After a fourth- place finish in Iowa and a distant fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, it’s no wonder people are plotting the end of former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Virtually everyone, however, is calculating his exit based on his path to victory (or lack thereof) instead of looking at the race from his perspective.
As a 77-year-old career politician, this is Biden’s last shot at the presidency. He’s been aiming for the White House for at least 30 years (he first ran in 1988). It would be difficult for him to walk away from the latest opportunity without getting to at least South Carolina.
Think about it this way: How could he drop out now and live with himself, falling short without knowing if some of his best states could boost his chances? What’s the worst thing that can happen if he stays in through Super Tuesday and loses big? He has a semi-embarrassing end to a long political career? Biden certainly isn’t the first person to lose a presidential campaign. And the news will move on quickly.
Unfortunately for some Democrats looking for a mainstream nominee, some of the same logic surrounding senior citizen candidates applies to 78-year-old Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
It’s why he is likely going to take this nomination fight all the way to the convention in Milwaukee. He clearly has dedicated supporters and a broad donor base that will prevent him from running out of money (which fells many other candidates). Even if he doesn’t have a majority or plurality of delegates heading into the convention, there’s no reason for him to bow out before then. Party unity isn’t exactly the primary goal of a self-described independent.
50 years of ideas
At a minimum, this is the last and biggest platform Sanders will ever have to push the policies he’s been talking about for more than 50 years.
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg might have the most dangerous combination of all: last chance and money to burn. Bloomberg, who just turned 78, isn’t likely going anywhere in the race. It’ll likely be the last time he has a legitimate shot at the presidency, and there’s no fear of him running out of money and not being able to pay staff. The hundreds of millions he’s spent are a drop in the bucket for the multi-billionaire.
Even if each man’s path to the nomination has largely evaporated, there’s less incentive for the senior citizens to drop out than you think.
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.