Earlier today, Bernie Sanders delivered a news conference in his home state of Vermont on the future of his campaign, where he announced that, despite many losses, he will remain in the race for Democratic presidential nomination. This announcement came after a series of losses to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, significantly narrowing Sander’s path to victory. National polls were consistent with Tuesday’s victories, showing Biden as having a 20-point lead over Sanders.
In a contest for delegates, Sanders fell short in the Super Tuesday contests last week. In addition, last night’s primaries also proved Sanders was having increased difficulty garnering support from outside his hardline supporter base. Though the actual winning or losing of a state is not more important than the delegates each candidate wins, it does have significant implications for media coverage and momentum, with victories inciting positive news coverage.
In order to stay competitive in the race, Sanders needed to significantly change the trajectory of his campaign following Super Tuesday; last night’s results illustrate that he failed to do so. In the March 10th primaries, Joe Biden won Michigan, Mississipi, Missouri, and Idaho, representing his second straight week of victories. Sanders won North Dakota, with Washington still too close to call. These results are a sharp contrast from 2016, where Sanders won four of the six states.
Biden’s voters span throughout major demographic groups, a recent development which again hinders Sander’s movement. Only three weeks ago, Biden suffered a significant loss in Nevada, which many thought perhaps signified his candidacy coming to a close.
A factor that undoubtedly helped turn Biden’s fortunes around is the withdrawal of other moderate Democratic presidential nominees, such as Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg, which consolidated the centrist vote. The reversal of Biden’s campaign fortunes is cited as being the biggest, fastest, and most unexpected comeback in modern political history.
People speculated that perhaps Elizabeth Warren’s continued candidacy could be splitting the progressive wing of the party, ultimately resulting in lower numbers for Sanders.
In reality, Warren’s supporters proved to not be strictly ideological, and did not all flock to the support of Sanders following her exit from the race. Warren’s supporters tended to be college-educated women who back structural changes, rather than the political “revolution” Sanders consistently champions. Coupled with Warren’s reluctance to endorse either candidate, Biden and Sanders might see a fairly even influx of support from former Warren supporters.
Bernie Sanders’ track record indicates that he is determined to continue his fight to promote his policy platform. With his dedication, coupled with his fundraising successes, it is possible he stays in the race much longer. In his address earlier today, Sanders told his supporters they were “losing the debate over electability.”
Sanders and Biden are scheduled to debate each other on Sunday night, which is perhaps Sander’s last chance to attract more voters to his cause. The debate will give each candidate the chance to expand on their platforms; Sanders’ call to revolutionize the US economy, health care, and further education system, and Biden’s more moderate, unifying, and conventional approach.
Despite the rough past two weeks, there is still over half the delegates still to be allocated, and perhaps upcoming voters will use the debate as another means to decide who will gain their vote.
Edited by Catharina O’Donnell.
This article is part of a series on the 2020 United States elections. To see more analysis and opinion on the American presidential and congressional elections, click here.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Image by Lauren Hill.