BOSTON (CBS) – After losing in Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri and the night’s big prize, Michigan, the delegate math is daunting for Bernie Sanders, especially with Joe Biden-friendly Florida, Ohio and Arizona looming next Tuesday. “Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign,” said Sanders, and on that point, there is surely universal agreement.
But instead of dropping out, Sanders wants to use Sunday’s debate to press Biden for allegiance to his policies.
“A strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda,” said Sanders. But his ability to draw contrasts with the front-runner will be hampered by the fact that on several key issues cited by Sanders, so does Biden.
Sanders said voters “want to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage of at least $15 an hour,” and so does Biden, who endorsed it in his first campaign speech.
“We need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” said Sanders, and so does Biden, who has endorsed the Green New Deal.
There are policy differences between the two men, most notably on health care, where Sanders wants Medicare for All while Biden backs a public option only. But Sanders’ political calculation here is flawed.
“While Joe Biden continues to do very well with older Americans, especially those people over 65, our campaign continues to win the vast majority of the votes of younger people,” he says, the key element of his claim that Biden must embrace his agenda to win.
But the younger voters who do clearly prefer Sanders to Biden are also most likely to be allergic to President Trump. The notion that large numbers of them will bail on Biden unless he completely accepts the Sanders platform seems suspect at best.
And even if some do, remember that Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton was fueled by strong support from voters over 40, who were 65% of the turnout.
“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” acknowledged Sanders.
And one more debate isn’t likely to change that.