Through a series of articles we call The State, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy and Political Affairs team is providing analysis related to "the state of" various aspects of the 2020 campaign season, including the race for the White House and key elections around the country.
Running for the White House requires heavy financial resources to influence voters and increase a candidate’s standing in the polls.
With that in mind, let’s examine the state of money and polls in the Democratic race as we approach Super Tuesday.
Since the start of the campaign, the original 26 Democratic candidates have spent over $1.2 billion.
Heading into Super Tuesday on March 3, the field has narrowed to seven individuals. The current spending by the remaining contenders (plus Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg, who both dropped out after South Carolina), in order of money spent, stands at:
Money spent by campaigns primarily goes to staff and advertising, with $969 million already spent on ads as they are the most effective way for candidates to get their message out. However, this does not always result in polling leads or wins. The top two spenders, Bloomberg and Steyer, have not won a single delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and after a distant third place finish in South Carolina, Tom Steyer ended his campaign.
Polling suggests Bloomberg’s unconventional strategy of staying off the ballot until Super Tuesday is not paying off. While he saw an early rise in polling, a pair of middling performances in the last two debates have caused his numbers to decline. Only one poll in Arkansas shows him with a lead of 1-point. No other Super Tuesday state polls have him leading.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing a surge. Following his best debate performance, according to many in the political media, and an influential endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Biden claimed a 28-point victory in South Carolina. He received 48% of the votes, compared to Sen. Sander’s 20%, and took at least 35 of the state’s 54 delegates. Biden’s margin of victory could give him a major boost on Super Tuesday, especially in the seven participating southern states, which have a large voter base of African Americans, who typically strongly support Biden. Biden’s spending in the Super Tuesday states has been relatively small compared to Sanders or Bloomberg, but an infusion of last-minute cash and momentum from his win in South Carolina could help him close the gap.
Sanders is expected to do well in many of the Super Tuesday states, especially in delegate-rich California, which would give him a commanding lead in the delegate count. Momentum from Biden, however, could blunt Sanders and make the nomination a two-person race. No other candidate is likely to win big on March 3, save for a home-state win.
Without significant showings leading to a large delegate count, most other candidates will have a hard time raising money or having a path to the nomination. The results in South Carolina compelled Steyer and Buttigieg to officially end their campaigns. Super Tuesday’s results could have the same effect on multiple remaining candidates.
Mike Sistak is director of grassroots program development at the American Farm Bureau Federation.