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The Democratic Primary Is Over

After Super Tuesday II, Bernie Sanders will go down as a socialist Goldwater, not our 46th president. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center on February 29, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON– And that’s all she wrote.

How did things ever get so far? Two weeks ago, Bernie Sanders was poised to become the nation’s ayatollah, presiding over — some would say, rescuing — his country at eighty. When bleakest for the Democratic establishment, the question appeared to be how, or when, not if, Sanders would capture the nomination. 

Would there be a brokered convention in Milwaukee in summer?

There won’t be a brokered convention. But it’s Joe Biden, not Sanders, that will win the day in Wisconsin in July. That much we know after “Super Tuesday II,” where the former vice president notched victories in the Great Plains, Idaho, the critical upper Midwest, Michigan, and into the South, Missouri and Mississippi. North Dakota and Washington state have yet to be called, but wins by Sanders there could only blunt the sense of national misgiving about where the socialists would take the country. 

As yet, Joe Biden has no mass movement. But what materialized in the last half-month has been nothing less than a mass movement against Bernie Sanders– and a dramatic example of the continued power, unlike on the Republican side, of the Democratic establishment. Sanders will go down not as Ronald Reagan, but as Barry Goldwater, the forefather of conservative revival, albeit at least Goldwater was his party’s nominee. 

Biden promises armistice. 

“At this moment when there’s so much fear in the country, when there’s so much fear across the world. … We need presidential leadership that’s honest, trusted, truthful, and steady,” Biden said in victory remarks in Philadelphia. “Reassuring leadership. If I’m given the honor of becoming your president, I promise you I’ll strive to give the nation that very leadership every day.”   

Sanders, in an astonishing fall, is likely mulling a suspension of his campaign this morning. Bernie Sanders ran a more elaborate campaign this cycle, but against a less villainous candidate, Biden not Hillary Clinton, and the result, in the end, was a worse performance than four years ago. 

There are implications galore for the Trump campaign. Some Sanders old-timers are doubtless whispering that the old socialist went wobbly on immigration, where he had previously expressed restrictionist sympathies, or too intersectional or “woke” in style. But here’s the deal, as Biden himself would say: Joe Biden is the real deal.

Whether it takes days or weeks, or Sanders slogs on, as Ron Paul did in his encore effort in 2012, is immaterial. As the pandamonium of left-wing, ideological warfare subsides, Biden will have to show voters he’s made of the right stuff of “American leadership” he so frequently says he is. 

That means a hard look at Biden’s record, mixed, charitably, on trade, foreign policy, particularly Iraq, credit card debt, and bankruptcy. 

Biden’s had a long career, mistakes have been made, and he may well be able to pitch himself successfully as a statesman. His personal story is compelling and sympathetic. Daily insinuations by the right-wing press that Biden’s somehow lost it could actually only serve to make him seem more so in the eyes of swing voters. And a coming coronavirus crisis is the sort of black swan event, like the Iranian hostage crisis was for Carter, that can end incumbent presidents. 

Sanders ran an organized, sophisticated campaign, and one that failed to deliver a killing stroke. He relinquished command. 

Biden won’t get so lucky with Donald Trump, who will hack at Biden every day starting today. At 73, Trump retains a boyish energy, at least for his own survival. Like a young tyke smashing away at a pinata, there are going to be some misses. But a kitchen-sink strategy against Biden’s fifty-year record hasn’t been tried. Sanders stayed too on-script. Bernie rarely got personal. Tellingly, Sanders did not speak Tuesday night. But if he had, we know what he would say. Last Super Tuesday, the speech he gave was the exact same speech he would give if he were elected president. And that’s the problem: it’s the same speech.

If Trump is smart — and I remind you, he’s politically undefeated — he will tailor his approach. He will bag the sideshow focus on Biden’s son, Hunter. America may not be what it was once, but it’s still not the land of dueling aristocracies, as Donald Trump Jr’s hilarious offer of a debate with Biden’s son would imply it is. 

The answer for 45 is staring him in the face: China. China, the origin of the coronavirus. China, where Biden mindlessly assented to its ascension to high status at the WTO, decimating American manufacturing. China, the policy area, win or lose, where Trump will have a true legacy. If the president does that, he can take command over Biden in a way Bernie and the rest of the Democrats never could. But if Trump underestimates the son of Scranton, he risks the dark. 

about the author

Curt Mills is Senior Reporter at TAC covering national security, the 2020 campaign and the Trump presidency. Previously, he reported for The National Interest, Washington Examiner, U.S. News & World Report and the Spectator. Mills was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and is a native and resident of Washington, D.C.

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