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Biden victories leave Sanders speechless

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CNN projects Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden will win the 2020 Michigan primary.

Posted: Mar 11, 2020 12:40 PM
Updated: Mar 11, 2020 12:40 PM

CNN Opinion asked commentators to weigh in on significance of Tuesday's results -- and what they portend for the Democratic presidential race. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

Nayyera Haq: The next big question for Joe Biden

With wins in Mississippi-- a state with a largely black electorate and a median household income hovering around $43,000 a year-- and Missouri, a largely white electorate with about $53,000 annual median income, former Vice President Joe Biden is proving to be the candidate who can pull together a multi-racial, working-class coalition. This is what many Democrats have been for; it's what won the election for Obama, and much of that nostalgia has rubbed off positively on Biden.

But a note of caution - winning voters in southern states did not get Hillary into the White House. The elusive Obama-Trump voter will come into play in key swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin for the general election. An electoral college win in 2020 will also require bringing in new voters and independents -- folks who for the most part have yet to make their voices heard at the ballot box this primary season.

While the Biden vs. Bernie Sanders part of the contest has shown that active Democrats want the return to normality and tradition that Biden offers, the big question is whether the broader electorate will be concerned and enthusiastic enough to turn out and Make America Normal Again.

Nayyera Haq is a host on SiriusXM Progress and CEO of an international communications firm. She served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department and a senior director in the White House. Follow her on Twitter @nayyeroar.

Paul Begala: How Biden really won Mississippi

The myth of a Democratic "establishment" handing the Democratic nomination to Joe Biden died in Mississippi Tuesday.

In the 1960's, Mississippi truly had a Democratic establishment. Led by virulent racists like Gov. Ross Barnett, Mississippi Democrats and their KKK allies practiced a kind of terrorism. Barnett sent the peaceful Freedom Riders, including John Lewis, to the notorious Parchman State Prison, where they were harassed and humiliated.

But he and others kept up the fight, and in 1964, when establishment Democrats brought an all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention, the civil rights movement brought an integrated slate of "Mississippi Freedom Democrats."

Fannie Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democrats told the Democrats' Credentials Committee, "Is this America: the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hook because our lives be threatened daily because we have to live as decent human beings in America?"

The establishment prevailed in 1964. The Freedom Democrats were excluded. John Lewis went on to become a congressman. Fannie Lou Hamer ran for Congress and lost, but one of her young aides in that campaign, Bennie Thompson, is now a senior member of Congress, and Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

I go through the bloody and shameful history of the old, racist Democratic establishment -- and the heroism of African-Americans -- to make a point: today, people like Lewis and Thompson are powerful congressmen. And they support Joe Biden

You cannot dismiss Lewis or Thompson with the epithet "establishment." Nor can you dismiss the tens of thousands of African-American voters in places like Mississippi as "establishment." The fact that they can vote at all is proof that they and their foremothers and forefathers smashed the Democratic establishment once and for all.

Biden did not win the "establishment" in Mississippi. He won the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and served as a counselor to Clinton in the White House.

Frida Ghitis: After tonight, Bernie Sanders has practically no hope of winning

It's the end of the road for Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden's spectacular rise following his campaign's near-death experience was confirmed -- and reaffirmed -- with his overpowering victories on Super Tuesday 2.0. Sanders, who elected not to give a speech as results came in Tuesday night, headed home to Vermont. His campaign was officially silent.

Sanders' failure to win Michigan, in particular, the state where he unexpectedly clobbered Hillary Clinton in 2016, demonstrated that Democratic voters have lined up behind Biden, a man who has shown his flaws on the campaign trail, but exudes a decency that Americans crave after the emetic ride of Donald Trump's presidency.

Sanders has practically no hope of winning after his latest rash of losses. That's a bitter pill to swallow for his passionate followers. Some of them believe, as Trump has deviously claimed while seeking to divide and defeat, that Sanders was cheated out of victory by the Democratic "establishment." But Sanders lost because Democratic voters preferred what Biden was offering, a less radical path forward, but a path of significant change nonetheless.

Now it's time for Sanders and his band of believers to accept results. They will not get the nominee they want, but they may still get to defeat Trump. That's no small prize.

