Regardless of how the corporate media is portraying Super Tuesday, the Sanders candidacy has only suffered a minor setback.
The statistics are still encouraging. With Warren flopping and reported considering dropping out, Sanders expects a more comfortable race, based on binaries drawn by him – unlike Warren playing spoiler to Bernie in many states earlier. His tougher states are now more likely to be neck and neck. With Bloomberg dropping out, the race is now officially Biden vs Sanders.
Sanders now gets to share the debate stage alone with Biden, giving him ample time to go one-on-one vs Biden over the latter’s rather bad record. It also gives him the space to win over mainstream voters. The last debate had 6 candidates, and most had 10, giving candidates between 13-17 minutes of speaking time. This will now be in hours. Sanders can also demonstrate how much sharper he is than Biden (who can no longer function without a teleprompter or written speeches), as well as neutralize attacks and unfair characterizations of him in detail.
Sanders has also started running negative ads on Biden’s policy record, and indicated a willingness to go on the attack. He has also started spelling out his electability argument in greater detail. Now, the only candidate he has to draw contrasts with is Biden. Their bases are so far apart, other than African American voters which they both share (though not inter-generationally), that Sanders can undo his own weaknesses by attacking Biden’s strengths.
Biden’s record on trade deals can make his appeal to white swing state working class voters and union members take a hit. Sanders’ shining a light on Biden’s attempts to pass cuts on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has already made him take a hit with older voters, regardless of color. Biden’s prime role in the writing of the Crime Bill and marijuana can make him suffer with African-American voters, both young and old. His vote on repealing Glass Steagall, on the Iraq War, on the Defence of Marriage Act, Welfare Reform and the Bankruptcy bill (which devastated millions especially single moms and prevented bankruptcy filing for those with medical or student debt) will make it clear who Biden stands with.
Then, of course, is the base Sanders already has in spades – Latino voters of all ages, progressives, liberals, young voters of all color, LQBTQIA+ voters. The toss up remains union voters, working class voters, suburban voters, rural voters, and white women. Sanders has only bases to gain, and Biden only has bases to lose, given the polarization today.
There is also good evidence that a two-person race might actually help Sanders. Exit polls show the way – a majority of voters in every single state that has voted so far support Medicare for All, higher minimum wage, free college and a Green New Deal, and sees Sanders as far more trustworthy on the economy, trade, healthcare, jobs, the environment, and even in defeating Trump! Sanders is clearly the far better suited candidate to enact these changes, given that they are his platform, as compared to Biden who has openly spoken out against these, and only has the myth of electability going for him. The “vaguely progressive candidates” are all out of the race. Sanders also has a far higher approval rating than Biden ever had in his career. The spotlight can only harm Biden, not help him.
Biden himself will undergo closer media scrutiny, and the Republican will also train their guns fully on him. Biden’s declining cognitive health has been spun till now by the media as gaffes – but now they will be seen as fully liabilities.
He mixed up his sister and his wife in person at a rally recently, referred to Bernie as President Sanders, called himself a candidate for US Senate, forgot Obama’s name, claimed that he would appoint the first African American woman to the US Senate (there have already been African American women in the US Senate, and Presidents cannot appoint Senators – a Supreme Court nomination would have been a more accurate fit), mixed up states, forgot the Constitution, called Chris Wallace “Chuck”, incorrectly claimed that gun violence was responsible for 150 million death (it was 150,000) – the barriers Biden will face ahead are formidable indeed and of his own making.
Biden’s current lead (566-501) which is being advertised by the media does not include the full vote count and allocation of states that Sanders handily won – Colorado, Utah and California (though Vermont is complete). 188 delegates from California alone are yet to be allocated. With these delegates fully assigned, expect the delegate race to be closely tied.
Biden only has a 65 delegate lead with partial results. For context, that’s less than half of the total delegates at play in Ohio (or Illinois or Michigan or New Jersey) alone, 1/3rd of delegates at stake in New York, Florida or Pennsylvania – not a large gap at all. The primary has only just stated, and a majority of states are yet to vote. Several of those are strongly Sanders-leaning states such as Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Alaska, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Ohio, Hawaii, West Virginia, Oregon and Kentucky. A 60 vote lead (which will be smaller after the full declaration of Super Tuesday results) can be overcome even without any big wins – which will of course happen.
Sanders will have to make full use of his social media machinery, surrogates, donor base, organizational machinery and massive volunteer base if he is to win the subsequent battles – and he seems to be doing precisely that.
And so the media is wrong – the Sanders campaign is hardly “destroyed”, and if anything, it has only been reinforced by the binary patterns in voting. Sanders can very well attempt to make the most of the situation, back as an insurgent against a flawed candidate while Biden will have to struggle to maintain his position.
The author is a PhD research scholar in Modern and Contemporary History at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University