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Bernie Sanders' Nevada win is a breakout moment. The others are toast

Published by Yahoo on Sun, 23 Feb 2020

The Vermont Senator will soon be going toe to toe with Donald Trump There are no second prizes in presidential contests. No silver medals. No participation trophies.There are, however, endless numbers of delusional candidates and campaigns who insist that they will sweep the later states, or take their delegates to the convention, or contest the legitimacy of the nomination process.This was the position of one Bernie Sanders four years ago, not to mention his die-hard fans.Today, after his resounding win in Nevada on Saturday, America's favorite socialist can look forward to trashing the arguments of the also-rans, just like the Clinton campaign trashed his protracted case of the race in 2016.Because there are no second prizes for Joe Biden, even if he pulls off a win in South Carolina, where the next primary takes place next Saturday. And there are no second prizes for Mike Bloomberg, even if he performs respectably on Super Tuesday, just three days later. And for Warren and Buttigieg, beating expectations is not the same as beating the opposition.Nevada is the breakthrough moment for Bernie, after squeaking out a win in New Hampshire, and squeaking out something like a tie in whatever happened in Iowa.You can easily dismiss Nevada's bizarre connection to reality in the tourist version of Las Vegas. You can happily downplay the small number of caucus voters, or the weirdness of the caucus process itself.But Nevada shares some similarities with two key neighboring states: California and Arizona. Unlike the early voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, California's Democrats are not obsessed with politics.They are what the consultants call low-information voters: they have day jobs, like the union workers in Las Vegas. But those union voters defied their bosses, at least among the Culinary Union, and voted heavily for Sanders at the caucus sites in the big hotel-casinos.So Sanders' poll lead in California ' somewhere between 8 and 18 points in recent polls ' looks big enough to give him a delegate advantage that nobody will overturn after early March. In Texas, the other big Super Tuesday state, Biden was leading as recently as a month ago, but recent polls suggest a narrow Sanders lead. Texas is unlikely to help the rest of the pack catch up to Bernie.This leads us to the first and last argument that Sanders faces, which is the single most important factor for Democratic voters in every poll in this cycle: who is best placed to beat Donald Trump'The remainder of this primary contest will revolve around a never-ending, unresolvable discussion about Bernie's prospects against Trumpian and Russian disinformation, targeted most obviously at the massive government spending he proposes.Yet the polls for all the Democratic candidates show a marginal difference between them in the notional head-to-head contests against Donald Trump. For now, a Biden or Bloomberg is a slightly better bet than a Sanders. But Sanders still beats Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and even Ohio.If Trump keeps hold of one of the swing states he surprisingly took in 2016, like Wisconsin, then Democrats will need to take back another state to have a couple of paths to victory in November. That's where Arizona comes in: a state Trump won by 3.5 points last time around.Arizona and Nevada have similar percentages of Latino population: around 30% in both states. Among the Nevada caucus goers, Sanders swept Latino Democrats, taking 54% of their support ' a full 40 points ahead of Joe Biden, according to CNN's entrance poll.Those voters cannot be dismissed lightly. They are a good reason why Arizona is now a finely balanced state where Sanders holds a nominal one-point lead over Trump, and Biden was tied with Trump in the most recent head-to-head.The non-Bernie candidates have almost run out of runway. But you wouldn't know it by listening to them.According to Joe Biden, his crushing defeat in Nevada was some kind of comeback victory. 'Well you all did it for me,' he told a crowd of over-excited supporters in Las Vegas. 'Now we're going on to South Carolina and we're going to take this back.'One of his louder fans screamed out the inevitable: 'The comeback kid!''Well you're sending me back,' said the former vice-president, before smacking the media for declaring him dead. 'We're alive and we're coming back and we're going to win.'At that point, the voting count placed Biden some 25 points behind Sanders. Which only counts as alive in the sense that zombies can walk the streets at night..Biden wasn't the only one engaging in this kind of Trumpian projection of braggadocious fantasy over the cold hard reality of math, facts and truth'As usual I think we have exceeded expectations,' said Amy Klobuchar, who spoke before the final results were known, at a point where she was rock bottom among the candidates on the debate stage this week. To exceed expectations with a single digit percentage of the vote suggests you have the kind of expectations that doesn't exactly inspire confidence.At that point the Minnesota senator started fondly recalling her announcement speech in a snowstorm, before she talked about traveling to South Carolina. Since she was talking from Minneapolis, the theme and logistics made more sense than the political strategy.The only candidate who made any strategic sense on Saturday was Sanders, who held his victory rally in San Antonio, Texas. If the Sanders campaign is going to end the hopes and dreams of its rivals early, they will do so in Texas.'Don't tell anybody. I don't want to get them nervous,' Sanders said as soon as he got on stage. 'We're going to win the Democratic primary in Texas. And, you know, this is also important. The president gets very, very upset easily. So don't tell him we're going to beat him in Texas.'Can Sanders come close in Texas' Possibly but not probably. Recent polls suggest he is only trailing Trump by a couple of points, marginally ahead of the other Democratic candidates.'No campaign has a grassroots movement like we do,' Sanders said on Saturday.No campaign except the Trump campaign, that is. It won't be long before Bernie's grassroots go toe-to-toe with Donald's.'Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada,' tweeted the craziest president in recorded history. 'Congratulations Bernie, & don't let them take it away from you!Judging from Nevada's results, he won't.
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