Sanders has maintained all along that his focus is on that goal. He should join Biden and urge his backers to do the same. Many Sanders faithful refused to support Hillary in 2016. That decision proved grievously costly. Let's hope they don't make it again. Let's hope Sanders works energetically to motivate Democrats to turn out and vote for Biden.

Biden will be the Democratic nominee. Think of it: A year from now, we could be calling him "President Biden." Rolls off the tongue.

Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to the Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis.

Errol Louis: In a time of crisis, voters gravitating to Biden

Bernie Sanders suffered what could be a fatal political blow by losing badly to Joe Biden in Missouri and Michigan -- two states where Sanders performed much better against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Four years ago, Sanders defeated Clinton in Michigan in a major upset, and lost to her in Missouri by less than one-half of one percent.

That was a long time ago.

On Tuesday night, Sanders lost badly in Missouri -- "Not close at all," John King noted as CNN called the race for Biden. And he fell far enough behind in Michigan that the race was called shortly after polls closed.

The twin victories seal Biden's status as the Democratic frontrunner, leading to talk about bringing the nomination process to an end.

"This thing is decided. There's no reason to keep it going even a day longer," political consultant James Carville said, suggesting that Sanders drop out of the presidential race. "It's the Democratic voters that made this decision."

That's a little premature. Sanders has every right to gain as many delegates as possible, and use them as leverage to compel the party to adopt his policy positions. There are very good reasons for him to stay in the race.

But Sanders and his followers must face the hard reality that the political revolution he called for is not occurring. Voters that supported him four years ago have clearly decided to look elsewhere, and they seem to be gravitating to Biden.

The most likely explanation for the shift, according to exit polls, is that voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle a crisis. At a time when the nation has, in short order, encountered a presidential impeachment, the coronavirus outbreak and turmoil in the stock markets, voters are looking for an experienced, steady hand -- exactly what Biden is offering.

Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.

SE Cupp: Sanders' expanding base proves elusive

Bernie Sanders has argued that only his campaign could turn out new voters to take on Donald Trump. But those voters are once again proving elusive.

Joe Biden's early wins in Mississippi and Missouri -- especially -- revealed a stagnant and static Sanders, who in recent days limited campaigning in those states in an apparent acknowledgment of what was to be. He canceled events in Kansas City to consolidate efforts in St. Louis, and quit Mississippi altogether to head to Michigan.

That Biden was able to turn out a state with a majority African American electorate (Mississippi, 64%) and one with a majority white electorate (Missouri, 78%) further cuts into Sanders' argument that he is expanding his base. Just as we learned after the first Super Tuesday, Sanders is looking less and less like a national candidate, and more and more like one with very localized appeal.

Final thought, and importantly for a general election: Missouri exit polls will let us know more about who voted for Joe Biden there -- it has an open primary, so conceivably, Biden could have benefited from moderates, independents and even some Republicans casting their ballots for him.

SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of "SE Cupp Unfiltered."

Raul Reyes: A clearer path for Joe Biden

A subdued Joe Biden took the stage late in the evening on Super Tuesday 2.0 with a brief speech noting unity and conciliation. Biden sounded not only presidential but also like a gracious winner. Instead of a celebratory tone, he was somber as he mentioned the coronavirus threat and what he called "a comeback for the soul of this nation." He offered an olive branch to Sanders supporters, saying "Together, we will defeat Donald Trump."

While Biden was subdued, Sanders was absent, choosing not to address his supporters on what was undeniably a tough night . Biden ran up the margins in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi, increasing his delegate lead to what many commentators say may soon be insurmountable.

From this point on, Biden must show that he can connect with young people and Latino voters. And Sanders may need to rethink his viability as a candidate and figure out his next moves. Just the fact that Biden was competitive in Washington state is an ominous sign for Sanders' movement.

Both Biden and Sanders have stayed remarkably consistent in their messaging and presentation throughout the campaign. What has changed, though, are the circumstances around the two men. Biden has benefited from his strong victories and endorsements, as well as the current economic and health anxiety. For better or worse, when people are fearful and uncertain, they look to the familiar and "tried and true." In the race for the Democratic nomination, that person is increasingly looking like the former vice president.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.

Jen Psaki: The 2020 primary is not sending the same message as 2016

Just four years ago, the people of Michigan, led by a strong showing from white working-class voters, sent a message to Hilary Clinton that they were not ready to crown her as nominee. Instead, Bernie Sanders secured a much needed victory and proceeded to stay in the primary contest for another few months.

