Joe Biden continued to outperform the polls in this week’s wave of Democratic primaries. The former vice president won four of six states outright with Washington still too close to call. At present, Biden leads Sanders by more than 150 delegates and there seems to be little chance for Sanders to make up the difference.
As I pointed out over the weekend, Michigan was last night’s big prize. Sanders won the state in a close race in 2016. This year, Biden won the state by 16 points. The final vote exceeded Biden’s lead in the polls by 10 points.
Here are the results from the March 10 elections:
- Idaho – (20 delegates) – Biden 48.9 – Sanders 42.5
- Michigan (125) – Biden 52.9 – Sanders 36.4
- Mississippi (36) – Biden 81 – Sanders 14.8
- Missouri (68) – Biden 60.1 – Sanders 34.5
- North Dakota (14) – Sanders – 53.3 – Biden 39.8
- Washington (89) – Sanders 32.7 – Biden 32.5 with only 69 percent of precincts reporting
The pattern follows that of Super Tuesday in which Biden runs up the delegate score in states with large minority populations and then holds Bernie to narrow leads in the few states where the Vermont senator wins. If this trend continues, Biden will continue to expand his lead over the coming weeks.
“The window is closing for Bernie. Losing states that he won last time in a scenario where he’s got a clean head to head is pretty damning for his candidacy,” said Doug Herman, a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, told Politico. “The most crucial barometer for him is, ‘Has he expanded his coalition?’ And time after time we see that he hasn’t.”
Even before all the results were in, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose endorsement of Joe Biden before the South Carolina primary helped to reshape the race, said that it was time to pull the plug on the debates since Bernie had no path to victory.
“I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination,” Clyburn told NPR on Tuesday night. “Quite frankly, if the night ends the way it has begun, I think it is time for us to shut this primary down, it is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates. Because you don’t do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue in this contest when it’s obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you.”
With Sanders consistently underperforming his 2016 numbers, it seems that his relative success that year was less about his movement than about Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity. Bernie’s wave of support seems to have been built around a Democratic Never Hillary movement that abandoned him when there were more candidates to choose from.
Unless there is a major change in the structure of the race, Sanders has no path to the nomination and will eventually be mathematically eliminated. With four big primaries coming up next week, all in states won by Clinton in 2016, Biden has the chance to expand his lead even further.
Bernie’s days are numbered, but the question remains whether Joe Biden will be able to bring his voters into the Democratic fold. In states like Michigan, Democrats are sharply divided among the two camps, but polling shows a very close general election race. Democrats will need every available voter to carry the state.
My personal prediction is that most Bernie Bros will rally around Biden for the simple reason that they hate Trump more. As I described back in April 2019, Bernie supporters don’t like Biden because they don’t see him as progressive enough, but still hold the attitude that “at least he’s not Donald Trump,” similar to the way that Republicans held their noses and voted for Trump in 2016 because he wasn’t Hillary.
As one Bernie supporter told me at the time, “I could take literally any other Democratic candidate other than Joe, but I will vote for him if I have to.”
It looks like she will.