Is Joe Biden a Viable Bet to Win the Democratic Presidential Nomination?

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders

Things could be going better for Joe Biden. The former vice president was listed as the presumptive favorite to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for president when he entered the race in April of last year. Biden has maintained a steady place at or near the top of most polls for the entirety of his campaign to this point, but things don’t seem to be trending in the right direction.

Heading into the Iowa caucuses a couple of weeks ago, most believed it would come down to a 2-horse race between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had been polling in first place in Iowa as recently as November, had slid all the way to third.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Iowa caucuses turned out to be a mess. The state’s Democratic Party operatives botched the entire process, and Sanders and Buttigieg wound up finishing in a virtual tie for first place. One thing we also found out was that Biden fared absolutely terribly.

Biden finished a distant fourth in Iowa. That puts the former VP just slightly ahead of Senator Amy Klobuchar (12.2 percent), who is still considered to be a major long shot just to earn the nomination.

Things didn’t get much better in New Hampshire. Sanders and Buttigieg once again finished in the top-two spots, while Klobuchar actually leapfrogged Biden to finish third. Biden wound up in fifth behind Senator Elizabeth Warren with just 8.4 percent of the vote in the primary.

Biden’s Odds Take a Huge Hit

Could Biden bounce back at next week’s Nevada caucus? It’s possible, but momentum doesn’t seem to be in his favor. When I initially broke down the Iowa caucus in early-February, Biden was at +200 to win the Democratic nomination at BetOnline, and he was at +275 to win Iowa. Buttigieg, meanwhile, was at +1000 to win Iowa.

Things have changed quite a bit in the days since.. Sanders, who was a +140 favorite to win the nomination, has seen his odds take a slight hit, as well. Bernie is now at +160, while Buttigieg has improved to +800. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has actually risen all the way to +225 to earn the nomination.

Biden, meanwhile, has dropped to +600. Here are the updated odds to win the nomination at BetOnline:

Candidate Odds to Win Democratic Nomination
Bernie Sanders +160
Michael Bloomberg +225
Joe Biden +600
Pete Buttigieg +800
Amy Klobuchar +2000
Elizabeth Warren +2500
Hillary Clinton +2500
Tom Steyer +6600
Michelle Obama +8000
Tulsi Gabbard +8000

As you can see, Biden has slipped from +200 to be the nominee down to +600 in the span of a couple of weeks. He’s now third behind Sanders and Bloomberg. Buttigieg has seen his odds improve from +1000 to +800 thanks to his strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Interestingly enough, Warren has dipped quite a bit from +1000 to +2500 following poor results in the first two states.

Biden’s campaign was dealt a serious blow in the first contests of the 2020 election. While Biden has been among the odds-on favorites throughout the entire campaign, it’s not like this result is completely shocking. To put it mildly, Biden’s support has appeared to be downright tepid compared to some of the other candidates vying for the nomination.

Sanders has built a strong coalition that includes many of the voters that supported his surprisingly popular 2016 campaign that fell just short of the nomination. Bernie has essentially trounced Warren’s claim to the progressive vote among Democrats. Buttigieg and Klobuchar are making gains in the moderate lane, which is the space Biden has occupied for most of the campaign thus far. Bloomberg is still something of a wild card.

Is Biden Done?

This is the third time Joe Biden has run for president. He did so in 1988 and 2008, as well. Biden is still in search of his first win in a primary or a caucus despite having run in several different elections. Needless to say, he’s going to actually have to start winning states if he wants to actually challenge for the presidency.

Biden has maintained solid support among minority voters for the duration of his campaign. His status as the former vice president to Barack Obama, a person that remains an incredibly popular figure within the party, is really the only thing left propping up his candidacy.

Joe Biden and Barrack Obama

Iowa and New Hampshire are not the most diverse states. 90.7 percent of the Iowa population is white. 93.2 percent of the populace in New Hampshire is white, too. Things will really get interesting this weekend, when the Nevada caucus takes place.

A week later, we’ll have the South Carolina primary. Both Nevada and South Carolina are a lot more racially diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, which should help to provide an interesting contrast. Candidates like Buttigieg and Klobuchar have consistently polled poorly among minority voters. While both fared well in white-heavy Iowa and New Hampshire, things could take a turn for the worse for both once a broader group of voters starts to be heard.

