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The race for the Democratic nomination has reached its most volatile stage as voting has begun. Following results from 17 states, former Vice President Joe Biden has pulled off a massive comeback and has quickly re-emerged as the race’s leader. As he prepares to square off against Senator Sanders, the two are competing to build up a base of support that will help them in the fight against President Trump. While it’s still unclear who will ultimately head to the general election, Douglas County donors are making it known who they believe is the most electable candidate.

OpenSecrets, a website which tracks monetary donations made to political campaigns across the country, shows that local Douglas County donors living in the 97470 area code are enthusiastic about the self-described Democratic Socialist’s second bid for the presidency. With $426,582 raised in the area for him this election year, Sanders blows his competition’s fundraising out of the water locally. He’s received over twice the amount of financial support from Douglas County residents that President Trump has ($211,072) and over five times what they’ve given the next-most likely Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. Biden’s local fundraising total of $84,419 is a stark contrast even to those of candidates who have dropped out. Prior to the end of their runs, Sen. Elizabeth Warren amassed $234,020 from local supporters and Mayor Pete Buttigieg earned $139,228.

In what was the single biggest day in the 2020 campaign so far, March 3’s “Super Tuesday,” made it clear the directions in which Democrats hope to take the country and their party: one toward a “political revolution” and the other toward a “return to decency.” Biden swept 10 of the 14 contests that day, carrying plenty of states that helped win Clinton the nomination four years ago (Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas). He even pulled off surprise victories in places that Sanders won last time around (Minnesota, Oklahoma and Maine). The night was not a total disaster for Senator Sanders, however. He won his home state of Vermont as well as Colorado, Utah, and the biggest prize of the night, California.

Biden’s resurgence has quickly shifted the field to a one-on-one race. Within days of each other, four of his closest rivals Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg all dropped out (the latter three quickly endorsed him afterwards). With this consolidation of support, Biden has retaken the lead over Sanders in national polling. According to ABC’s news site FiveThirtyEight, Biden is the top choice among 34.9% of Democrats nationwide. Sanders, who had been ahead since early February, has fallen behind him with 29.1% support. It should be said that as the race has quickly transitioned, and with how long it takes to conduct quality polls, it’s impossible for these numbers to be completely accurate and up-to-date. With a nonstop media cycle, both should be expected to quickly gain or lose support as the days go on.

Historically speaking, victories in the first few contests of Iowa and New Hampshire eventually lead to those winning candidates becoming the nominee. Every single Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter, with the only exception being Bill Clinton in 1992, won one or both of the states. But, in what has already been a crazy few months with Trump’s impeachment and acquittal, the threat of war with Iran and the developments involving Attorney General Bill Barr stepping in to lessen the prison sentence of the president’s friend Roger Stone, we should have seen that history and precedence would continue to be thrown out the window. 

As the country’s diversity has shifted more to the political forefront, the historical precedence of relying on these early states’s returns is changing. Why? Both Iowa and New Hampshire are 90% white and candidates like Biden and Sanders have been relying more and more on minority constituencies to win across the nation.

That means the tradition that started in 1972 of all of the candidates, hundreds of staff members and volunteers, journalists and political observers bum rushing into Iowa to take part in something called a caucus is dying. 

In the Iowa caucus, the public votes at a site by breaking off into individual candidate groups where they then remain as everyone is counted. The voters who participate in caucuses tend to be party activists and loyalists who can spend hours engaging in the process. Once the groups have been solidified, they are then analyzed to see how large they are. Any group of voters whose candidate failed to earn at least 15% of attendees is then persuaded to join one who has. Some do. Some leave. Once the non-viable supporters have been reallocated, the final number of delegates are announced for each candidate. These delegates then go on to vote for their candidate at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in the summer. Actually, it’s more of a suggestion as to who they ultimately vote for. They can always change their mind.

