On Tuesday night, 14 states, including Texas and California voted in the 2020 Democratic primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden, to the surprise of many, ended the night with nine states out of 14 total, including Texas. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won four states, including California, which is the most delegate-rich state with up to 415 delegates to grab.
How is Joe Biden now the likely front runner for the race?
Biden’s victory came to the surprise of many. Progressives, the media, and other candidates had all brushed him off, due to his lackluster debate performances, drop in the polls, and low fundraising numbers. Furthermore, his poor performance in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, states all won by Sanders, made it more and more unbelievable that his chances of winning were possible.
The campaign’s strategy, however far fetched, worked. It appeared Biden was banking on the South Carolina primary, due to the heavy older African American population that voted for Obama in 2008. Biden believed that black voters would fondly remember the former Vice President from the Obama years. Biden was right, and he won a staggering 48%. In comparison, Senator Sanders, who came in second won a lackluster 19.9%.
Biden’s victory in South Carolina triggered both Senator Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg to suspend their presidential campaigns and throw their support behind him. This helped Biden achieve one of his platform’s main components — that he is the candidate that will bring the Democratic Party together. And with Bernie Sanders being the only threat to Biden’s campaign, (mainly because Senator Elizabeth Warren’s base consisted of the same progressives who pulled support from Sanders), it looked that Biden’s chances of securing enough delegates to last to this summer’s convention were attainable.
Biden’s victories Tuesday night and now the support of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who dropped out of the race Wednesday morning and endorsed Biden), along with former candidates Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg has proved that he still has a good shot at winning the nomination.
What went wrong for Bernie Sanders?
Not even two days before Super Tuesday, it wasn’t irrational to claim that Sanders had the nomination. Sanders had not only won the popular vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he also won Nevada, a state that went to Hilary Clinton in the 2016 Primary. So for a candidate who had seemed so close to having the nomination, what possibly went wrong?
A problem that resonated with a significant amount of voters was Sanders’ ideology and his admission to being a democratic socialist. Socialism itself wasn’t the main problem, however. It was the messaging of how his policies would be implemented if he became the president. Although universal healthcare is an issue that is popular among some Americans, Bernie’s “Medicare for All” plan didn’t resonate with voters, due to the growing distrust in government by some voters. The staggering cost and increase in taxes the plan potentially calls for was yet another barrier that prevented the policy from gaining traction from everyday Americans.
An advantage the Sanders campaign had was that he was someone new for the American people. Sanders is known as someone who is honest and has a genuine concern for issues that he believes hurt the American people. Sanders grew a reputation as an anti-establishment figure who wanted no corporate or wealthy backers. Much like Sanders, Donald Trump ran as an anti-establishment populist figure who would fight for the people. The skill that resulted in Trump’s win was his callous disregard for traditional political behavior.
Trump would label figures like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and give them nicknames, like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted.” As a professional entertainer, Trump knew how to control a room and make his voice heard. At a presidential debate, days before the 2016 election, Trump put several of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment accusers in the front row, making sure they were not only visible to Hilary Clinton but to the world as well.
If Sanders had used some of these tactics in the 2020 race and had stopped calling establishment figures his friends, but instead made it known that he was a force to be reckoned with, much like Trump did with the Republican National Committee in 2016, he would have yielded fear and attention from moderate and establishment Democrats. Sander’s civility and unwillingness to attack figures as Warren and Biden has only done more harm than help for his campaign. Now, the Democratic National Committee knows that if Bernie doesn’t win, he’ll still vote on the Democratic ticket and so will many of his voters, meaning that there is no political leverage held by Sanders.
Who will be the Democratic nominee?
Although Sanders took some big losses on Tuesday, he still won a majority of votes in California, giving him a total of 501 delegates, compared to Biden’s 566. The race is far from over and anything can happen from now to the Democratic National Convention this July in Milwaukee. Bernie’s base is rock solid and if he can get his platform and policies to gain support among a broader demographic of Americans, he might still have a good shot at securing the nomination.
But with the backing of all of the former presidential candidates, with the exception of Andrew Yang (who’s now a CNN political commentator) and a comforting message for moderate liberals who reminisce about the good ole Obama era days, a victory for Biden is getting more and more attainable and realistic.