Election 2020

Establishment Candidate Joe Biden Delivers Near-Fatal Blow to Sanders' Socialist Campaign

A slew of decisive primary victories expand the former vice president's lead in the Democratic primary.


Joe Biden delivered decisive Tuesday primary wins over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), cementing the former vice president's frontrunner status and dealing what might be a fatal blow to the democratic socialist's campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden nabbed the crucial state of Michigan, which was a notable loss for Sanders, who managed a much-celebrated surprise victory in that state in the 2016 primary. Also among Biden's haul are Mississippi and Missouri, the latter of which Sanders lost by a razor-thin margin—0.24 percent, to be exact—just four years ago.

It was not close this time

So clear was Biden's lead that the Associated Press called both Missouri and Mississippi mere minutes after the polls closed. Michigan wasn't far behind.

Around 1:00 a.m., Biden was also projected as the victor in Idaho, a state that Sanders won overwhelmingly in 2016. As of press time, Sanders held a small lead in Washington—another state that he took handedly last time around. The North Dakota caucuses appeared too close to call, as well, though Sanders maintained a slight edge early Wednesday morning.

"I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion," said Biden as he addressed a crowd of supporters late Tuesday evening. "We share a common goal, and together we'll defeat Donald Trump. We'll defeat him together."

Sanders and his surrogates have spent a considerable amount of airtime arguing that the Vermont independent is the best candidate to expand the Democratic electorate. "Now is the time for us to really double down on coalition building, positivity expansion, and focusing on the vision that Senator Sanders has for this country," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), one of his more high-profile supporters, said after his disappointing Super Tuesday showing. 

But with that coalition diminishing significantly when compared to Sanders' performance in 2016, such an expansion is not looking likely. The democratic socialist senator has historically depended heavily on youth turnout, which has been especially low this cycle.

Biden's strong rebound last week, when he won 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states, can be at least partially attributed to endorsements from South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.), both of whom suspended their candidacies to throw their support behind the former vice president. Sanders blamed Biden's success on "the establishment" bogeyman, arguing that the Democratic machine had conspired against him. But his loss might have more to do with a Democratic Party that is not yet ready to embrace Sanders' brand of socialism.