WASHINGTON – Former mayor Pete Buttigieg calling it quits just two days before one of the largest contests of the primary cycle means his supporters are now looking for a new candidate.
Buttigieg’s exit could bring a significant shift to the race, as he was one of several moderate candidates running to win many of the same voters. Will his supporters flock to fellow center-left Democrats, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg?
Or could the more progressive candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, benefit from the now unattached voters?
Here’s a look at where some of Buttigieg’s support could move:
Klomentum, Part 2?
Klobuchar and Buttigieg each billed themselves as the person who could unify all voting blocs of the Democratic Party, particularly rural and suburban voters. But Klobuchar often slammed Buttigieg in debates for his lack of experience.
Despite the often intense back-and-forth between the two candidates, many of their voters overlapped. In fact, 26% of Buttigieg voters said Klobuchar would be their second choice for president, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in February. That percentage was tied for the highest of any other candidate with Warren, also at 26%.
Klobuchar placed third in New Hampshire, closely following Buttigieg, who was in second. But the Minnesota senator is going to need several big wins to continue on in the Democratic primary.
She has failed to gain traction in the more diverse early voting states of Nevada and South Carolina. She still needs to boost herself with black and Latino voters. According to exit polls in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, Klobuchar got 0% among black voters.
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Making way for Elizabeth Warren?
Warren, who is on the more progressive end of the spectrum than Buttigieg, also is the second choice of 26% of Buttigieg supporters, according to the Quinnipiac Poll from February. In a Morning Consult national poll released in late February, Warren was the second choice of 19% with Buttigieg supporters.
Warren has struggled to gain traction with voting now underway in the primary season, despite surging in polling last fall. Warren’s third-place finish in Iowa was clouded by chaos surrounding the results, Buttigieg’s and Sanders’ near tie, and former Vice President Joe Biden’s low placing. Since then, Warren has failed to make the top 3 again in a primary.
However, the Massachusetts senator has said her campaign is in it for the long haul. She has come out swinging on the debate stage against Bloomberg, the former New York City, and continued campaigning heavily in Super Tuesday states.
Where does Joe Biden stand now?
Biden seems to be in the best position to benefit from Buttigieg’s exit.
Buttigieg’s announcement comes a day after Biden’s blowout win in South Carolina, where he leapfrogged to second place in national pledged delegates behind Sanders. With Biden proving he can win, voters once attracted to Buttigieg could feel more comfortable moving over to another moderate in Biden.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, 19% of Buttigieg voters said Biden was their second choice. A Morning Consult national poll released in late February also showed 19% of Buttigieg supporters picking Biden as their second choice.
At least one Buttigieg supporter has already thrown his support behind Biden. Shortly after Buttigieg left the race, Congressman Don Beyer, who had initially endorsed Buttigieg, threw his support to Biden. Beyer represents a district in Virginia, a Super Tuesday state.
“Joe Biden is a statesman who has been tested by years of public service as a Senator and as the Vice President and most trusted counselor of President Barack Obama” Beyer said in his statement. “He has the experience necessary to achieve progress and deliver results, and the ability to unite our party’s broad coalition and lead us to victory in November. As Virginians weigh their choices in Tuesday’s primary, I give my endorsement to Vice President Joe Biden.”
The former vice president’s electability was brought into question following his low placements in Iowa and New Hampshire and his distant second-place finish in Nevada.
But Biden showcased Saturday that his support among black voters remains the strongest of the field. With the addition of support from any Buttigieg supporters, Biden has one more group in the wide coalition needed to win the Democratic nomination.
Does this hurt or help Bernie Sanders?
It’s unclear how Buttigieg’s announcement will affect Sanders, who is still the national frontrunner.
With Buttigieg out, moderate voters could coalesce around one candidate rather than spreading across three or four candidates. Sanders, who is supported by a largely more progressive sect of the Democratic Party, could see a slimmer margin between him and more moderate candidates in upcoming primaries.
But Sanders could also see a lift from Buttigieg suspending his campaign. According to the Quinnipiac poll, 11% of Buttigieg supporters said Sanders was their second choice. In fact, he could receive an even larger share of Buttigieg support.
And according to a Morning Consult national poll released in late February, 21% of Buttigieg supporters said Sanders was their second choice. Sanders received the largest share of support as their second choice from Buttigieg supporters compared to the other candidates.
This could be good news for Michael Bloomberg
The former New York City mayor has yet to compete in any of the early states. But he’s anticipating making a splash on Super Tuesday, where he’s already invested millions of his own money.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, only 9% of Buttigieg supporters said Bloomberg was their second choice. But in the Morning Consult poll, that number is almost double. The poll says 17% of Buttigieg supporters say Bloomberg is their second choice.
Tuesday will be Bloomberg’s first test to see if he can consolidate support in the Democratic field.