By Newt Gingrich
With the results in from Democratic primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Idaho (North Dakota and Washington State has not reported at the time I am writing) it is clear that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Presidential candidate.
Michigan was the real test of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ability to make a comeback after losing South Carolina and many Super Tuesday states. Sanders had beaten Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016, and it was a good example of the kind of heavily blue collar state in which Sanders claimed he would do well. He didn’t. In fact, in the latest count, Biden was beating Sanders in Michigan 53.1% to 39.8%.
Mississippi was an even bigger defeat for Sanders, with Biden at 79.78% to Sanders at 16.26%. When you are losing by 5 to 1 you, can’t claim to even be competitive.
Missouri was another big defeat with Biden at 60.5% to Sanders 34%.
For all practical purposes the Democratic Presidential nominating race is over, and former Vice President Biden will go into the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in July with a clear majority of the delegates and clear working control of the convention machinery.
It helps to be clear about what happened.
This was not a case of the strongest candidate winning. There are no circumstances where you can argue that Biden is a strong candidate.
This is a case of the least weak candidate winning.
Biden did badly enough as a candidate before the South Carolina primary that a lot of people had an opportunity to push past him and become the front runner. With the exception of Sanders, they all had flaws and weaknesses which blocked them from becoming the front runner. In debate after debate, the newcomers gradually made mistakes, imploded, and left the campaign.
At the beginning, I thought Sen. Kamala Harris had the best chance to be the nominee. She fit all the Democratic Party’s self-defined psychological needs. She is female, a person of color, liberal, and had won statewide in our largest state. Then it turned out in the debates she couldn’t cope with challenges and couldn’t think fast on her feet (this may or may not disqualify her to be Biden’s vice-presidential pick).
Sen. Warren made a serious run at the nomination. She was doing well until all her opponents ganged up on her and she couldn’t answer obvious questions about the costs of her proposals.
Buttigieg did remarkably well for being the mayor of a small town. But his charming, pleasant “bring us together” personality failed to win any converts in the Black and Latino communities. In a Democratic primary, that is the end of a candidacy.
Bloomberg of course set an historic record for money spent promoting a candidate in commercials who bore no relationship to the candidate in reality. Had he ignored the debates and bought more ads, he would probably still be in the race.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar had several good debate performances, but she could not find the issue or pattern that would have enabled her to break through. In the end, she left as quietly and pleasantly as she had arrived – but she served the establishment’s major goal by endorsing Biden and appearing with Biden at a Texas rally in order to give him the front runner momentum over the Democratic Socialist candidates.
The last obstacle to a Biden nomination was Sanders. Sanders had done a remarkable job of building a genuine left-wing movement, with millions of small donors and passionate supporters. However, he could not overcome two huge obstacles. First, he could not really compete with Biden in the Black community. By South Carolina, this would become a fatal weakness. Second, the very essence of his attack-the-rich philosophy guaranteed that the rich would adopt an attack-Bernie counter philosophy.
The week before South Carolina, the wealthy wing of the Democratic Party (and it is huge despite the rhetoric of Democrat elected officials) was in despair. Biden seemed hapless and non-competitive. No one else seemed strong enough to stop Sanders. The Democratic establishment was faced with losing control of its own party to a candidate it thought would cost Democrats control of the House – and whose left-wing fanatics would then control the machinery of the party.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the third ranking House Democrat, then stepped in and saved the Democratic Party from socialist ruin. It was his endorsement which put Biden over the top in South Carolina. And it was winning South Carolina by a big margin which propelled Biden into a huge, unexpected victory on Super Tuesday and front runner status.
Note that in all this Biden was essentially passive. He endured a long period of getting little done while step-by-step his opponents defeated themselves.
After they finish breathing a sigh of relief at the end of Sanders as a socialist threat, the Democratic establishment is going to wake up and realize it has just nominated the least weak candidate. And least weak may not be strong enough to beat President Trump.
In an historic sense, the Democrats had been reduced to choosing between radical Sen. George McGovern and boring Vice President Walter Mondale. They chose Mondale and forgot that both the radical and the boredom got the same electoral disaster against an underestimated Republican incumbent.