With the Super Tuesday primaries rapidly approaching, a broad swath of Democratic voters are less interested in the political “revolution” promised by front-runner Bernie Sanders than they are in someone who would simply restore decency to the White House and provide stable leadership without wrecking the economy.
So far, however, those non-Sanders votes have been fragmented among half a dozen candidates to the right of the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, who wants to roughly double federal spending over the next decade and end private health insurance.
On Saturday, South Carolina primary voters opened a pathway for choosing a more establishment rival to President Donald Trump by handing a decisive victory to former Vice President Joe Biden. The outcome gives the Biden campaign new life heading into Tuesday, when more than a third of Democratic delegates are up for grabs in 14 states.
Remember 2016 Never Trumpers
But Biden and the other anti-Sanders Democrats face the same problem as Republicans who tried to derail Trump in the 2016 primaries: By the time the never-Trump field narrowed, he had already rolled up an insurmountable lead in delegates.
This history argues for the Democrats without realistic paths to the nomination to start getting out sooner rather than later.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who poured his time and money into South Carolina, came in third there Saturday. He did the right thing by suspending his campaign that night.
Dropping out is hard to do. Candidates have given their all. Devoted followers and donors are disappointed. But for the hopefuls with negligible prospects of winning the nomination — as of Sunday morning, statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model gave Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar less than 1% chances of capturing the most pledged delegates — the time for a reckoning is rapidly approaching.
Consider Super Tuesday delegates
Sanders remains the favorite in California and Texas, two populous states that together constitute nearly half the Super Tuesday delegates. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will appear on ballots for the first time, providing an indication of whether the billionaire’s massive ad spending can overcome his weak debate performance. Biden will have to demonstrate whether he can capitalize on his momentum coming out of South Carolina.
Without a winnowing of the field, and perhaps even with one, Sanders might well continue building a strong plurality of delegates that could make him the presumptive nominee going into the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in July, even if he doesn’t have a majority.
The result could be Democrats nominating a left-wing candidate most of the primary electorate didn’t choose. That’s unlikely to be their best shot at winning a national election where the stakes couldn’t be higher: whether to retain a president who continues to display a manifest lack of fitness for the job.
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