• Ryan O'Connell

Will It Be "Bernie and Bust" for The Democrats?

March 2, 2020

Nothing quite focuses the mind like impending disaster. In this instance, we’re not talking about the coronavirus, but instead, the distinct possibility that Senator Bernie Sanders could become the Democratic nominee for President.

Some moderate groups in the Democratic Party are finally coalescing around Joe Biden, after his landslide--and critical--victory in South Carolina. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have ended their campaigns (as has Tom Steyer). Klobuchar will endorse Biden tonight, and Buttigeig will as well, reportedly. These two moderate candidates were bowing to reality, after they failed to connect with Latino voters in Nevada and black voters in South Carolina.

However, both Buttigieg and Klobuchar could have hung on, trying to compete on Super Tuesday. Instead, they are clearly trying to help Biden…. who needs all the help he can get. The former Vice President has been low on cash, as his campaign faltered before his win in South Carolina, so he has not advertised much in California and Texas.

Those two delegate-rich states are TV markets. They are simply too big for Biden to practice the retail, one-on-one politics that he loves. Biden has also not been able to hit the airwaves hard in other key states like North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts. That’s a significant disadvantage, because the Super Tuesday states offer one-third (1, 357) of the delegates to the Democratic convention.

Sanders and Bloomberg Dominate Airwaves

Meanwhile, Sanders is flush with cash and spending heavily on TV ads in the Super Tuesday states. Elizabeth Warren has also raised a lot of money recently, but she lacks momentum. The Senator from Massachusetts has not won any delegates in a month. In the last two debates, as Warren repeatedly attacked Mike Bloomberg, while treating Sanders with kid gloves, she seemed to be auditioning for the role of Vice President in a Sanders administration. Bloomberg has been spending a fortune, literally, on his ads in the Super Tuesday states. The former mayor could still pull off an upset, despite his abysmal performance in his first debate and lackluster performance in the second. But Bloomberg might just siphon votes away from Biden and, inadvertently, boost Sanders. Despite his generally successful record as Mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has not turned out to be the inspiring standard-bearer many centrist Democrats were hoping for.

Sen. Bernie Sanders/ photo: Dennis Trainor Jr.

But A Sanders Candidacy Could Cut Turnout

The moderates have ample reason to be worried about a Sanders candidacy. The senator from Vermont has claimed that his movement will drastically increase turnout, based on his appeal to younger voters, and that will enable him to defeat President Donald Trump. So far, that prediction seems to be wishful thinking on his part.

In fact, turnout was below expectations in most of the first four caucuses and primaries, except in South Carolina. But the unusually high turnout there may have reflected voters’ desire to boost Biden and defeat Sanders. There is a great risk that if Sanders became the Democratic nominee, many disaffected moderates---both Democrats and Republicans---would not bother to vote on Election Day.

20% of Suburban Democrats Don't Support Sanders

One in five suburban Democrats said that they would not support Bernie Sanders against Trump, based on a Fox News poll taken on Thursday, according to The New York Times. If 20% of suburban Democrats won’t vote for Sanders, how many Republican suburbanites will?

The ramifications could be severe for other Democratic candidates running for seats in the House and the Senate. In the 2018 midterm elections, moderate suburban Republicans, especially women, defected in large numbers. They provided the margin of victory for many Democratic candidates, which enabled the Party to win a majority in the House.

No wonder Donald Trump likes to crow at his rallies about how well “Crazy Bernie” is doing in the primaries. A Sanders candidacy could help the Republicans keep both the Senate and the White House. The Wall Street Democrat

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