Bernie Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination for president.
This is a statement I have been disagreeing with and disputing for a year or more now, despite the fervor of his supporters and the success of his fundraising. It just didn’t make sense at all. Look at all the negatives: he’s lost a primary before, he’s the oldest candidate in a field of old people, his ideas are anything but moderate, he talks like your perpetually cranky great-uncle and, by most accounts, he is one of the least-likable people in politics. As one recent guest on our podcast stated, “Bernie reminds you of a Latin American dictator,” but with a much less cool accent. I added that last part.
So it is with much consternation, and even a bit of disbelief, that I now find myself agreeing with the Bernie prediction. I now think it’s becoming inevitable that Bernie Sanders will face Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. And if that happens, it will go down as the most entertaining and most hate-filled presidential election of all time.
Why the change of mind? Despite all sense of reason and initial gut feel, the stars seem to be aligning perfectly for the Sanders campaign at the perfect time. Bernie just hauled in an impressive $34.5 million in campaign funds in the last quarter of 2019 (the most by any candidate not named Donald Trump) and, as Guy Benson pointed out recently, the socialists seem to be polling very well in Iowa and New Hampshire of late.
It’s still true that most of the national polls, and at least one betting site, still point to Joe Biden as the candidate to beat. This is partially because, despite the rise and fall of candidates like Harris, Warren and Buttigieg, no candidate other than Biden, moderate or far-left, can seem to break out of the 20s nationally. Biden is the known commodity and the relatively safe choice. Couple this with the fact that Biden polls the best with African-American voters and does very well in Southern and Midwestern states and it’s not hard to see why some say that this is still his election to lose. But it’s not, he is no longer in the driver’s seat. This is Bernie’s nomination to lose.
Why is Bernie going to win? He will nab the early momentum and Biden will not be able to bring the African-American vote out like his former boss (or even Hillary in 2016).
According to the polling numbers aggregated over at Real Clear Politics, the latest polling in Iowa has Bernie tied at the top and it looks like that race in that state will come down to Sanders or Mayor Pete. He’s also been routinely leading in New Hampshire since November. He will take those two states. Those wins and the press coverage and momentum that come with them (plus candidates like Warren calling it quits after losing both contests) will only further quell the already waning enthusiasm for a Biden presidency.
Everyone who was predicting a Biden win (including me) was counting on Southern and Midwestern primaries and Biden carrying a large portion of the African-American vote. The problem is, by the time South Carolina rolls around, the Sanders campaign will have won at least two states and probably have been extremely competitive in or even win Nevada. Keep in mind that the African-American vote on which the Biden campaign is relying fell dramatically in 2016 (from a high of 67% in 2012, down to less than 60%). Those numbers stand to fall even further, maybe back to early 2000 numbers just over 55%, for a candidate who is far from exciting, who is struggling to stay on message, and who will have just had two lack-luster performances in the first two primaries. Biden’s South Carolina polling numbers have already dropped from double digit leads down to 7% in the latest polling. That’s not enough considering Sanders’s numbers were up to 20% in the same poll. Give him Warren’s 19% and he beats Biden in South Carolina, which would be a decisive blow.
If Biden loses South Carolina, the wheels will completely fall off his campaign. It’s already been a magic act to hold it together and to hold the lead given all the gaffes, lack of excitement and *ahem* no big endorsement. Bernie winning or coming in a really close second in South Carolina will be all it takes to close the door on Joe and allow the Bernie Bros to finally kick down the doors of the DNC and take the nomination. It may sound as crazy as Bernie Sanders’s stump speech, but I think it’s going to happen. And Trump v. Sanders is going to be totally insane. As a podcast host, I will have more material than I can possibly process.