Your Voice Your Vote 2020

The Note: Biden boom forces Buttigieg out but faces Super Tuesday reality check

What took Joe Biden three decades to achieve could disappear in days.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

What took Joe Biden three decades to achieve could disappear in the space of three days -- or could take three months more to play out.

The former vice president’s South Carolina blowout is forcing a series of critical questions in a compressed time frame for the Democratic field. One question got answered late Sunday, with the exit of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg from the race Sunday night.

But that’s only the start of what has to happen for things to break Biden’s way. Biden will confront Sen. Bernie Sanders’ political movement on Super Tuesday, hoping for a two-man race.

Yet even without Buttigieg, there are still five major candidates -- two who have won states, two more who have home states voting Tuesday, plus one who has already broken every spending record on the books and has yet to face voters.

Biden has now gotten the most total votes. The delegate leader remains Sanders, who goes into the single biggest day of primary voting prepared to pad his lead in a way that could make him essentially impossible to catch.

If South Carolina was Biden’s firewall, California could now be Sanders’. A lopsided delegate win there would wipe out most other potential Super Tuesday gains by Biden or anyone else.

Intriguingly, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is now saying her only realistic shot at the nomination would come at the convention -- the “final play,” in the words of her campaign manager.

Aides to Michael Bloomberg are saying that that the former mayor staying in could hold down Sanders’ -- not just Biden’s -- delegate hauls. Buttigieg was hinting at a similar line of thinking, where he would win delegates but not necessarily states, before deciding Sunday afternoon to exit the race.

Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” that he sees a “stark choice” between him and Sanders. But the math is just as stark for all the candidates still in this race.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

A surprising number of voters in South Carolina decided early in the process which candidate they would support and Joe Biden benefited.

The irony is he now needs people who are deciding late in the game to factor in his comeback this weekend.

According to exit polls, 37 percent of Democratic voters in South Carolina said they decided before January, compared to New Hampshire, where 20 percent said they decided on the very last day.

While early deciders worked in Biden’s favor in the South, early voting elsewhere could hurt him.

In the two largest states with primaries on Tuesday, early voting participation has been off the charts and Sanders has been polling well in both places.

Texas Democrats tell ABC News that 1,000,288 Democrats voted early so far, with several counties still outstanding. This is double 2016's early vote total. California also has signaled early voting numbers coming in high.

While some voters might now be considering (or reconsidering) Biden as a consensus candidate, and while his campaign might be pitching a binary choice between Biden and Sanders, the reality is millions of votes were cast well before this weekend.

And it isn’t crazy to imagine that before this weekend, many votes cast went to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who won the most delegates in Iowa and scored a big second-place finish in New Hampshire.

With four contests down, there were three winners and he was one of them.

His move to suspend his campaign could make a monumental difference in consolidating voters around Biden -- even this late in the process. But that doesn’t mean the early vote banked will not be a factor too.

The TIP with John Verhovek

For Biden, a win in South Carolina comes with both a boon and a warning. His 28-point romp in the Palmetto State beckoned in a $5 million fundraising day, the best online haul of his entire campaign, but it came with a stern warning from the man whose endorsement just may have revived his entire campaign. “I'm not going to sit idly by and watch people mishandle his campaign,” South Carolina titan Rep. Jim Clyburn said just hours before Biden’s campaign-saving win.

For his part, Biden appears to be heeding that advice, admitting on ABC’s “This Week” that while he is satisfied with his campaign leadership, they’ve “had some difficulties” with field organization -- an area where Sanders excels.

“We always can improve. And I can improve as well," Biden conceded.

As the campaign barrels into March, Biden’s campaign is boosting its ad buy in eight states that vote on Super Tuesday. It’s up over $2.2 million, specifically targeting shows with a high rate of African American viewership, hoping the voters who delivered him a win in South Carolina can do so elsewhere.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, who explains how the presidential race will shift after former Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced he is suspending his campaign. Then, ABC News’ Kyra Phillips takes us behind the Trump administration’s novel coronavirus messaging strategy. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. Former Vice President Joe Biden won big in South Carolina on Saturday, besting Sen. Bernie Sanders by nearly 30 points. In a late-night installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses how Biden pulled ahead in what looked to be a competitive race just two weeks ago. They also debate what it means for the Democratic primary going forward and whether it’s now a two-person race. https://53eig.ht/2uM3sI4

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 7 p.m.
  • Vice President Mike Pence will have lunch with President Trump at 12:45 p.m. and delivers a 5 p.m. briefing on the Coronavirus with Ambassador Deborah Birx.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., participates in a grassroots event in Salt Lake City at 9 a.m. (MST). She then attends a grassroots event in Denver at 1 p.m. (MST). Later, she participates in a grassroots event at 6 p.m. (CST) in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington at 9:45 a.m. He then participates in a Fox News Town Hall in Manassas, Virginia, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosts a rally in Salt Lake City at noon (MST). He then leads a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, at 7 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden hosts a community event at 1 p.m. (CST) in Houston. He then leads a community event at 7 p.m. in Dallas.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, hosts a town hall in Austin, Texas, at 7 p.m. (CST).
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., delivers remarks at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California, at 7:30 p.m. (PST).
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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