Joe Biden fights against history to build history

As we enter the new year and now stand 19 days until Biden's inauguration

President-elect Joe Biden proved a lot of detractors wrong by winning the 2020 presidential election. It wasn't easy for Biden, as he took an unusual path to the White House.

As we enter the new year and now stand 19 days until Biden's inauguration, a look back at the primary and general election results show Biden broke many supposed political rules on his way to becoming the 46th president of the United States.

Biden led the national polls during the entire leadup to the Iowa caucuses. He then proceeded to fall flat on his face in the first contest of the primary season. Biden came in a distant fourth place in the Iowa caucuses.

Many future presidents lose the Iowa caucuses (e.g. Trump), but they're usually competitive. No future president in the modern primary era (i.e. since 1972) finished below third place in Iowa. John McCain was, before Biden, the only eventual major party nominee to come in fourth place in Iowa. But he at least came within 0.3 points of third place.

Biden finished more than 2 points behind the third place finisher (Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren).

One could argue that the delay in reporting the Iowa results hurt the ability of the caucuses to affect the trajectory of the primary. No such problems in reporting results existed in New Hampshire.

More amazing is what happened next: Biden got blown out in the New Hampshire primary.

Biden came in fifth place in New Hampshire. He won less than 10% of the vote. No major party nominee had ever finished lower than second in New Hampshire in the modern primary era.

In pretty much any other year, a fourth place finish in Iowa and a fifth place finish in New Hampshire would spell doom for a presidential candidate.

That's especially the case when Biden followed up his Iowa and New Hampshire showings with a distant second place finish in the Nevada caucuses.

The 2020 Democratic primary electorate, though, was unlike those in other years in a very important way: More voters put winning the general election as their priority compared to issue agreement with the candidate than ever before. In other words, President Donald Trump changed the equation for primary voters.

Enter the South Carolina primary electorate. Biden had long led among Black Democrats, who don't make up a large portion of the caucuses and primaries electorate until South Carolina. Their preferences were mostly unaffected by the first three contests.

Biden won South Carolina by nearly 30 points on the strength of his strong performance with Black voters. From there, he largely cleared the field and racked up a ton of endorsements, which acted as a signal to primary voters on Super Tuesday and beyond.