Former Vice President Joe Biden had a bit of a Lazarus moment, and the big winner on Super Tuesday 2020, it appears, was the Democratic establishment. In 14 states and American Samoa, Democrat voters went to the polls with a resounding choice for the old guard. By no means was this the end for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but he certainly has no cause to whistle Dixie – even with wins in some large, delegate-rich states.
Indeed, Mr. Biden has every right to take a long-awaited deep breath and collect himself for the battle ahead. But having the force of his party’s political establishment does put the wind at his back as he climbs the hill to almost 2,000 delegates. And while Sanders may still look good on paper, the old pols in the Swamp know that winning in places like California does not make for an Electoral College win in the general election.
Thus, Biden’s performance last night in places like Virginia and North Carolina is telling. Could he give the president a run for his money in these key swing states? The Democratic establishment certainly believes so. They get the math, and more importantly, they know what doesn’t work. Hillary Clinton won New York and California but ultimately went down to the vicissitudes of that stubborn Electoral College.
The old political hacks in the Democratic Party – like Chris Matthews, may he rest in peace – were railing on TV for a reason. They know Joe is their only hope. Perhaps we shouldn’t speak too soon. After all, one cannot count out Michael Bloomberg. Don’t forget he won American Samoa last night.
All kidding aside, the political establishment has ways and means of making things happen at the polls that the average voter can’t imagine. Their people spread out like a spider’s web in every precinct, county, and state. They work the ground game that includes surrogates speaking at local Women’s Democratic Clubs. After tea and cookies, the party faithful Facebook their friends, gather students to man the phone banks, and hold fundraising dinners with cash bars. After dropping off little Suzy for ballet, these ladies run over and collect lawn signs to spread around. They hold pizza parties and backyard BBQs with pitch-perfect precision like a conductor preparing for that first downbeat of a symphony. It’s a wheel within a wheel that never stops turning and churning.
As well, the establishment’s fingerprints were all over timely exits from the Super Tuesday stage. Timely for Joe Biden that is, because no one talked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) into suspending her campaign. Without a doubt, Warren siphoned votes from Sanders and the lack of competition from Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar certainly helped the former vice-president. These are the many unseen tentacles of the party elite.
Running against this type of political machine – or worse, trying to form one for your non-establishment candidate – is a heavy lift. As Donald Trump has proven, it takes dogged determination, a fist full of dollars and a great deal of tenacity to go up against the party hacks. But let’s face it, Mr. Trump is the exception – not the rule.
It’s the second go-around for Bernie Sanders, so he likely has a few things in place, in terms of a robust state-level network and ground game. As well, Bernie comes to the table with a couple of things Trump also has; determination, a message, and some money to boot. One can almost hear the “but” coming: The Vermont Independent isn’t one of “us” – hell, he’s not even a Democrat, and that’s not lost on the party faithful.
By gosh, as Joe Biden might say, the former vice president had a good night last night but, make no mistake, the real winner – the big winner – was the Democratic establishment. Yes, ma’am, they are back in business and ready to roll.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.