The results in Iowa and New Hampshire have produced a muddled picture for the Democratic nomination with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg leading the delegate race while Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have collapsed. The upcoming states, however, present an opportunity for Sanders to separate himself from the field thanks to Latinos.
Sanders’s struggles with minority voters across the board doomed his campaign in 2016 and allowed Clinton to forge an insurmountable delegate lead. 2020 is a different story, though, at least with Latino voters. The Vermont senator leads the entire field with this fast-growing demographic group according to several polls and has pulled ahead in California. This new show of strength has also placed him within striking distance in Nevada and Texas.
Sanders’s newfound support among Latinos can be explained by a variety of factors. First, no other candidate in the race has a bond to community like Hillary Clinton did in 2008 and 2016. Second, the campaign has invested considerable resources courting Latino voters and Sanders has shifted significantly to the left on immigration. Finally, Latinos are the youngest demographic group in America and Sanders overwhelms the field with support from young people across all races.
The Nevada caucuses on February 22 will prove a critical test for the Sanders campaign. A Sanders win would demonstrate to voters that he has expanded his coalition and can win in diverse states. This perceived increase in viability may prove particularly decisive in heavily-Latino California and Texas, the two biggest prizes on Super Tuesday, March 3. Even more opportunities await in Arizona, Illinois, and Florida on March 17 and New York on April 28. All told, Latinos will play a critical role in six states before May, including the four most delegate-rich states on the Democratic primary calendar. Should Sanders prevail in these states, he becomes the odds-on favorite to take on Trump in the fall.
If Sanders fails to take advantage of the favorable demographics afforded to him in the coming weeks, however, a brokered convention appears inevitable. Given the current split in the establishment vote along with anti-Sanders forces at the Democratic National Committee, backroom dealings at the convention will ensure that Sanders gets screwed out of the Democratic nomination. Who knows, maybe a “surprise” challenger such as Hillary Clinton or John Kerry will emerge.
Latinos for decades have failed to punch at or above their weight in primaries and general elections. They now have a chance to strike the deciding blow for the Vermont socialist and deliver him the nomination. America will find out in a matter of weeks whether this will happen.