A combative candidate is making his way into some divided primary, amid countless more moderate candidates, while putting the traditional apparatus of the party in suspense.
That is how Donald Trump began his unlikely path until he obtained the Republican presidential candidacy in 2016. And four years later, it is how Senator Bernie Sanders has positioned himself as the favorite in the Democratic primary.
The Vermont senator won his second vote on Saturday with a resounding victory in Nevada, the first state with considerable racial diversity to vote, after winning the previous week at the New Hampshire primary. In the first ballot of the campaign, Iowa, almost tied for first place.RELATED
The rise of Sanders has energized its legion of progressive followers, including young people attracted by its proposals to establish a state-managed health system and eliminate university debt. But he has found an opposition between rival campaigns and other moderate Democrats reminiscent of the concerns of Republicans who tried unsuccessfully to stop Trump’s rise in 2016.
They warn that Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist Democrat, cannot win a general election. They claim that it would seriously harm Congress candidates facing difficult disputes in undecided states. And they claim that their candidacy is almost inevitable unless other candidates renounce their aspirations and stop dividing the votes against Sanders.
“The moderates have to consolidate or see Bernie win,” said Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist. “It’s time to make decisions or live with the consequences.”
But none of Sanders’s rivals seemed willing to make those tough decisions. And there really were no veteran party members who could intervene to help reduce the number of applicants. The only Democrat in the country with that influence is former President Barack Obama, who has promised to remain strictly neutral in the primaries.
So the primaries are expected to remain crowded, despite the fact that many campaigns see that time is running out to beat Sanders. If you get a significant advantage of delegates in the Super Tuesday voting on March 3, when large states like California or Texas are decided, it could be impossible for other candidates to get in the way of nomination.
Advisors from several campaigns admitted privately on Saturday that they expected up to five more candidates to keep up their campaigns until Super Tuesday: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Mike Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, the billionaire ex-mayor of New York, does not show up in every state, but he has flooded the media with an unprecedented amount of announcements in elementary schools, and not only in states that vote Super Tuesday. But his sonic entry into the race was overwhelmed by a poor intervention in the debate last week.
Bloomberg is one of the most aggressive candidates in his warnings about the risk of nominating Sanders. His campaign said Saturday that Nevada’s results underscore that a “divided front” has put the Vermont senator on his way to the candidacy, despite the fact that Bloomberg’s candidacy has only increased that fragmentation.
He is not the only candidate that is seen as the solution to Sanders’ dilemma, and to the rest of the competitors as the problem.
“We are underway and we are going to go back and we are going to win,” said Biden, who seemed on track to finish in a distant second place in Nevada after poor results in the first states in dispute.
Biden hopes to get his first victory next week in South Carolina, the first state in Lima with a significant percentage of black voters, who are the base of the Democratic Party. He will need the victory to be resounding, both to calm voters’ anxiety about his bad start and to attract wealthy donors reluctant to support his candidacy.
Klobuchar also promised to move on when the first results were known in Nevada, where he seemed on track to get less than 10% support. Warren did the same, which has not been above a third place in the first three votes.
“We have many states left and right now I feel the momentum. So let’s continue in this fight,” Warren said during a march in the state of Washington, which votes on March 10.
Warren’s argument to follow alluded to his good performance in the debate last week, which revived his campaign and, crucially, his fundraising. But their campaign advisors have not publicly identified in which states they believe they can win in the next round of voting.
Then there is 38-year-old Buttigieg and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He was the closest to Sanders in the first voting, practically tied with him in Iowa and finished less than two percentage points behind in New Hampshire.
Buttigieg said Saturday that those results show he is the best to stand up to Sanders. He also redoubled his criticism of the senator, urging voters to “seriously consider the consequences” of making him the candidate of the party.
But the result in Nevada, where Buttigieg was third before concluding the count, raised doubts about its possibilities in the most diverse states that vote in the next round of primaries. Specifically, he is having trouble winning over black voters, according to public polls.
Sanders, meanwhile, enjoys his favorite condition and the nervousness that he causes among his more moderate rivals.
Like Trump, he is not afraid to challenge his own party’s conventions about what it takes to win the primaries and general elections.
“We have just formed a multigenerational, multiracial coalition, which is not only going to win in Nevada, is going to sweep the country,” he said Saturday announcing his victory.