polls that showed Sanders leading in many states, including three large ones, California, Texas and Virginia, and a new electoral picture will emerge after Super Tuesday.
Nationally, Sanders leads among Democratic Party supporters according to RealClear Politics aggregation of polls, which gives him 27.5 per cent support against Biden’s 21.3 per cent.
After having been presumed to be the front-runner, Biden fared badly in the first three polls ending up fifth in New Hampshire, fourth in Iowa and second in Nevada raising questions about his viability till the tide turned in South Carolina.
he four states where the polls have taken place are not quite reflective of the nation.
Iowa and New Hampshire are about 90 per cent white and demographically unlike the rest of the US, where non-Latino whites are only about 60 per cent, and Sanders and Buttigieg led there, running neck and neck with only about one per cent separating them.
In Nevada, Sanders was ahead with 47 per cent of the votes, but the state is heavily Latino – they make up 29 per cent of the population.
South Carolina is a Republican-dominated state where African-Americans make up about 60 per cent of the Democratic Party and they overwhelmingly went for Biden.
Buttigieg had a meteoric rise tying for the front runner status in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he faded like a meteor in others.
When he endorsed Biden, the former vice president in a show of emotion said that he reminded him of his son Beu and that it was his high compliment.
Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer, was a major in the army and had served in Iraq, while Buttigieg served in Afghanistan as a navy officer.
Klobuchar, who boasted of her mid-western roots in Minnesota, was dogged by her record as a prosecutor before becoming a senator. On Sunday she had to cancel a rally in her home state when protesters took over the stage attacking her over the prosecution of an African-American teenager in the killing of a girl.
Super Tuesday will be the first real test for Bloomberg, who did not participate in the four polls so far.
Bloomberg, who is the owner of the news and financial information service that carries his name and a former mayor of New York, has spent about $400 million of his own money for his campaign that has blanketed the country with TV ads and social media messaging.
The opposition within the Democratic Party to Sanders is because many believe that the nation is not ready to elect a socialist and his candidature would pull down Democrats running for Congress.
Reflecting those views, Klobuchar said she was “troubled” by the prospects of a socialist representing the Democratic Party in the presidential election.
Despite his 78 years, Sanders is the most popular candidate among young people, who are drawn by his promise for free college, government health insurance for all and guaranteed minimum wage of $15 an hour.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)