And because of that, the populist U.S. senator from Vermont had an extremely disappointing evening on “Super Tuesday II” — and now faces daunting delegate math that leaves him slipping swiftly out of reach of the Democratic presidential nomination.
Just four years ago, it was in Michigan where Sanders pulled off a historic upset over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. At the time, the victory kept his White House bid alive.
Fast forward four years later and Sanders – down in the public opinion polls by double digits once again in the Great Lake State – was convincingly defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden.
Four years ago Sanders nearly topped Clinton in Missouri. This time around he lost the state by a nearly 2-to-1 margin to Biden. And the former vice president trounced Sanders in Mississippi and won in Idaho as well.
Sanders – who won a landslide victory in the 2016 Washington state caucuses – was neck and neck with Biden in the state’s 2020 primary with just over two-thirds of the vote counted. Biden initially had the slight edge in Idaho – with more than three-quarters of the vote counted — and was eventually declared the winner.
Sanders was up in North Dakota’s caucuses, where only 14 delegates were up for grabs.
Biden’s blockbuster performance boosted his lead in the all-important race for presidential convention delegates and further cemented his status as the undisputed front-runner for the Democratic nomination. And Biden’s strong performance presented Sanders with a difficult choice to make on whether to continue his White House bid.
In a remarkable and uncharacteristic move, Sanders opted not to deliver a primary night address, passing on the opportunity to speak to a national audience.
Biden, speaking near his national campaign headquarters in Philadelphia on Tuesday night after canceling a rally in Cleveland due to coronavirus concerns – and after an ugly clash with an auto worker in Michigan earlier in the day — reached out to Sanders and his legions of supporters with an olive branch.
“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump. We’ll defeat him together,” Biden said.
“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump. We’ll defeat him together.”
— Joe Biden
And Biden spotlighted how many of his former rivals, as well as much of the Democratic Party’s establishment, have coalesced around his campaign in the week and a half since his landslide victory in the South Carolina primary – which was followed three days later by his sweeping victories the first Super Tuesday, March 3.
“In just the past week, so many of my incredibly capable competitors have endorsed me. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Mike Bloomberg, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris,” Biden noted. “Together we’re bringing this party together. That’s what we have to do.”
Sanders flew home to Burlington, Vt., after also canceling a primary night campaign rally in Cleveland due to coronavirus concerns. Huddling with his advisers, the senator now faces a primary calendar that doesn’t get any easier.
The four major states that hold primaries next week – Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Arizona – were states that Sanders lost to Clinton four years ago.
Coalition comes together
Sanders spent most of his time the past week stumping in Michigan. But there and in the other larger states that held contests Tuesday, Sanders wasn’t able to expand on his base. Biden – meanwhile – once again assembled a large coalition of votes – solidly winning among African-Americans, women and suburban voters.
A Fox News voter analysis in Michigan indicated Biden topped Sanders by more than 20 points among white voters without a college degree. Sanders cleaned up with white working class voters in the primary four years ago. That foreshadowed Clinton’s narrow loss to Donald Trump in the November 2016 general election in Michigan. Trump’s victory with working-class white voters in the state, as well as similar narrow wins in two other crucial Rust Belt states – Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – propelled him to the White House.
“The entire electability argument of the Sanders campaign has been that he can, one, win a broad coalition, and two, he can grow turnout. Based on actual vote totals to date, he has not been able to do either. Joe Biden has,” said Mo Elleithee, the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and a Fox News contributor.
“And that is the story of this primary season so far. We saw that in South Carolina, we saw it on Super Tuesday, and we saw it again tonight. And it’s given Biden a near insurmountable lead in delegates,” added Elleithee, a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who later served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee.