Party outsiders like Warren and Bloomberg ended their campaigns on their own terms.
After the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28, the Democratic primary, which had been so constant since Iowa, changed. It started with Pete Buttigieg dropping out of the race on Sunday. Then Amy Klobuchar did the same thing on Monday. Finally, Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke all endorsed Joe Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday.
These endorsements and dropouts are a visible version of the political science book “The Party Decides,” which argues that political party insiders and leadership use endorsements to signal which candidates that the party establishment picks should be elected for the job. This time, the Democratic Party isn’t even subtle about it. The candidates dropped out within days of Super Tuesday, the biggest primary day of the cycle, and all endorsed Biden on the same day. If there was any assumption that this was the candidates’ choice and they obviously did it of their own free will, the timing of it was after Biden proved he could win somewhere (South Carolina). This means that one moderate Democrat finally proved they had staying power over the other two, and the establishment finally made a decision to have the rest of the candidates coalesce around one. By pushing all of the moderate candidates out in favor of the one who had had the best showing so far (and was winning the endorsement race), the party decided that they wanted Biden — and the voters got in line.
This visible signaling was most apparent in Minnesota. Before dropping out, Amy Klobuchar looked like she had the race in her home state on lock. She was leading in polls and had the advantage of being the homestate candidate. Bernie Sanders was next in the race, trailing by a lot. Then, Klobuchar dropped out. Logically Bernie would be most likely to win since he was doing best in the race after Klobuchar, right?
Biden snagged the win after Klobuchar endorsed him. This upset makes sense if voters paid attention to Klobuchar’s endorsement and threw their support behind the candidate she supported.
After the duo of dropouts, it became clear to most people that the race was going to be a duel between Bernie and Biden, with Bloomberg and Warren positioned as the spoiler candidates on the center and the left respectively. However, unlike Buttigieg and Klobuchar, Bloomberg and Warren were not establishment Democrats. They had no stake in a second race and had no party leaders strong arming them to get out, so they didn’t until after Super Tuesday. The party decided for Buttigieg and Klobuchar, but Bloomberg and Warren left on their own terms.
The race looks completely different after Super Tuesday, which most people expected. However, few people expected the Democratic Party to pull in favors and strongarm candidates to drop out in favor of supporting the standard bearer in hopes of avoiding a 2016 Republican repeat. The party has played their cards, and Bernie supporters now have more reasons to claim the system is rigged against their candidate, further alienating general election voters. The Democratic Party made a large, public stand. Was it the right decision? Everyone will know before November is up.