Editorial: Joe Biden's surge

Former vice president Joe Biden was the big winner of last week’s Super Tuesday primary in Massachusetts and across the country. Here in Boston, he basically split the vote with Bernie Sanders, with both men getting about 30 percent of the vote. Elizabeth Warren finished third, with about 27 percent, a result that — coupled with her disappointing finish in all of the early primaries and caucuses— compelled her to leave the race last Thursday.

A closer look at the numbers— with an eye toward both the granular and the bigger picture— is revealing about the state of the Democratic contest.

First, it’s important to note that Sanders did very well in Boston, despite “losing” the city to Biden by 56 votes. The Vermont senator won 25 of the 60 or so Dorchester precincts (some of those are split between Dot and Roxbury or Dot and Mattapan.) He was strongest in Ward 15 (Bowdoin-Geneva, Meetinghouse Hill) and in lower-numbered precincts in Ward 16 (St. Mark’s Area, Fields Corner). Sanders won the Polish Triangle (three precincts in Ward 7.) And he won Ward 13 along the Roxbury and Dorchester line, including Uphams Corner.

That said, Sanders’s support was softer in parts of Boston than in 2016, when he faced off head-to-head with Hillary Clinton. Sanders, for example, was beaten by both Biden and Warren in Savin Hill’s 13-10 precinct. He came in second to Biden in upper Ward 16, a place where he’d beaten Clinton in the ’16 primary.

Biden’s greatest advantage locally came from two constituencies that are sometimes at odds on election day: the whiter, more moderate (borderline conservative) Neponset precincts in Ward 16; and the predominantly black, solidly Democratic precincts in Ward 17 (Lower Mills, Mattapan, Codman Square) and Ward 14 (Franklin Field, Blue Hill Corridor, Morton Street.)

It’s clear that Biden’s win in South Carolina on Feb. 29 — coupled with two big endorsements from former rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar on the day before the March 3 primary— gave him the boost he needed in Massachusetts. His victory among African-American voters— the Dems’ most reliable voting bloc— was a resounding one in South Carolina and it affirmed for Dem voters here that his path to victory was once again viable.

Biden’s coalition of moderate white voters and voters of color who are the true base of the Democrat party has strong appeal for those of us whose chief objective in this election cycle is the defeat of Donald Trump. Sanders continues to underperform among black voters in particular. Warren, likewise, failed to draw strong support from that key constituency, despite performing well there in past election cycles against Republican foes.

Last Tuesday showed that Democratic and unenrolled voters in Boston— like their compatriots elsewhere in the Republic— are paying close attention to the dynamics of the national contest. They are cognizant of the behaviors and preferences of voters in other parts of the country and — in the case of Warren— eschewed homegrown allegiances for a more pragmatic approach, one that they keenly hope will unseat a deeply unpopular president.

As in Boston’s neighborhoods, Democrat voters and their independent allies across America are turning to Joe Biden. He dominated in Mississippi’s primary, won convincingly in Missouri and tied Sanders in Washington state. Critically, the former vice-president won a decisive victory in Michigan, which Sanders won over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

With a looming health emergency, Americans will need to re-focus their attention on weathering this storm— and then to defeating Trump in the fall.

-Bill Forry

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