As Joe Biden emerged from Super Tuesday as the Democratic presidential primary frontrunner, on-campus political groups began preparing for a brutal competition between the former Penn Presidential Professor of Practice and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Students running Penn for Biden said they anticipate a close race, and despite the setback, Penn for Bernie remains determined to secure their candidate's nomination. As the two candidates double down on their campaign efforts, both Penn for Biden and Penn for Bernie will do the same — phone-banking, door-knocking, and hosting events for their presidential favorites.
Super Tuesday revealed the two obvious presidential frontrunners for the Democratic primary were Biden and Sanders. The former vice president emerged from the nation's most consequential primary day with the majority vote across numerous Southern states, as well as in Texas, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, while Sanders was victorious in Vermont, Utah, Colorado, and the delegate-rich state of California.
Biden currently leads with 529 total delegates, with Sanders following closely behind with 455. Either will need 1,991 delegates to secure the party's presidential nomination, and 13 states have yet to hold primaries.
Penn for Biden Co-founder and Wharton senior Dylan Milligan is optimistic Biden's Super Tuesday successes show Biden holds the widest appeal among Americans, especially older voters of color and more moderate Democrats.
"Biden definitely exceeded expectations by all measures," Milligan said. "He proved that he can build a coalition that’s incredibly broad, not just amongst his solid base of voters primarily in the South — he also picked up that surprise victory in Massachusetts and Minnesota."
Penn for Biden Co-founder and College senior Gabriel Barnett said Biden's Tuesday victories show that he is the best candidate to defeat Republican incumbent and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump.
"[Biden's supporters] trust him to beat Donald Trump, to keep the House, to be the person at the top of the ticket to win the Senate, and to get results in Washington," Barnett said.
Despite their optimism, Milligan and Barnett do not think Biden's win will be an easy one.
"Going forward, there’s still a big race up ahead," Milligan said. "I anticipate it being quite competitive, given that Sanders, if anything, is a persistent man. So we’re going to focus on turning out voters who support Biden in the Pennsylvania primary.”
Penn for Bernie Co-director and College sophomore Jack Cahill said the group is not deterred by Sanders' setbacks, even though the Senator himself expressed frustration in the lack of Super Tuesday youth voter turnout.
“All the students for Bernie groups I’ve talked to are still very energized, still very excited, and not at all stalled in terms of the energy that they are going to bring in the future," Cahill said. "It’s obviously going to be a much longer fight than what we had hoped it would be just two weeks ago – we’re definitely ready for it."
Penn for Bernie Co-director and College sophomore Amira Chowdhury is confident Sanders' progressive ideas will give him the youth vote in the upcoming primaries, and eventually in the November race against Trump.
“Sanders is still the only candidate who has the strongest appeal to the youth vote." she said. “Bernie’s track record of staying committed to the material interests of the vast majority of Americans has always been the same, whereas Biden’s have always been about political calculations."
Cahill agreed with Chowdhury, and said the group is ready to fight for Sanders until the end.
“We’re going to continue doing weekly canvasses, phone banks, holding watch parties and we’re going to be right there until Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and defeats Donald Trump.”
Cahill said that he hopes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will endorse Sanders and add momentum to his campaign. But despite Warren's disappointing Super Tuesday performance, the senator has not left the race — and neither has Penn for Warren.
The group's Membership Director Borna Saeednia said the group will continue to campaign for Warren as long as she stays in the race.
The former Penn Law School professor did not win any state majorities on Tuesday, and came in third place in her home state of Massachusetts.
"We are not discouraged by the results and will strongly support Sen. Warren in the upcoming races," Saeednia said.
Penn for Pete, the fourth of Penn's on-campus political interest groups, no longer formally exists since the former South Bend, Ind. mayor dropped out the race last week and pledged his support to Biden.
Although Buttigieg endorsed Biden, Penn for Pete will not officially endorse anyone, as club members prefer different candidates, Wharton sophomore and co-coordinator of Penn for Pete Manoj Simha said.
Simha said the club wants to see Buttigieg’s platform embraced by the front-running candidates.
“Particularly because he’s endorsed the Biden campaign, we are hoping to see a lot of the things that Pete was talking about in terms for the vision for the future of the Democratic Party being embraced by Biden,” Simha said.
As the April 28 Pennsylvania primary approaches, Penn Leads the Vote, a nonpartisan organization on campus, hopes to empower student voters to make their voices heard in the swing state.
Penn Leads the Vote Director Harrison Feinman said he found the low voter turnout on Super Tuesday to be disheartening, especially on college campuses.
"There were stories of four hour-plus wait lines that really showed that a lot of students do try to get involved, but there are still barriers," he said.
Staff reporters Tori Sousa and Kami Houston contributed reporting.