The Democratic primaries in the USA and the Coronavirus pandemic

The Democratic primaries started in February and are now over. How has the pandemic affected these elections so far?

Framing the World Focus: North America section

In the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic and the emergency management by the Trump Administration, the Democratic primaries are now over. The same primaries that could overturn the result of the November presidential elections and bring a Democratic candidate at the White House. These are the names of those who animated the debate around the Democratic primaries and that have been more mentioned: Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg.

From the caucuses in Iowa to the Super Tuesday

On last 3 February, the Democratic Party primaries started in the state of Iowa through the caucuses system. It consists of an election system in which voters do not attend the polling station but gather in a determined place to give their preference. This step is accompanied by a debate at the end of which electors decide who to vote for. In the first round of voting, the Democratic candidates were a great number: around twenty. The winner of this first vote was Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, which totaled 26.2% in terms of percentage of awarded delegates, with a minimum difference compared to the runner-up: Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont. It should be noted that this first round of voting did not start in the best way because of delays in the arrival of the results due to technical problems with the app for calculating the votes. After the confusion emerger during the first caucuses, it was the turn of New Hampshire, where people vote through the primary system by going to the polling stations. Here, Sanders prevailed over Buttigieg, stating on Twitter: "What we have done here together is no less than the beginning of a political revolution". Indeed, Sanders managed to mobilise the electors that he conquered with his coherent and radical ideas. It is worth mentioning, for instance, his proposal "Medicare for All", for a healthcare system closer to the European one. Or, again, a free university education. In the following elections, the results give us a new victory of Sanders in Nevada, with runner-up Biden, former Vice President under Barack Obama, which triumphed in South Carolina. In the electoral appointment of Super Tuesday, when 14 states voted, Biden got back by gaining 648 delegates against the 558 of Sanders. Buttigieg and Klobuchar, senator of Minnesota, already abandoned the race before Super Tuesday, while Elizabeth Warren, senator of Massachusetts, did not shine in terms of electoral performance. The billionaire Bloomberg, wild card of these elections, recorded a disappointing performance by achieving meagre results, far below his expectations.

From mini Super Tuesday to the pandemic

The last vote before the Coronavirus pandemic showed how Biden was closer and closer to the Democratic nomination. Biden has a long political career behind him and also represents the most centrist soul of the Democratic Party. When people voted in several states in the mini Super Tuesday and in the following elections, former Vice President Biden prevailed, thus showing a candidate like Sanders in trouble. We therefore recall the 10 March vote in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington, and, 10 days later, on 20 March, in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. By then, Coronavirus had already started to show its impact on the primaries (and beyond). Thus, as the number of infected grew, state governors started to postpone the vote because of Covid-19. Among the first ones, the governor of Ohio, where they were supposed to vote on 10 March.

A common front against Trump

The campaign speeches have been cancelled and the Democrats' match is now online, remotely. On last 8 April, following his losses to Biden, Sanders announced his dropout from the primaries. From his speech given in Burlington, Vermont: "We have never been just a campaign, we are a grassroots, multiracial, multigenerational movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down but always from the bottom on up".

However, together with his dropout, he also specified that he does not want to be excluded from the distribution of delegates, because he still wants a role in the Summer Democratic Party Convention. At the same time, Sanders announced his intention to join forces against President Trump, working with Biden and "standing united".

How will the pandemic affect the elections?

Trump will be evaluated on how he handled and will handle the emergency. For the Democratic candidate Joe Biden it will not be an easy match, given the media overexposure of the US President due to the Coronavirus updates. Leaving aside the various statements and the continuous tweets of Trump - not lacking in contradictions -, we have to consider that if the US voters will judge the President in a positive way, then it will be difficult for Biden to prevail. The real decisive factor will be economy, on which Trump always focused his energies on. The whole point is monitoring whether the GDP contraction predicted for the second quarter of the year - of 34,5% according to Standard & Poor's - will be followed by a good economic recovery. For his part, former Vice President Biden received the endorsement from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (besides Sanders and other former Democratic candidates), a sign of their support for the candidate to relaunch the unity of the Democratic Party. Nothing is decided, and the coming months will tell us how the vote will take place, and, more importantly, the polls will tell us who will have a better chance to win. However, as 2016 taught us will Trump's victory over Clinton, polls are not infallible.


Translated by Roberta Sforza

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  • L'Autore

    Marta Annalisa Savino

    Laureata magistrale in "Relazioni Internazionali", appassionata di scrittura, viaggi, lingue tra cui inglese, francese e spagnolo, politica internazionale e geopolitica. Il suo focus di interesse è sul Nord America e sui suoi rapporti con il resto del mondo. Autrice di "Framing the World.

    Master's Degree in "International Relations", keen on writing, travelling, languages including english, french, spanish, international politics and geopolitics. Her focus of interest is North America and its relationship with the rest of the world. Author of "Framing the World".


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