Bernie Sanders’ failing presidential campaign isn’t calling it quits just yet.
Although his path to the Democrats’ nomination is getting narrower, Sanders will keep fighting until it’s officially over, his campaign press secretary indicated in a tweet on Tuesday, according to the Washingon Examiner. The Vermont senator has suffered a steep drop in momentum after a string of defeats on Super Tuesday and in six primaries this week, but it seems he’s not quite ready to drop out of the running.
Bernie down, but not out
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday comeback took the whole country by surprise — and seriously blunted Sanders’ frontrunner status and his claims of electability. Biden’s campaign, until then declared dead, came roaring back with wins across the map, according to The Washington Post, while Sanders took a big blow with losses in his native New England, including Massachusetts and Maine.
The turnaround left Sanders desperately looking for victories in this week’s six primaries, especially in Michigan, where Sanders’ upset in 2016 against Hillary Clinton propelled his campaign. But in yet another demoralizing blow, Sanders lost Michigan to Biden, as well as Missouri, Mississippi, and Idaho, The Guardian reported. Sanders won only North Dakota — and narrowly — while Washington is still too close to call, according to the New York Post.
But before the evening was through, the senator’s campaign spokeswoman, Briahna Joy Gray, issued a statement clarifying that Sanders is not dropping out yet. Gray pointed to Biden’s delegate lead of less than 200 — not yet insurmountable, to be sure, but not the situation many expected just weeks ago — and said that Sanders looks forward to turning things around at the next debate in Arizona on Sunday.
“I, for one, am extremely excited about this debate all the moderates are panicking about,” she wrote, according to the Examiner. “The delegate count difference is only about 150 points out of 4051 total. America finally gets to see Biden defend his ideas, or lack thereof, on Sunday.”
Arizona’s debate — which will feature no live audience, courtesy of the coronavirus — will be the first one-on-one debate of the primary season. It’s also the first since last month’s debate in South Carolina, where seven candidates competed, including Mike Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. As FiveThirtyEight notes, all of them dropped out in the days before and after Super Tuesday.
Back then, the race looked very different. Sanders had widely been seen as the Democratic frontrunner — and for about a week or so, there was rampant speculation that the Democratic Party was going to burn down in the flames of socialism — before Biden blunted his momentum with a comeback victory in South Carolina. The moderate field consolidated when Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropped out, and Biden went on to sweep Super Tuesday.
The consolidation of the race into a two-man contest came to the great advantage of Biden, who had been competing in a packed field of moderates that split up the anti-Sanders vote. The Sanders team is now looking to Sunday’s debate in Arizona to save him, but his disappointing night Tuesday left some Democrats saying that he should drop out immediately, The Hill reported.
Sanders on the brink
In a speech Wednesday, Sanders addressed the disappointing results and attempted to strike a confident tone in spite of them, according to the New York Post. He said that he looks forward to debating Biden, who he has hammered for voting in support of the Iraq War and NAFTA, a trade deal that critics say sent millions of jobs overseas.
But Sanders has pointedly avoided mentioning what may be Biden’s biggest and most obvious weakness: even as he takes the lead, Biden is continuing to stir confusion and bemusement with awkward episodes on the campaign trail. He notably got his wife mixed up with his sister at a Super Tuesday rally.
If Sanders wants to win, then he needs to take the gloves off. It’s now or never.