Sanders at crossroads, as Biden expands lead and coronavirus panic freezes election calendar
A landslide in Florida.
A blow out in Illinois.
And a victory as well in Arizona – giving former Vice President Joe Biden a clean sweep on Tuesday and effectively shutting the door to any possible pathway for rival Sen. Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic presidential nomination. The convincing victories came as the primary calendar is likely to grind to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, freezing the Democratic presidential nomination race in place.
Sanders – the populist senator from Vermont who’s making his second straight White House bid – now faces the toughest decision of his political career as he struggles with deciding when to bring an end to his presidential campaign but ensure that his political revolution continues the fight.
Biden speaking from his home in Wilmington, Del., declared that “our campaign has had a very good night.”
“We moved closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. And we’re doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November,” the former vice president emphasized.
Thank you to everyone in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois who supported our campaign. From day one, our goal has been to unify our party and our nation — and tonight, we are one step closer to achieving that goal. Let’s do this, together. pic.twitter.com/tcLufz2SBV
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) March 18, 2020
Biden crushed Sanders in Florida by nearly 40 percentage points.
With 215 delegates up for grabs, Florida was the biggest prize in Tuesday’s contests. But it’s also the biggest of the battleground or swing states that will determine whether President Trump or the Democratic nominee will win November’s general election.
A Fox News voter analysis shows that Biden cleaned up among Hispanic voters – who made up a fifth of the state’s primary electorate – as well as with voters over the age of 65 – who made up a third of all primary voters.
Biden also shellacked Sanders in Illinois – where 155 delegates were at stake.
A strong showing with African Americans and white working-class voters boosted Biden. And in all three states voters said Biden was better positioned than Sanders to defeat the president in November’s general election, according to the Fox News Voter analysis.
The victories significantly boosted Biden’s already wide lead over Sanders in the crucial race for convention delegates.
“It is hard to see a mathematical path for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee. Biden is building and winning the large, diverse population that Sanders said he would win,” said Mo Elleithee, the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and a Fox News contributor.
Elleithee, a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who later served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee, stressed that “Sanders still has a chance to impact the debate and the party platform. But Joe Biden is the candidate who will face President Trump in November.”
For a second straight week, Biden extended an olive branch to Sanders and his legions of young supporters.
“Sen. Sanders and I may disagree on tactics but we share a common vision for the need to provide affordable health care for all Americans… to tackling the existential threat of our time – climate change,” Biden said. “Sen. Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. Together they’ve shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.”
In an attempt to unify the party as he tries to boot Trump from the White House in November’s election, Biden said “let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Sen. Sanders – I near you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party, and then to unify the nation.”
After losing five of the six states that held contests last week, Sanders vowed to continue on in an attempt to push Biden to the left.
For a second straight week, Sanders didn’t deliver a primary night speech. Instead – earlier in the evening – Sanders gave an address on his proposals to combat the coronavirus outbreak and the economic downturn spurred by the pandemic. His plan – with a $2 trillion price tag – called for $2000 per month checks to help families dealing with the burgeoning economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
Sanders made no mention of Tuesday’s contests.
The crisis we face from coronavirus is on the scale of a major war.
Read our principles for responding to the health care and economic crises, and if you have thoughts or ideas to share with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org://t.co/vo5oU09v5t
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 18, 2020
Now – as calls for him to suspend his campaign and back Biden are likely to grow as the math doesn’t add up anymore for the senator – Sanders will need to make on a decision on what’s best not just for his campaign but for this wider movement.
And that’s a decision he’ll likely make with major input from his wife Jane – who’s also a senior adviser on the campaign.