If Biden’s claims of support among minority voters are true, then he should be able to make some headway in Nevada and South Carolina. If not, his campaign may well come to a shockingly early end.

Sanders Favored in Nevada

Political betting sites have been handicapping the early-state races thus far. Fresh off a strong showing in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders appears to be a pretty sizable favorite to pick up another win in Nevada this weekend. Here are the latest odds to win the Nevada caucus, courtesy of BetOnline:

Candidate Odds to Win Democratic Nomination
Bernie Sanders -400
Joe Biden +500
Pete Buttigieg +700
Amy Klobuchar +2000
Elizabeth Warren +3300
Tom Steyer +5000

A new poll conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada shows that the odds should be in Bernie’s favor. 25 percent of likely caucus-goers support Sanders, while 18 percent are backing Biden. Warren is at 13 percent, followed by Steyer (11 percent). Buttigieg and Klobuchar both earned 10 percent of support among those polled, with another 8 percent still undecided.

While he’s still a +500 long shot in Nevada, that poll should be somewhat encouraging for Biden. He fled New Hampshire to begin campaigning in South Carolina before the NH results had even come in, which was a pretty grim sign of how he expected to fare in the results.

Joe Biden

The fact that Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in either Nevada or South Carolina should be a good thing for Biden. Bloomberg has been steadily rising in recent polls amid his outlandish spending on TV and radio ads. The billionaire entered the race because of fears that Biden was underperforming. As a result, it is absolutely vital for Biden’s long term viability that he get some sort of a positive result before Bloomberg appears on Super Tuesday ballots.

Given the massive -400 odds on Sanders to win Nevada, it’s tough to have too much confidence in any of the other candidates from a betting perspective. Biden could challenge for second, but that won’t do a whole lot for his odds at securing the nomination.

Biden All-In on South Carolina

Biden isn’t likely to win Nevada, which means he’ll have to put just about all of his eggs into the South Carolina basket. Oddsmakers are a lot more bullish on the former VP’s chances of faring well in the Palmetto State than they are about his odds in Nevada:

Candidate Odds to Win Democratic Nomination
Joe Biden -130
Bernie Sanders +140
Pete Buttigieg +1400
Tom Steyer +1400
Amy Klobuchar +2000
Elizabeth Warren +5000

Biden is a minus-money favorite, but he doesn’t have nearly as big an advantage over Bernie as Sanders has over Biden in Nevada’s odds. I would describe Biden’s early lead in South Carolina as tenuous, at best.

Over the weekend, Biden basically admitted that his campaign is hinging on South Carolina. When asked about whether South Carolina will represent his last chance during an appearance on “Meet the Press,” Biden replied,

“Well, I think I have to do really well in it, but right. We’re just getting to the meat of getting to the number of delegates you need to be able to win this election. And I’m confident we’re going to be in good shape.”

While Biden is putting on a brave face, the fact that some noteworthy black leaders have switched allegiances from Biden to other candidates in recent weeks can’t be a positive sign.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University earlier this month showed that Biden had 27 percent support among African-Americans, which is a slip of 22 points from where his support was before the Iowa results came in. That is an absolutely disastrous number.

Can Biden Rebound and Win the Nomination?

At this point, it’s going to take a Herculean effort for the former vice president to roar back to win the Democratic nomination. Getting decent results in Nevada and South Carolina won’t help. It is absolutely crucial to Biden’s campaign that he win at least one of them. At this point, I don’t have much confidence in either thing actually happening.

While he’s currently leading the polls in South Carolina, what happens a week prior to the primary in Nevada is going to have an effect one way or the other. If Biden finishes anywhere lower than second in Nevada, I would imagine some South Carolina voters that may have been leaning in Biden’s direction may go in another direction. People don’t like to waste their votes on campaigns that look to be sinking ships.

The latest odds suggest that the race to the Democratic Party’s nomination is shaping up to be a 2-man race between Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg.

Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s expected gains on Super Tuesday have to be looming over Biden’s entire campaign at this point. If Biden fails to come up with a win in either of the next two states, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if the ex-VP threw in the towel before Super Tuesday even arrives.

I can’t advocate for a bet on Biden to win the nomination until he actually gets a positive result. Taking a flier on Biden to win South Carolina at -130 makes for decent value, but it’s hard to have a ton of confidence in his campaign at this point.