The same corporate media that shamelessly boosted Biden’s candidacy, even when his popularity plummeted, never question his sudden comeback at the polls.
“Absent paper ballots, no one can say with any certainty whether fraud occurred.”
Lost in the public’s preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide demonstrations to end police violence, the Democratic National Convention’s nomination of former Vice President Joe Biden was anticlimactic. But so extraordinary was Biden’s Lazarus-like resurrection at the polls that it raises what would seem an obvious question in almost any other election season: did the DNC rig the ballot boxes to favor Biden?
Absent paper ballots revealing discrepancies between voters’ intention and the actual tally, no one can say with any certainty whether fraud occurred. What can be said conclusively, however, is that Biden’s comeback is unprecedented in U.S. political history.
In interviews with six political scientists and election experts, none could recall either a Democrat or Republican who has won their party’s nomination for president after finishing out-of-the-money in two of the party’s first three primaries or caucuses. Nor has any nominee overcome such a huge financial deficit, won primary contests in a state in which he or she neither campaigned nor aired television or radio ads, or outperformed exit polling in such overwhelming fashion.
No single candidate has ever accomplished even one of these things; Biden accomplished all four in a single primary season.
“Did the DNC rig the ballot boxes to favor Biden?”
By now, most everyone is familiar with the conventionally-held narrative: Vermont’s populist socialist Senator Bernie Sanders roared to an early lead in the primaries while Biden got off to a slow start, finishing fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and second in Nevada, before winning South Carolina, buoyed by support from that state’s African American political boss, Representative James Clyburn. That momentum propelled Biden to win 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday contests and by April it was a wrap. With the electorate’s laser-like focus on evicting an unpopular President Trump from the White House, Democratic primary voters shifted their preference, virtually overnight, to endorse Barack Obama’s vice-president, forcing Sanders to withdraw from the race.
Following contenders such as ex-South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, Sanders' withdrawal ceded the nomination to Biden.
This, Biden accomplished, “despite running on a shoestring budget in a contest where . . . Sanders . . . raised more money in February alone, $47.6 million, than Mr. Biden had spent in his previous five months combined,” wrote the New York Times in an April article entitled “Joe Biden’s Campaign Was Cash Poor. He Seized Control of the Nomination Anyway.”
The Times continues:
“The latest disclosures from the Federal Election Commission reveal in stark detail just how badly Mr. Biden was outspent by his rivals before a decisive victory in South Carolina on Feb. 29 turned around his candidacy. Days later, Mr. Biden routed Mr. Sanders and others on Super Tuesday, and he has since built a nearly insurmountable delegate lead.”
“These races tend to have a moment where the thing just breaks,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist and executive director of a pro-Biden super PAC.
Perhaps, but never quite like this. Cash is not the sole factor in determining how well a politician fares at the polls. (Indeed, if it were, Bloomberg would be the party’s nominee heading into November). Political scientists noted that Trump was not his party’s leading fundraiser in the 2016 primaries, and Douglas H. Weber, a senior researcher for the Center for Responsive Politics noted that the Republican’s 2008 nominee, John McCain, trailed Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ron Paul in fundraising heading into Super Tuesday although the gap was not nearly as wide as that between Biden and his rivals, especially the early frontrunner, Sanders.
Still, none of the experts interviewed could recall a candidate who overcame such a huge fundraising deficit to win the party’s nomination. In fact, of the seven Democrats who qualified for the televised debates, Biden spent the least amount of money, $13.1 million, in the critical month of February heading into Super Tuesday, which was less than Bloomberg, New York City’s former mayor, spent per day. “
“During the same period,” the Times wrote, “Mr. Sanders spent more than twice as much on digital and television ads alone as Mr. Biden spent on his entire campaign” (emphasis mine). In addition, both Warren ($111 million) and Buttigieg ($91 million), outspent Biden in February. So bad was Biden’s fundraising efforts in February that he fell behind Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota as well, raising about $600,000 less than her $18.7 million total for the month.
“Biden spent the least amount of money heading into Super Tuesday.”
With Biden’s coffers bare, he strategically focused his energies and resources on South Carolina, which has historically been a key battleground state in Democratic primaries. But that left him, according to the Times, “outgunned on the airwaves and out-organized on the ground” in key states such as Massachusetts and Texas where voters say that Biden neither made a single campaign appearance nor aired a single political ad in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday. With the possible exception of Lyndon B. Johnson, the incumbent president running unopposed for his party’s nomination in 1964, none of the experts interviewed could recall the presidential nominee of either major party winning a primary or caucus without campaigning in that state.
