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Opinion

Column: It’s Bernie vs. Biden. Let the Democratic infighting begin

Sanders and Biden
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden
(Paul Sancya, Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Looks like President Trump was right to be scared of Joe Biden.

I didn’t think the former vice president could pull it off, especially after his weak showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

When I saw Biden in Iowa last month, he didn’t inspire confidence. He was shouty and kept referring to a written text, which seemed bizarre for a guy with more than a half century of political experience.

But I underestimated his appeal to voters, especially black voters, thanks to the enduring power of his relationship with President Obama. Without the support of African Americans, there will be no Democratic president in 2021.

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And on Saturday, after a decisive win in South Carolina, he was his best self: passionate, on point, sensitive, kind.

Biden is like an old robe you can slip into — not new or exciting, but comfortable at a time when many of us could use a little comfort.

On Tuesday, he racked up win after win: In Virginia, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee. He won in Oklahoma where, reporters noted, he spent a mere $60,000.

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He by no means has a lock on the nomination, with Bernie Sanders still gaining delegates and maintaining his core of loyal supporters. But Biden has done much to reassure voters in recent days that, if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, the party will be in good hands.

Come November, Democratic voters and disaffected Republicans won’t give a fig about the questionable business practices of his son. Yes, Republicans will hammer away at Hunter Biden’s association with a Ukrainian oil company, but Hunter’s not running for president.

And let’s not forget: President Trump’s children are the most blatant beneficiaries of nepotism in American history. Their father — not Hunter Biden — was the one who was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors over dealings with Ukraine.

On the biggest day of the Democratic presidential primary calendar, 14 states — from Maine to California — held primaries on Super Tuesday. There were1,357 delegates at stake, just over a third of the votes at this summer’s nominating convention.The balloting shaped up as a battle between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg dropped out Wednesday morning after a disappointing showing, considering the hundreds of millions he’s spent on his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also fell well short of expectations. Our reporters in California and other key Super Tuesday states followed the day’s developments and will keep you up to date on the aftermath.Live Super Tuesday results Photos: Super Tuesday | 14 states hold primaries with 1,357 delegates at stake

Sanders supporters were hoping that Super Tuesday would provide a coronation of their favorite democratic socialist, but that does not appear to have happened. Yes, he won California, drawing young voters and Latino voters as expected. But Super Tuesday’s mixed results signal that he and Biden are going to have to fight it out, and perhaps fight it out some more after that, all the way to the convention.

Biden is surely more palatable to the Democratic establishment, but Sanders’ energizing effect on younger voters and Latino voters cannot be denied.

I keep hearing the same tired criticism of Sanders from moderate Democrats: He’s been in Congress a bajillion years (29 actually), but has authored little legislation. This is a specious assessment; Sanders has sponsored some 500 amendments, many of which have become law.

In any case, I would submit that Sanders’ most important contribution to American life is that he has almost single-handedly forced the Democratic party leftward. He has never, not once, forsaken his deeply held beliefs that income inequality is an American scourge, that tax breaks for the rich come at the expense of the poor and middle class, that the failures of our healthcare system are shameful, and that students should not bear lifelong debt for their educations.

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His intransigence alone is his crowning achievement. Would Biden, who helped make it almost impossible for students to discharge college debt, have even mentioned the issue at his “victory” speech in California on Tuesday night had Sanders not pushed him in that direction?

As for the candidates who appear to be the also-rans of the Super Tuesday field: I’m sad that Elizabeth Warren’s star has dimmed. She is such a decent human being, such a tenacious fighter for economic policies that favor the working and middle classes. When she needed to be harsh on the debate stage — as she was against Michael Bloomberg — she was devastating. When the moment called for conciliation, she was brilliant. She was organized, well-funded and seemed to have moved past the early stumbles over her heritage. Why did she never catch fire?

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s likely demise is hardly a tragedy for Democrats. Yes, he is a plutocrat with a progressive streak. And sure, it would have been fun to watch him bait Trump. (In Nevada, Bloomberg trolled Trump with billboards: “Donald Trump went broke running a casino.”) But the only reason for his candidacy was Biden’s perceived weakness. Now that Biden has been eating his Wheaties, there’s no room for the former New York mayor.

Here’s the thing: I often joke that I’d vote for a ham sandwich if that’s what the Democrats nominated, because frankly, an inert object would do less damage to our nation and our standing in the world than the current White House occupant has already done. Did you watch Trump’s loopy, incoherent news conference about the coronavirus? At least sandwiches can’t talk.

Now that the field has narrowed to two candidates, Democrats will have to make the difficult choice about who has the best chance to beat Trump.

My head says Biden, but my heart says Bernie.

I can live with either one.


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