On Tuesday night, white working class voters didn't turn to Sanders. According to early exit polls, the same group of voters that made Sanders the comeback kid, leaned to Biden this time around.

At the same time, African-American voters, who strongly supported Clinton, continued to stick with Biden after giving him a resounding victory in South Carolina and a number of states across the south on Super Tuesday last week.

And a group Biden has struggled with winning over early in the primary contests, suburban voters, look to be rounding out the base of support that appears to be propelling him to the nomination.

The primary is not over. And as Bernie Sanders takes the time over the coming days to evaluate where his campaign stands, no one should pressure him.

Biden also still has a great deal of work to do in reaching out to young voters who have not shown enthusiasm for his candidacy—as well as to Latinos who have shown a strong preference for Sanders. But on Tuesday night we saw an early preview of the base of the coalition that Joe Biden will need to keep close if he takes on President Trump in November.

Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki.

Van Jones: This is a dangerous moment for the Democratic Party

Joe Biden can celebrate tonight, and he should. But this is also a very dangerous moment in the Democratic Party. Biden's big Michigan win puts him on the cusp of being the presumptive nominee. That means the Bernie Sanders insurgency is about to be defeated.

Not just Sanders -- but all his supporters, too. So many young people, who graduate with a quarter million in debt and face a climate crisis and broken healthcare system, had tremendous hope that they finally had a champion. They thought they were going to surround the divided establishment and move forward. Instead, the establishment has united and stopped them.

Now, what do you do? The last time Sanders was beaten, there was an assumption that people were going to fall in line and vote against Donald Trump. There was not enough concern and care for former Sanders supporters. Today, there will be a lot of relief on the part of the establishment. But that same establishment must turn to those broken-hearted, despairing young voters and say, "We want to be your future." If they do not do that, they will not win in November.

Van Jones is CEO of REFORM Alliance and co-founder of #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice initiative of the Dream Corps. He is also the author of "Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together." In 2009, Jones worked as the Green Jobs Adviser in the Obama White House.

Ingrid Jacques: Biden's Michigan win is bad news for Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden has secured a win in Michigan, landing him the biggest delegate prize in Tuesday's primaries.

A win for Biden here continues his primary momentum and makes it harder for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- who scored an upset win against Hillary Clinton during the state's Democratic primary last time around -- to claim he's electable. The diversity of the Great Lakes state makes it a microcosm for what the rest of the country might be thinking. Democratic voters seem to be coming together around a candidate who they believe can beat President Donald Trump.

Michigan Republicans who told me last summer the state was "ground zero" for Trump in 2020, were no doubt hoping to have a general election match-up between Sanders and Trump. Sanders' democratic socialist policies are a turnoff to moderates, including some blue-collar Democrats.

Trump beat Clinton in Michigan in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes, and he was buttressed by Democrats in suburban Macomb County, who crossed over to support him because of his pro-worker agenda.

Biden will likely appeal to a lot of those same voters, which could make Michigan a tougher prize for Trump this fall.

Yet, at a Detroit event Tuesday, Biden got in a tiff with a construction worker at a Fiat Chrysler assembly plant. The man accused Biden of trying to take away Americans' guns. To that, Biden responded, "You're full of sh*t." There have been similar outbursts in recent weeks.

For Biden, who has made civility a key component of his campaign, moments like that could hurt him in Midwest states and beyond.

Ingrid Jacques is deputy editorial page editor and a columnist at The Detroit News, where she has worked since 2010.  Follow her on Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques.

Alice Stewart: Sanders can't stop the 'Joementum'

Call it Joementum, or MoJo, or the Biden boom -- former Vice President Joe Biden has the wind in his sails after Super Tuesday II. Biden's sweep in Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri is clear indication that the Democratic Party is galvanizing behind the moderate candidate over the self-proclaimed democratic socialist.

Despite all the hype and media attention paid to Bernie Sanders surrogates, like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Democratic voters are putting a major speed bump between Sanders and the nomination.

Sanders' goal to build a broad, diverse, multi-racial coalition did work -- though not for him. As exit polls in states from Mississippi to Missouri show, Biden has built a coalition of white, black, college educated and working class voters.