“It is stunning that Biden even managed to win states where he didn't have a campaign presence,” Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison wrote in an email response. “But this highlights the fact that voters make decisions based on more information than simply whether they saw candidate ads or the candidate visited the state. After all, in a general election candidates often win states in the electoral college that they did not visit or invest in. Many Democratic voters updated their views in a short period of time in late February and early March based on what was happening in other states.”
After rather infamously failing to campaign in Michigan, the Democrats’ 2016 nominee, Hilary Clinton, lost the state of Michigan to Trump, who polled 30,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did in losing the state in 2004. Clinton’s failure in Michigan reflected an unenthused Democratic base, African American, who abstained from casting a ballot four years ago in record numbers. Despite his association with the same conservative penal and economic policies that sunk Clinton’s presidential bid, however, the media attributes Biden’s astonishing comeback to strong support in the African American community. That only explains Biden’s electoral success in South Carolina –where African Americans account for 28.5 percent of the total electorate, according to U.S. Census figures –as well as other southern states that have historically been GOP strongholds. But blacks account for 13.5 percent of the electorate in Texas, and less than 10 percent in Minnesota and Massachusetts, all of which Biden won.
First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, Biden cut his teeth on the anti-busing struggles of that era, forging, by his own admission, close relationships with segregationist Dixiecrat Senators Strom Thurmon from South Carolina and Jesse Helms from North Carolina. He has thrice run for the presidency but February's triumph in South Carolina represented his first primary win.
“Blacks account for 13.5 percent of the electorate in Texas, and less than 10 percent in Minnesota and Massachusetts, all of which Biden won.”
According to data compiled by TDMS Research, however, discrepancies between the exit polls and the results of (unobservable) computer tallies exceeded the margin of error in 11 of 17 primaries. The computerized results favored Biden in all but one of those elections. For example, following the Texas primary, TDMS wrote:
“The 2020 Texas Democratic Party presidential primary was held on March 3, 2020. Election results from the computerized vote counts differed significantly from the results projected by the exit poll conducted by Edison Research and published by CNN at poll’s closing. According to the exit poll Sanders was tied with Biden but lost in the unobservable computer counts by 4.5%.
“In this election, candidate Sanders saw the largest discrepancy between the exit poll and computer vote counts. His projected vote proportion fell 4% in the vote counts—a 12% reduction of his exit poll share. The combined discrepancies between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Biden at 4.4% significantly exceeded the 2.9% margin of error for the exit poll difference between the two. The discrepancies between Sanders and Bloomberg at 5.4% was triple their respective margin of error.
“There is good reason to believe that the exit poll just prior to publishing showed a Sanders win in Texas.“
Perhaps most curious of all, however, is the virtually airtight consensus by the media and the Academy that no vote-rigging occurred, despite indisputable evidence of ballot-box stuffing and 200,000 voters purged from New York voter rolls in 2016. An email from Lonna Rae Atkeson, director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy at the University of New Mexico is typical:
“Biden had a lot of name recognition and all the Ds got behind him. Sanders was never a D, I think that was his biggest problem. The other Ds really hit on that this time.
I suppose I would say voters thought Sanders wasn’t electable. I don’t think it was ballot stuffing.
They both had great name recognition. They were both the top two candidates.
Perhaps an equally important fact is that to my knowledge every VP that has run for the party’s nomination has gotten it. Biden is in a long line of such winners (Humphrey, Nixon, Ford, Mondale, Bush, Gore, Biden). The anomaly from this perspective would be a Sanders' win.”
“According to the exit poll Sanders was tied with Biden but lost Texas in the unobservable computer counts by 4.5%.”
As a Washington Post foreign correspondent in 2001, I spent a month in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, reporting on a hotly-contested election pitting that country's liberation hero, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, against a liberal reformer, Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe was, at that time, the only head-of-state Zimbabweans had known since extricating themselves from British rule in 1980, and there was a feeling among the electorate that he had run out of ideas, and his party, known by the acronym, ZANU-PF, was deeply corrupt. Tsvangirai, the leader of an upstart political party, the Movement for a Democratic Change, packed soccer stadiums around the country.
For 29 consecutive days, I interviewed Zimbabweans about who they supported at the polls and not a single one responded "ZANU-PF." Indeed, most said they voted for "change," in an attempt to avoid violent reprisals from the authoritarian Mugabe. It was only on the 30th day that I finally interviewed a young man who said that yes, he had voted for the old man, mostly to give a middle finger to the U.S. and the U.K.
Still, Mugabe was declared the winner of that election.
Neither the U.S. nor U.K would recognize the election as free and fair.
A former foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, Jon Jeter is the author of Flat Broke in the Free Market: How Globalization Fleeced Working People and the co-author of A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Dark Days and Bright Nights in Obama's Postracial America. His work can be found on Patreon.
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