5 Things We Learned From Biden's Stunning Victories Over Bernie Sanders

It's Biden's nomination to lose now.
March 11, 2020, 1:26pm
biden sanders michigan primary

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Is there anything stopping Joe Biden from winning the Democratic nomination? All signs point to no.

Biden is in the driver’s seat after a decisive win in Michigan and elsewhere Tuesday night, and it doesn’t look like he’s stopping anytime soon: After cleaning up in the South and the Midwest, Biden could all but clinch the nomination next week with big wins in Illinois, Ohio, and Florida.

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So far Biden has won 53 of Michigan’s 125 delegates, and picked up a net of 18 over Sanders, with 37 left to be allotted. He also picked up easy wins in Mississippi, Missouri — which Sanders lost by fewer than 1,500 votes four years ago, but lost by a whopping 25% on Tuesday — and Idaho, another state Sanders won in 2016.

As of publication, Sanders was holding onto the slightest of leads in Washington with plenty left to report there, and was winning in the North Dakota caucuses. In a sign of how bad his night was, Sanders didn’t even make an appearance on Tuesday night.

“Just over a week ago, many of the pundits declared that this candidacy was dead,” Biden told supporters in Philadelphia on Tuesday. “Now, we’re very much alive.”

The clear signal now is that Joe Biden is no longer just the obvious frontrunner in the race, but that, barring an unforeseen catastrophe over the next several weeks, he will be the Democratic nominee.

The Biden coalition is taking shape

The Biden coalition looks a lot like the one that won the Democrats the House in the 2018 midterms — strong support from older voters, black voters, the middle class, the cities and the moderate suburbs. But Biden also continued to dominate Sanders with a key demographic: Women.

While Biden only bested Sanders with men in Michigan 47%-43%, according to CNN’s exit poll, Biden won women in the state by a whopping 23 points, which contributed heavily to his margin of victory, as women made up over half of the vote there on Tuesday.

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That doesn’t mean, however, that Biden is replicating the coalition of former President Barack Obama. Even with all of his momentum, Biden continues to get absolutely destroyed with young voters — 18-29 year olds in Michigan went for Sanders by nearly sixty points, according to CNN.

Sanders’ support from the Latino community is also still strong, with Latinos going for him by double-digits in Michigan, according to CNN.

READ: Bernie Sanders got clobbered on Tuesday and has no clear path to the nomination

Democrats really want to get rid of Trump

All across the board, voters were focused on one thing above all else: Defeating the incumbent president.

In Michigan, 58% of people said beating Donald Trump was more important than having a nominee who agreed with them. And while Sanders won those focused on the issues by double-digits, Biden won those who just want to get rid of Trump by more than 30 points, according to exit polls.

In Missouri, two-thirds of voters said in exit polls that Biden had the best chance of beating Trump, to just 29% for Sanders. And even in Washington, where Sanders and Biden were running neck-and-neck as of this morning, voters said Biden had by far the best chance of defeating Trump.

Bernie Sanders is losing, but his ideas are mainstream now

Sanders supporters can take heart from one thing: His signature policy, Medicare For All, continues to be extremely popular.

In every state that has produced an exit poll, replacing private insurance with a government-run plan has polled with majority support from Democratic primary voters. That goes even for deep-red states like Mississippi, where 60% of voters supported the Medicare For All-like plan over private insurance, according to exit polls.

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Unfortunately for Sanders, however, Joe Biden still won over three-quarters of the voters who want Medicare For All. Given that Biden just indicated he might veto even a compromise version of the bill if he were elected, it’s a bittersweet victory to see it become so popular.

Bernie’s last stand

If Sanders had won Michigan as he did in 2016, he might look to turn a good primary debate on March 15 into upset wins in Illinois and Ohio next Tuesday, to try to mitigate what he stands to lose in Florida on the same day.

READ: Joe Biden just destroyed Bernie Sanders in Michigan

But given his big defeats in Michigan and in Missouri, it’s looking more and more likely that Arizona — where Latinos make up a larger share of the vote — will be Sanders’ best hope for a win next Tuesday.

Still, the delegate math looks grim for Sanders. Biden extended his lead to 160 delegates last night, and after next week, that could be extended to 400 or 500 delegates, an almost insurmountable total at that point in the race. Sanders needs a true gamechanger between now and next Tuesday.

It’s now on Biden to unite the party

Biden gestured toward the eventual end of the primary campaign in his victory lap last night. “I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said. “We share a common goal, and together, we will defeat Donald Trump."

For Biden, this means one thing above all else: Bringing young voters, some of whom have no ties to the Democratic Party other than Bernie Sanders, into the coalition. In Michigan, for example, 20% of Sanders supporters wouldn’t commit to voting for the eventual nominee, according to CNN.

Given Biden’s past comments deriding millennials, and Sanders’ extraordinary margins with those voters, Biden’s performance with young and Latino voters in the coming weeks will be a key test. Winning the general election will take a coalition that resembles Obama’s — and young and Latino voters are essential if he’s going to send Trump packing.

Cover: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, speaks to members of the press at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)