Exit polls also indicate voters prefer a nominee that can beat Trump over someone who agrees with them on the issues. From day one, Biden has made his campaign about electability -- saying he is the candidate to beat Donald Trump. And, on Tuesday, voters indicated they agree.

But while Biden may soon be the nominee, it remains to be seen whether he can beat Trump in the general election.

Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, Resident Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy Institute of Politics, and former communications director for Ted Cruz for President.

Nancy Kaffer: Detroit holds the key to winning Michigan

Michigan is one of the swing states that Donald Trump flipped in 2016 on his way to his electoral victory, and it's the first significantly predictive state to hold its primary contest for the 2020 White House race.

The state has 125 delegates, but it's also a testing ground for key constituencies that the eventual Democratic nominee must marshal to win this fall: Oakland County, a majority white suburban county; Macomb County, home of the Reagan Democrats; and 83% African-American Detroit, the state's largest repository of Democratic votes.

Joe Biden won them all on Tuesday, taking the state's Democratic primary with a double digit margin over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and making the case that the former vice president can score in the industrial Midwest -- in a state that's actually in play this fall -- and build a coalition of African-American voters and suburban whites.

But it's Detroit we should give our strict attention. Black voters are the Democratic Party's most reliable constituency, and Sanders has struggled to win their support. Sanders narrowly won Michigan in 2016, but lost Detroit to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. That didn't change Tuesday night: Biden won nearly double the votes cast for Sanders in Detroit, roughly 44,550 to Sanders' 23,159, with about 69% of the city's precincts reporting.

In Detroit, at least, black voters are still taking a pass on Sanders, and that makes the senator's case for the nomination far more challenging.

But there's one caveat to Biden's decisive win: Trump won Michigan by just under 11,000 votes. On Tuesday, Detroit's turnout was unclear. In 2016's primary, about 26% of the city's roughly 500,000 registered voters cast ballots. To win Michigan, you've got to turn out Detroit, and that's got to be part of the eventual nominee's calculation.

Nancy Kaffer is a columnist and member of the editorial board at the Detroit Free Press. Her work has appeared in the Free Press, Politico and the Daily Beast.

Tara Setmayer: Sanders should step aside

After another round of sweeping primary victories for Joe Biden, it's becoming increasingly clear that Democratic voters are not "feeling the Bern" in 2020. Primary voter turnout is way up in many of the districts that led to the blue wave in 2018, but it's Biden who has been the overwhelming beneficiary, not Sanders.

Biden has proven thus far that he can bring the necessary coalition of suburban women, African Americans, labor unions, disaffected Republicans and non-college-educated white voters together in large numbers. These are key constituencies that Democrats must mobilize to have a chance to defeat Donald Trump in November.

Sanders' message of a democratic socialist revolution is clearly not what voters are looking for. They want a candidate who can defeat Trump, bridge the divides and restore respectability to the presidency. That's Joe Biden.

During his victory speech, Biden's message was unifying, compassionate and presidential. As the country faces a national crisis, Biden reminded voters why honest, steady and trusted leadership is so desperately needed.

In 2015, before Biden decided against a presidential run, due to the tragic death of his son Beau from cancer, I wrote "Biden is Everything Hillary Isn't." So far, where Hillary Clinton faltered in 2016, Biden has prevailed. Given the latest primary results, it's time for Sanders to step aside and let Biden concentrate on accomplishing what Clinton could not: defeating Trump in November.

Tara Setmayer is a former GOP communications director, host of the "Honestly Speaking with Tara" podcast, a Harvard Institute of Politics 2020 Resident Fellow and a CNN political contributor. Follow her on Twitter @tarasetmayer.

Dave Jacobson: The 'Bern' has flamed out

Super Tuesday 2.0 was do or die for Bernie Sanders' campaign. His failure to rebound Tuesday night in a politically earth-shattering way after a barrage of body-blows in last week's Super Tuesday election serves as further evidence that the Bern has flamed out.

In the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders edged out Hillary Clinton in four of the six contests that voted today. Fast-forward to Tuesday night-- and we saw the opposite.

Joe Biden's winning domino effect has continued at a break-neck pace -- with decisive victories for the former vice president in Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri. More importantly, Biden's delegate lead as of Tuesday evening seems insurmountable.

