It's not over yet, we're told, and that's true. Only three states have voted in the Democratic nominating process at this point, with 47 left to go. Plus, maybe Joe Biden may be making something of a comeback, having finished second in Nevada and still seemingly on pace to win South Carolina next weekend. Oh, and there's another debate tomorrow, in which the rest of the field has a very strong incentive to turn their rhetorical guns directly on the frontrunner. His weaknesses are sure to be addressed aggressively and consistently. Some potentially significant forthcoming endorsements will cut against him, including this one:
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said on ABC's "This Week" that Bernie Sanders' identification as a democratic socialist may be an "extra burden" in down-ballot House races if he were to win the nomination. https://t.co/Vt4vjKFs6h— Axios (@axios) February 23, 2020
But let's get real: Biden's lead in South Carolina may hold up, but he's fallen precipitously and Bernie has momentum and is gaining. The former VP, even with sharper attacks being deployed, is still a damaged, poor candidate who routinely causes all sorts of problems for himself. And the intramural food fight among other candidates shows few signs of stopping. Sanders is the first candidate from either party to win the most votes in all three of the first nominating states, in a contested race. As establishment Democrats are grappling with the various stages of grief, including bargaining, the smart set is looking at the numbers and making clear that Sanders is getting very close to becoming the prohibitive favorite to at least have a delegate lead heading into the convention:
The basic takeaway here is that it's Bernie's nomination to lose. Exactly how big his margin is in Nevada, who finishes 2nd, etc., may tell us something about precisely how likely he is to lose it, and who is most likely to take it away from him. But it's his race to lose.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 23, 2020
Sanders' dominance among Hispanics bodes well for him in upcoming states with huge delegate hauls at stake, like California and Texas. He's in the driver's seat here, and some major Democratic political and media figures seem to be reconciling themselves to that emerging reality (others are, um, taking it harder). I'm genuinely struggling to see: (a) how anyone other than Bernie holds a delegate lead heading into Milwaukee, or (b) how the party would manage a situation in which Bernie is denied the nomination at the convention, which would tear the party's base asunder with truly catastrophic recriminations. The likeliest scenario, therefore, is that Bernie will keep racking up delegates, and the party will slowly but surely rally around him. It's true that he could put down-ballot Democrats in serious danger, including in key Senate and House races. It's true that he might be too radical to win. It's entirely possible that suburban voters who flocked to Democrats in 2018 may be repelled by an angry socialist at the top of the ticket.
But I do not yet see evidence that Sanders is "unelectable," a word that may have outlived its usefulness after 2016. Remember, in the last presidential cycle, one of the major parties had a nasty and grueling nomination fight, ending with the coronation of man of questionable partisan loyalty who was widely seen as a sure bet to lose the general election. The oppo research file was cartoonishly thick, packed with any number of vulnerabilities that seemed problematic enough to knock him out of contention in and of themselves. His 'toxicity' was chronicled in poll after poll. Many in his party predicted doom and gloom. And then he won. I do not have confidence that something similar cannot happen with Bernie Sanders -- particularly because, unlike Trump, Bernie has actually consistently led his hypothetical opponent in the polls. I have a very queasy feeling about all of this:
I see some fellow conservatives rejoicing at Bernie’s win/chaos.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 22, 2020
I feel a little nauseated.
That being said, it is also very plausible that Bernie is a bridge too far for so many voters that he ends up losing handily. He is, after all, a scowling, rage-fueled 78-year-old socialist who recently suffered a heart attack. This piece alone is pretty mind-blowing:
Shortly after being elected as mayor, Bernie Sanders kicked off of the 40th annual Chittenden County United Way fundraising drive by announcing to audience gasps, “I don’t believe in charities.”https://t.co/EWgIphZsWj— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) February 23, 2020
“He argued that bread lines in Communis that he thinks should be afforded to citizenst countries were a sign of the system’s success...” https://t.co/r7NnHJVmOE— Liz Mair (@LizMair) February 23, 2020
And we'll hear a lot more about things like this in the coming months:
This is insane. In 1985 — when he was in his mid 40s, not a misguided kid — a constituent asked Bernie Sanders how he could support Nicaragua's socialist dictatorship and he responded by comparing Daniel Ortega to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.https://t.co/uLnEBZoh8d— Giancarlo Sopo (@GiancarloSopo) February 22, 2020
“Sanders was twice an elector for an SWP candidate for president who once said that American soldiers should “take up their guns and shoot their officers.”— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) February 23, 2020
That candidate called for the abolition of the US military.”
I'll leave you with a striking Bernie clip:
Bernie Sanders: illegal immigrants are "entitled" to the same government benefits as citizens pic.twitter.com/uktJpT6bsg— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 22, 2020
It's of course wild that the likely Democratic nominee believes that illegal immigrants should receive free healthcare and other 'rights' (among many other things, he also thinks that convicted rapists, murderers and terrorists like the Boston marathon bomber should be allowed to vote from inside prison), but this line really stopped me in my tracks: "What our campaign is about, and what our administration will be about, is rethinking America." He means it.