From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, talks before a Democratic presidential primary debate, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In many ways, this was a big night for Joe Biden. He over-performed in several key states and made waves winning Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. He led Texas well into the night and even came up stronger than expected in Maine, winning both of those for a total of ten wins.
On the flip side, Bernie Sanders (as expected) won Vermont, Colorado, Utah, and California handily. Biden eventually came into second place in California, but it was a bad night for Bloomberg and Warren overall, and both have got to be reconsidering their campaigns at this time.
Where does all this leave us going forward? Honestly, it’s a dead heat between Sanders and Biden in the delegate race – and remember that Sanders is on the record saying that the candidate with a plurality of delegates should win the nomination. If Biden has put a stop to the Berning sensation the Democrats were feeling, then that makes Sanders’ comments a bit foolish and premature.
Here’s why: At one point in the night, Biden was up 322 delegates to 235. Even with Sanders winning California, the delegate apportionment is proportional. It’s not winner-take-all, otherwise Biden would be sitting up top right now with few worries. The problem for Sanders is that Biden won a lot of winner-take-all delegates and stayed competitive in California and took Texas and Maine. That’s a big deal and it severely hurts the Sanders talking point that the voters want a revolution.
As an aside, good on the Democrats for rejecting a socialist revolution. But, I digress.
At this point, if I were a Democratic Party leader, I’d say Warren has to drop out. There is no path. I’d also think that, likewise, Bloomberg should drop out and put his money behind Biden. That would pose the greatest threat to Trump. Sanders could still win the nomination but there is a clear mandate against his revolution as he can’t pulla majority of Democrats. Just pluralities in various states. That isn’t a good mandate for a revolution and it’s very hard to pull out a win under these conditions.
Biden’s path forward is much easier. The entire party appears to be lining up behind him, and that is just as big a motivator behind Biden’s surge as the confidence voters get from such a dominant win in South Carolina on Saturday. He also gave a strong speech after that win and many Democrats felt won over by that speech.
This is all very upsetting to the ultra-progressive left, who see this moderate/centrist positioning as another attempt at a failed campaign tactic. They think that recent losses have more to do with the Democrats going moderate to play it safe, and they want a political revolution to shake things up. They want that because they think it will attract more voters to their cause. With all the candidates and voters who seem to be running away from it, it’s easy to argue with the ultra-progressives’ view, but there is no shaking that passion.
It’s that passion that poses the biggest threat to the primary. The ultra-progressive (and largely younger) vote in these primaries is circling the wagons hard for Sanders. If the Vermont Senator does not get the nomination, do his voters stay home in the general? Do they rally around someone they think stole the nomination from their guy? Or do they play team ball and keep the Democratic Party competitive in the general election? The Democratic Party needs their vote to win in November, and party unity strategically would make sense. But, several of them seem unwillingly to take one for the team and vote for Biden.
That could change, though, with one guy: Barack Obama. Obama endorsing Biden could help Biden keep some of the younger voters active and engaged. It could also enrage those voters. It’s very hard to tell which way they’re going to take it. Obama probably realizes the same thing, hence his silence.
Still, it will be very hard to beat an incumbent president riding a solid economy to re-election. The Democrats have to find the right message to combat that economic wave. So far, however, they haven’t found it.