The result? The Vermont Senator's meager performance in contests he once dominated not only reveals his campaign's loss of altitude from his front-runner status two weeks ago, but it presents a very real question for Sanders of whether or not he should continue to seek the nomination.

It comes down to delegate math. Given that Sanders did not pull off a sweeping delegate comeback tonight, particularly in Michigan, the path ahead becomes even more perplexing for him. Next week's quartet of elections are all in delegate-rich states where Clinton beat Sanders -- Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Illinois. Even with a debate scheduled for later this week, calls for Democratic unity and consolidation behind Biden will intensify. Sanders will have to ask himself what the end game is if the delegate numbers only gets murkier.

Dave Jacobson is a Democratic ad maker and former CNN political commentator. Based in California, he is a co-founder of J&Z Strategies, a Democratic political media and campaign consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @daverjacobson.

Aisha Moodie Mills: What Sanders is lacking

On Tuesday, Bernie Sanders again failed to live up to expectations that the movement energy he's built at rallies and on social media would translate at the voting booth.

Polls and pundits have long suggested that young people and working-class voters would be the boon to boost Sanders through the primary, but that hasn't been born out. In almost every contest, Joe Biden has handily won over working-class voters, and while Sanders overwhelmingly wins the youth vote, he just has not generated the enthusiastic turnout his campaign predicted to make up the difference. He is also struggling mightily to attract black voters, creating a gap that he's unlikely to bridge in the remaining contests, and he's been unable to duplicate the strong showing he achieved with Latino voters in Nevada two weeks ago.

So, who then is Sanders' voter base?

Sanders has built a powerful progressive movement fueled by small-dollar donors and prolific Twitter voices, but his poor performances at the polls suggest that he has been more successful at stoking anti-establishment sentiment than mobilizing pro-Sanders support. As my colleague Bakari Sellers noted last week, Sanders' strong showing in the 2016 Democratic primary may have been a result of deep opposition in some quarters to Hillary Clinton than an overall affirmation of Sanders' political viability.

The truth is that few of his opponents have actually "felt the Bern" since then. Sanders' PAC, Our Revolution, has made its greatest waves for primarying fellow Democrats, but has turned up little by way of actual wins -- only 32% of the candidates they endorsed in 2018 won their elections.

Sanders has built a bold movement around progressive ideas and has mastered digital fundraising, but he has yet to prove that he has a reliable voter base. Without one, he has no clear path to victory, and it's hard to see how he justifies not bowing out soon.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, a CNN political commentator and former president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, was formerly a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. Follow her on Twitter @AishaMoodMills.

Laura Belin: 2020 primary campaign may have hastened the end of caucuses

The future of caucuses may be evaporating along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential aspirations.

Most states that have held nominating contests this year have seen substantially higher Democratic turnout than in 2016. But the difference is most striking for some states that shifted from holding caucuses in the past to primaries this year.

With only 69% of precincts reporting in Washington state, more than a million votes had been counted for Democratic presidential candidates in the March 10 primary. Total turnout for the 2016 Democratic caucuses in Washington was roughly 230,000.

Idaho's primary on mini-Super Tuesday attracted around 100,000 voters. Only about 24,000 people attended caucuses in that state during the last presidential cycle.

In North Dakota, where the Democratic Party stuck with a caucus system, turnout more than tripled the 2016 level. Notably, this year's North Dakota caucuses functioned more like a primary, in that the North Dakota Democratic--Nonpartisan League Party allowed mailed ballots and ran a "firehouse caucus" over an eight-hour period on March 10. A traditional caucus requires voters to show up at a specific time, disenfranchising many shift workers, people with disabilities, caregivers, or those lacking transportation.

The three former caucus states -- Colorado, Minnesota and Maine -- that held primaries on March 3 produced similar results with voter turnout vastly exceeding that of 2016. In contrast, turnout for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses was only about 3% higher than the 2016 level. Iowa caucus-goers still had to be at a specific place and time on February 3, with no absentee ballots allowed.

Whether or not presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins in November, the turnout numbers from this year's primaries will be a powerful argument for eliminating caucuses when the Democratic National Committee revisits the presidential calendar and process.

Laura Belin is the primary author at the website Bleeding Heartland. She has been covering Iowa politics since 2007. You can follow her @LauraRBelin.

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