The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Bye, Bye, Bernie

Rich Galen

Wednesday March 18, 2020

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  • Bernie Sanders went oh-for-three Tuesday night. Of the three primaries (Florida, Illinois, and Arizona), the closest race was Arizona which Joe Biden won by more than 12 percentage points 43.6% to 31.6%.

  • Florida and Illinois were Biden blow-outs. Florida about 62-23 and Illinois about 59-36.

  • Ohio was supposed to have been in the March 17 mix but the Governor and the State Health Commissioner got the Ohio Supreme Court to approve an order to delay the Democratic primary to June 2.

  • Governor Mike DeWine's point was, essentially, "How can we ask people to practice social distancing and then ask they go into a polling place and stand cheek-by-jowl while they wait to vote.

  • The other three states appear to have done it, and by June 2 no one will be paying attention to Democratic primaries.

  • In fact, there was little attention paid to the three primaries that were held what with the news about the cascading COVID-19 virus all night long.

  • But, let's stay with Biden vs Bernie for right now.

  • The pre-primary polling took much of the mystery out of the night. It is pretty clear that after Super Tuesday (Biden won 9 states, Sanders won 3) and the March 10 races (Biden 4, Sanders 1) and then the latest round (Biden 3, Bernie 0) that the Sanders campaign is over.

  • Why hasn't he bowed out?

  • First of all, he's Bernie Sanders. That's the closest thing we have in politics to the old man sitting his porch yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay offa his lawn. He's just grouchy.

  • If he were to drop out today or tomorrow (there is a a three-week break before the next round of primaries) then he would let me put it this way: When was the last time you heard from Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg?

  • Bernie would go back to the Senate as a member of the minority from a small state. Good luck attracting a crowd after about the second press conference.

  • Speaking of small states, that next round of primaries on April 4? Hawaii, Alaska, and Wyoming.

  • So, why drop out?

  • On the other hand if, as his campaign suggested on the morning after the 3-0 plastering, that Sanders would wait until after the April 4 elections what does he do? Unlike almost every other campaign that is on a 4 and 16 run (since Nevada) Sanders has plenty of money.

  • That's not his problem. His problem is figuring out ways to spend it.

  • He could put it all into advertising, but we have the recent evidence about how well that works. Tom Steyer spent north of $250 million on ads, and Mike Bloomberg, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics (via USA Today) $558 million.

  • Three quarters of a billion on ads and they are out of the game.

  • Bernie can't organize large rallies. First his campaign can't ethically ask volunteers and staff to go out to locations and put themselves in danger. Even if they were successful in generating crowds, how would that make the Sanders campaign look?

  • So, he is reduced to doing sitting in his campaign office (he can't do - or isn't supposed to do - political work from his official Senate office) talking into the modern equivalent of a Bell & Howell 8 mm camera, streaming the latest version of his Medicare-for-All proposal to a diminishing number of supporters and a small group of bored reporters sheltering in place in their one-bedroom apartments in Arlington, Virginia.

  • The same applies to Joe Biden. While Donald Trump can mount the stage in the White House briefing room every day if he wants, Biden is going to have to invent some mechanism for staying in the conversation.

  • Both Trump and Biden will have to figure out new ways of preparing for the Fall campaign. If this Coronavirus doesn't calm down pretty quickly, political field organizing will continue to be impossible.

  • If the margins in the swing states are as thin as they were in 2016, then the campaigns need to design a new campaign for these new circumstances.

  • Bernie Sanders, whether he officially suspends his campaign or not, is finished as a serious candidate for President.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The link to the NY Times' running delegate counter and to a summary of the last minute maneuvering surrounding the Ohio primary Monday night.

    The Mullfoto is via Twitter and will make you laugh.

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