Joe Biden, seemingly DOA, has staged one of the greatest political comebacks in history.
On Tuesday night, he won at least nine of Super Tuesday’s 14 primaries, including Texas, which nobody foresaw. He won states where he never set foot and never advertised. He posted shocker wins in the north (Massachusetts, Minnesota), ran the table in the south (Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee), and buried Bernie by 30 points with record turnout in Virginia. Throw in his win in Oklahoma, plus the news that he’ll get a hefty share of California delegates by scoring a solid second, and here’s the result:
Biden is now on top in the national delegate count. How sweet it is.
And with Biden-friendly primary states on the near horizon — notably, Georgia and Florida — and with profligate Mike Bloomberg waving the white flag (after spending half a billion bucks to win four delegates in American Samoa), Biden’s sudden bandwagon is likely to kick into fourth gear.
I’m reminded of a Biden story from 1972. At age 29, he was an unknown newbie who had the temerity to challenge a two-term Delaware Republican senator named Cale Boggs. Everyone assumed that Biden was dead meat; Boggs had all the incumbent advantages, and the GOP ticket that year was headed by a president positioned to win in a landslide. But Biden, at three percent in the polls, rented the best and biggest ballroom in the state for what he called his “victory celebration.” Turned out he needed the ballroom, because he won.
So what the hell has happened? It’s simple, really: Democrats came together and came to their senses.
Crunching the numbers, it’s clear Biden has begun to fashion a winning November coalition – especially suburban women (the prime drivers of the 2018 House blue wave), African-Americans (the most loyal of all Democrats), and moderate swing voters (including crossover Republicans) who detest Trump and want an electable alternative. Biden is surely imperfect, but the Super Tuesday verdict was that he’s good enough.
And what about Bernie? I’ll just borrow a lyric from Gil Scott-Heron: The “revolution” will not be televised.
With the exception of his outreach to Hispanics, Bernie has not grown his support. He basically has the same (losing) base that he had in 2016 – most notably whites under the age of 30, and people who describe themselves as “very liberal.” You don’t beat Trump with that. Heck, you don’t win a Democratic nomination with that — especially when you’re dissing Democrats as “corrupt” and “establishment” and “corporate.” No wonder self-identified grassroots Democrats clobbered Bernie in most states last night.
It’s nice to have young people. But, an umpteenth reminder: Young people do not vote heavily. Bernie can talk all he want about a youth-powered “revolution,” but let’s take a look at Texas, a state that Democrats are trying to put in play for November. Only 15 percent of the primary voters were under age 30. Voters aged 45 to 64 were the biggest share of the Texas electorate (38 percent) and they chose Biden over Bernie by a 2-1 margin. The second biggest share were seniors (25 percent) and they chose Biden over Bernie by nearly 3-1.
And in Texas, as well as in most Super Tuesday states, the voters who made up their minds at the last minute surged to Biden. Translation: People were waiting to see who, if anyone, would emerge as a live alternative to Bernie — and when they got proof that Biden was viable (thanks to South Carolina, thanks to Pete and Amy ceding the center-left field), they wisely fell in line.
What a relief it is to put Democrats and wise in the same sentence. What a relief it is to see that money doesn’t buy you love. Bloomberg, with his bottomless pockets, has proved that. Bernie has proved that too. He outspent Biden in the Super Tuesday states (heck, Biden hardly had any money), and he out-organized Biden on the ground.
Granted, as Yogi Berra used to say, it ain’t over til it’s over. The delegate battle will rage for many weeks, perhaps all the way to the convention.
But remember, this wild saga won’t end well unless the entire party coalesces behind the nominee. If Biden sustains his near-miracle comeback, the Bernie base will be needed in November.
Would Bernie and his fans be more graceful in defeat than they were in 2016? Given the existential threat of a second Trump term, one could only hope so.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.