In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, momentum is on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ side.
In the Iowa caucuses, the Vermont senator finished slightly behind former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg in the delegate count, but received more votes. He outright won the New Hampshire primary popular vote and tied Buttigieg in the delegate count. Sanders was the runaway winner in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, winning 47% to Joe Biden’s 21%.
The South Carolina Democratic primary is Saturday and “Super Tuesday” follows a few days later. But Sanders is also closing in on Joe Biden in Palmetto state polls, and Sanders has a comfortable polling lead in delegate-rich California, which is the big-prize Super Tuesday state.
With national polls, state polls, and state primaries/caucuses all breaking in his favor at such a crucial point in the nomination contest, Sanders and his supporters have to be feeling that what’s happening is revenge for how the Democratic National Committee colluded against him in the 2016 primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton, their eventual nominee.
But though Sanders is no doubt feeling pretty good about where he stands in the 2020 race, a contingent of prominent “anybody but Trump” Democrats and Never Trumpers are suddenly panicking at the very real possibility of an admitted socialist like Sanders running against President Trump in the fall.
MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, a Democrat, took a moment as Nevada caucus results were coming in to compare Sanders’ victory there to the Nazis invading France in 1940.
“I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” Matthews noted. “And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over.’ And Churchill says, ‘How can that be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.’”
Of Sanders’ string of good luck in the last month, the campaign decline of “moderate” Democrats like Biden, and the inability of the party to provide full election results on the same night, Democratic strategist James Carville opined that “if the DNC was running a carnival parade, we’d never get out of the chute.”
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who identifies herself as a “conservative” Never Trumper but who now endorses and promotes Democrats, tried to console herself and her fair-weather followers over the possibility of Sanders winning both the nomination and general election.
“For those frightened of a Sanders presidency the most likely outcome will be nothing. His inability to work with his own party let alone the other side will likely result in paralysis. That is the GOOD news,” Rubin tweeted Saturday after it became clear Sanders would be victorious in Nevada.
Bill Kristol, also a self-described conservative Never Trumper, pleaded with former President Obama to campaign on behalf of Joe Biden in advance of the South Carolina primary.
“A Sanders nomination would relegate your presidency to an insignificant prelude to two terms of Trump or one of Trump & one Sanders. Passivity is a choice. Act. Go to SC & fight for Joe,” Kristol said in a tweet addressed directly to Obama.
In the meantime, Sanders appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday, and defended his past praise for murderous Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who died in November 2016.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Sanders said to CNN’s Anderson Cooper after stating he was “very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba.”
Along with that sense of revenge has perhaps come a feeling of inevitability for Sanders, to the point he feels like he can say anything at this point and still win the Democratic nomination for president.
The scary thing on that front is that he might be right.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger who has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.