Cable news pundits and party establishment types think Bernie Sanders is finished. Joe Biden’s decisive victories last night have effectively ended the Democratic primary; Sanders would do best to drop out, convince his supporters to back Biden and begin working to defeat Donald Trump in November.
But those demanding Sanders drop out are ignoring the realities of the race. Sanders’ best move is to stay in, keep fighting and use the leverage he’s built up along the way.
The mathematical argument for Sanders remaining in the race is simple. He trails Biden by roughly 150 delegates with more than 2,000 left to be won. Biden’s lead is significant and the map is favorable to him, but he’s not even halfway to the 1,991 required to win the Democratic nomination outright. Two of the largest primaries, New York and Pennsylvania, are still seven weeks away. That’s nearly two more months for Sanders to campaign directly against Biden and make headway among older voters, who have broken heavily toward the vice president.
Sanders’ best opportunity to make that pitch is through upcoming debates. Older voters consume their news via television, and primary debates are the biggest political stage television has to offer. Sunday’s debate will be the first time Sanders and Biden will square off one-on-one and, due to coronavirus fears, there will not be a studio audience. That eliminates the chances of another greased crowd booing the more progressive candidate at every interval. More importantly, it provides Sanders a clean chance to create real contrast between him and Biden, both on policy and mental acuity.
Biden’s done little to assuage fears that he’s capable of beating Trump, let alone serve as president. His verbal altercation with a plant worker in Detroit was the latest incident that brought his mental fitness into question. Some were convinced it made Biden look tough, but threatening to slap a constituent across the face would be considered clearly unhinged for any other politician at any other point in time. Another clip of Biden showed him answering shouted questions from a media gaggle with a vague statement that he’s “surprised Sanders is joining Trump,” which didn’t sound like a direct response to anything.
You’ve got to be kidding me pic.twitter.com/tYSorgXTW0
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) March 10, 2020
Some media figures are even beginning to question Biden’s general electability. Results from early primaries have shown Sanders trouncing the vice president among younger voters, a key demographic Hillary Clinton underperformed with in 2016. Anchors like CNN’s Jake Tapper are starting to entertain the notion that Biden’s big primary victories are fool’s gold if he can’t rally younger voters to his cause against Trump.
Even Tapper can smell it pic.twitter.com/1xRZSGifj0
— We smoked it all ?? (@CokeEnjoyer) March 11, 2020
Sanders should stay in the race based on Biden’s uncertainty alone. It’s more than enough reason for him and his supporters to believe he still has a shot. The onslaught of media negativity toward Sanders and his campaign will continue, and calls for him to drop out won’t cease anytime soon. But remaining in the race will underscore the power of Sanders’ base and the popularity of his policy ideas. He’ll either pull off an improbable victory or pull Biden’s ticket left. And that’s plenty of motivation to keep fighting.