Shabtai Gold –
In poll after poll, Democratic Party voters made one point clearer than any other. They care about health care, they care about the economy, they care about gun control. But more than anything, they wanted to beat President Donald Trump in November.
On Super Tuesday, voters made up their minds about who was the one candidate to do that, and Joe Biden, the 77-year-old former vice president was their choice.
In state after state, particularly across the South, Biden came out on top of his main rival, left wing Senator Bernie Sanders, holding onto his core demographic of older voters and African Americans.
In his victory speech in Los Angeles and in campaign stops in the past several days, Biden and his surrogates hammered the message that he would restore respectability to the country, treating Trump as an unholy aberration and urging voters to return to the norm.
“We are decent, brave, and resilient people. We are better than you. Come November, we are going to beat you,” Biden said in words directed at Trump. He vowed to send the president “packing”. Sanders, on the other hand, made the opposite case. That the only way to beat Trump was to reject the “same old” politics and instead proposed a raft of reforms, including government-run health care, is his signature policy. He slammed Biden for supporting the war in Iraq.
Voters seemed to respect many of Sanders’ ideas, and he certainly has pushed the Democrats to the left on some issues, while forcing a more serious debate about health care, the environment, criminal justice and the incarceration culture.
However, party partisans felt a democratic socialist who would upend the insurance industry and implement climate change moves that would stifle the fossil fuel sector – which in a state like Texas makes up a chunk of the economy – was revolutionary and not the safe bet.
Latinos were more willing to take a chance on Sanders. Younger voters did, too, as the generation hit by the 2008 economic crisis appeared inclined to build better social safety nets. However older voters and African Americans wanted stability and something familiar.
“We know Joe,” said Jim Clyburn, a leading black lawmaker from South Carolina, as he endorsed Biden.
After spending north of half-a-billion dollars on advertisements alone, billionaire Mike Bloomberg dropped out after Super Tuesday, a final sign the establishment had made its peace with Biden, a candidate prone to gaffs and cringe-worthy oddities.
“I entered the race to defeat Donald Trump. Today, I’m leaving for the same reason. Defeating Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it,” Bloomberg said, adding that this was his “friend” Biden.
While technically Biden’s victory was not resounding enough to ensure he will surpass the 1,991 delegates needed in the primaries to win the first round of voting at the party’s convention in July, he seems to have cut off any viable path for 78-year-old Sanders.
“The trajectory of the Democratic primaries is clear: it would take a miracle for Sanders to prevent Biden from becoming the nominee,” opined Dave Wasserman at the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
An overwhelming number of registered Democrats said they would “vote blue no matter who,” meaning cast their ballot for whoever got the nomination.
Even so, a small percentage of hardcore Sanders supporters have toyed with the idea of sitting out, feeling disenfranchised that centrist candidates have almost always gotten the party’s nod, pushing for incremental changes against the left’s wish for sweeping moves.
Polls show that Biden would beat Trump, but those surveys are on nation-wide basis, and in the US it is the state-by-state electoral college that counts.
Trump has also not yet even begun big spending on his campaign and his counter attacks are sure to be harsh, whether over Iraq or about the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter in Ukraine.
Biden will need to keep the left on board, while also reaching out to independents who may be wavering come in November. — dpa