Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign is worse than the embarrassment Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign. They have similarities; both came into the race as frontrunners, both had high name recognition and a solid base among Establishment-types in their party, and both have run campaigns that turned them into punchlines.
The biggest difference is that Bush succumbed to superior candidates across the board. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and, of course, President Trump all had more campaign energy throughout than Bush could ever muster. Biden, on the other hand, has no real excuse because other than a spark of early campaign brilliance by Elizabeth Warren and the late surge by Bernie Sanders, Biden hasn’t had competition that he was incapable of vanquishing. Both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have benefited from Biden’s collapse rather than helping to spark it themselves. Even Tom Steyer is still alive because Biden has failed to inspire in the moderate lane.
But Biden’s biggest threat going into the South Carolina primary on Saturday and Super Tuesday three days later is Mike Bloomberg. If Biden doesn’t perform at least up to par with expectations in the first state with a majority black Democratic vote, voters on Super Tuesday will run. He desperately needs to suspend disbelief in his campaign by scoring big in South Carolina. Otherwise, he’s essentially forfeiting the moderate lane to Bloomberg or whoever else can mount a major push, which is likely nobody.
Unless Bloomberg has a similar collapse due to resurfaced videos (there seems to be plenty) or his mouth going faster than his brain, a Biden 2nd-place finish in South Carolina could send all the moderate momentum towards the billionaire. But there’s another scenario one billionaire must consider: the other billionaire. If Steyer, who is within striking distance in the polls, can pull off a major upset by defeating both Biden and Sanders in South Carolina, the tumult in the centrist lane going into Super Tuesday would be confounded. Which billionaire would voters choose, the bigger one or the taller one? The one with delegates or the one with more billions?
The Biden campaign continues to say that he’ll win South Carolina, but if he doesn’t then it’s still not over. The second part is a lie. If he comes in second or (gulp) third, he’s done. It’ll be time to write his memoirs and hide Hunter Biden somewhere.