Californians Liked Bernie Sanders, Voters in Other States Disagree

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

Although we are still awaiting final delegate totals from California’s slow-count March 3rd presidential primary, it is clear that Sen. Bernie Sander’s popular vote bested his only viable remaining rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

But it may have been the Vermonter’s last hurrah!

California does not have a winner-take-all system awarding 277 delegates proportionately who must meet the 15% threshold in each of the 53 congressional districts.

The winners can then qualify for the 144 votes allocated statewide. Sanders is assured of corralling a hefty percentage of these votes. However the  Golden State did not deliver a fatal blow to Biden reinvigorated after his smashing win in South Carolina.

And you can add important Texas to Biden’s Super Tuesday haul. 

To the contrary, after decisive wins in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi suggesting that a broad-based coalition of Democratic voters is coming together, the campaign picture has turned strongly in Biden’s favor.

California’s newly-energized Bernie-crats who had waited eagerly for a second chance at capturing the brass ring are now facing what is likely to be a downhill trajectory with the significant Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Ohio primaries looming where Biden’s prospects could improve further.

With Bloomberg no longer in a spoiler role, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all out of the race, this is now a more clearly defined contest pitting two candidates against one another with very different governing philosophies.

Warren’s fans could find a natural ally with those in the Sanders camp. However she has yet to endorse him. While this might have negligible effect, Sanders remains within mathematical reach of the magical 1,991 delegate majority required for nomination. But that window is quickly closing.

Sanders is relying on a performance at this coming Sunday’s one-on-one debate in Arizona to re-ignite enthusiasm. Because of the fast-spreading Coronavirus it will lack a live audience—an element which has fueled much of Sander’s appeal.

Conversely, given the lack of excitement Biden often fails to generate and his lackluster debate performances, were he to gain the nomination a very charismatic VP running mate could be consequential. 

Growing speculation that the state’s junior Senator, Kamala Harris, who quit the race months ago might be eyeing the Vice Presidential spot has little foundation, though that could change.

There is some talk that Harris might only consider giving up her coveted Senate seat for the promise to be the Attorney General in a Biden administration. 

Harris checks two of the boxes Biden or Sanders if he can recover would have to fill. One is the  seemingly foreordained selection of a woman to be Vice President. 

Another is paying homage to the black and minority voters without whom no Democratic nominee can win. There are any number of prominent office-holders with those credentials who could be in contention. 

Biden has demonstrated strong polling power among African-American voters which Sanders does not enjoy.

In addition to the need for diversity, Biden’s age—he would be 78 upon election— could also be factor arguing for a running mate from an earlier generation who would be equally prepared to assume the awesome responsibilities of the office.

Though Harris’s odds are bolstered by her quick endorsement of Biden, a greater concern is with the party’s “progressive” wing which will have to be mollified if Sander’s fiercely loyal supporters can be counted upon to head to the polls in large enough numbers in November.

Many working-class, younger and independent voters and especially those without college degrees sat out the 2016 election or may have voted for Trump. Biden who does very well with the over-55 voter segments would have to bring them back into the fold.  

Hillary Clinton beat Sanders handily in California in the 2016 general election. However she was edged out in Michigan seen as one of the key states along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin whose losses contributed to her defeat. 

Biden’s convincing primary victory over Sanders in Democrat-heavy Michigan where the Democrat Socialist did not carry a single county is additional evidence that the left-wing tilt of many California voters may not fit the ideological framework a growing number of voters might prefer in a candidate who they believe has the ability to oust Donald Trump.

It turns out California was not the make-or-break primary which many wise pundits had envisioned although its support for the Democratic nominee whomever that may be is unquestionable. 

With the largest bloc of convention delegates of any state—a payload of 495—California will still exercise considerable influence, though more so if there is a contested nomination fight which the Sanders forces might be the only ones capable of mounting.

That is a scenario which has many Democrats, Independents and even Never-Trump Republicans shuddering. 

The single unifying factor that could prevent that from happening is the terrifying fear of a second Trump presidency. 

Sanders is showing no signs of quit and that could set up a post-primary battle which could prove ruinous for the eventual Democratic ticket.

For Californians and voters nationwide the pivotal questions are: Whom do you trust more to manage the nation’s affairs during perilous times and is that individual the most electable?

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.