With all the hype, media and historical precedence surrounding the Iowa caucus, this year’s event could not have ended up more messy and controversial. Instead of only reporting out the delegate results, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP), for the first time, tallied the whole number of caucus-goers and who they supported. The race could not have been a closer finish. Winning the popular vote by 1.4% over former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sanders received 45,831 votes to Buttigieg’s 43,273. Despite this, Buttigieg won 14 pledged delegates against Sanders’s 12, due to the mayor winning the more mathematically-weighted rural areas of the state. Even as the votes were certified, errors and inaccuracies remained in the IDP’s own final tabulation, based on analysis conducted by the Associated Press, leaving the results perpetually in doubt. Another nail in the coffin for the future of the Iowa caucuses. 

New Hampshire, the first ballot primary, did not have any of Iowa’s problems, and was able to declare a winner on election night. Going two-for-two, Sanders once again won the popular vote over Buttigieg by less than 2%, with each getting nine of the state’s 24 delegates. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar came out of nowhere and beat her polling, making her the only other candidate to get more than 10% of the vote, netting her the remaining six delegates and locking Warren and Biden out of contention entirely.

The first state in the west to vote and the only other major caucus was next: Nevada. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, one-third of Nevada’s population are people of color, according to the American Community Survey; this was the first real test to see whose message could break through with some of the party’s core base of supporters. Sweeping nearly every demographic group in the state, Sanders cleaned up handily, beating Biden with 46.8% of the vote to the former vice president’s 20.2%. With his margin of victory, Senator Sanders earned two-thirds of the state’s 36 delegates.

Biden’s second place provided his campaign a needed boost heading into the state he staked his entire candidacy on: South Carolina.

The South Carolina primary was described as the vice president’s “firewall.” Traditionally in politics, a firewall is a candidate’s stronghold where they have so much support no one else would stand a chance of winning. Biden, who draws significant support from black voters (he has won the majority of their support in every state to vote so far), devoted most of his time and campaign resources into South Carolina. He went so far as to ditch his event in New Hampshire the morning of that primary to give a speech in S.C. where, in 2016, exit polls estimated 61% of primary voters were black. Earlier, polls had him leading Bernie in S.C. by 20%, but after his rather disappointing results in the first three contests, the race had tightened. Just 2% separated Biden and Sanders in polls prior to the S.C. primary. However, following the endorsement of S.C. Rep. Jim Clyburn (the House Majority whip and the third ranking member of the House), Biden got more of a result than he could have ever hoped for, winning his first presidential primary ever (he’s run twice before) by destroying the rest of the field with almost half of the vote.

In the 48 hours after the last of South Carolina’s votes were counted, the question had been who would be the “anti-Sanders” choice. The answer, resoundly, was Biden. At events in Texas, just the day before Super Tuesday, he was joined on stage by Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke where they threw their support behind him, leaving him as Sanders’s sole competitor.

However, post Super Tuesday, the race still remains up for grabs. In order for a candidate to technically win the Democratic nomination, they must have a majority of the 3,979 delegates that will be sent to the convention. In this case, 1,991 are needed to guarantee them the spot on the ticket. Biden with 664 currently leads to Sanders’s 573 (with some still to be awarded). Some 62% of the delegates are still up for grabs. With primaries scheduled until June, the senator still has a little time left to overcome the former vice president’s currently small lead. The next few weeks alone are going to be crucial for both campaigns. Thirteen more states (most which look good for Biden) have yet to vote this month and the two are set to face each other in a debate on March 15.

To get a better sense of where things are ultimately likely to end up, watch for the results out of Michigan on March 10. It’s a state that Bernie won in 2016, as well as a crucial swing state in the general election. Both the winner and the vote margin between will be telling signs. If Biden takes it he’s likely to walk away with the nomination. Where as a Sanders victory probably keeps things interesting for a while longer. 

(An open dialogue is vital to our democracy. So please, let me know what you, the reader, think! Who do you believe is on track to win the Democratic nomination? Are they doing enough to earn your vote? Do either Biden or Sanders stand a chance against Trump? Feel free to leave any thoughts and comments you may have about this unpredictable year in politics.)