Meh. If he wants to call Buttigieg and Klobuchar establishment shills, he should just do it. By claiming without evidence that they were “forced” out, he’s trying to walk a line between satisfying the populist impulse to blame all misfortunes on “the establishment” on the one hand while on the other staying on the good side of any Pete/Amy supporters who might momentarily be undecided between him and Biden. He needs Buttigieg and Klobuchar to be part of the great corporate/media/centrist conspiracy against him while also absolving them of blame for it. Hence the word “forced.” Watch, then read on.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday results: “One of the things I was kind of not surprised by was the power of the establishment to force Amy Klobuchar, who had worked so hard, Pete Buttigieg who had really worked extremely hard as well out of the race.” https://t.co/FMsEFyFDY3 pic.twitter.com/9C5lLFJCR5
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 8, 2020
If you’re looking for proof that anyone was “forced,” this is as close as it gets:
Mr. Buttigieg talked with Mr. Biden and former President Barack Obama on Sunday night, according to a Democratic official familiar with the conversations. Mr. Biden asked for Mr. Buttigieg’s support and the former mayor indicated he would consider the request. Mr. Buttigieg wants to sleep on the decision, he told aides, some of whom believe he should move quickly to endorse Mr. Biden.
Mr. Obama did not specifically encourage Mr. Buttigieg to endorse Mr. Biden, said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations. But Mr. Obama did note that Mr. Buttigieg has considerable leverage at the moment and should think about how best to use it.
A young Democratic politician with a promising national career wouldn’t want to disappoint the Obamas. But Buttigieg didn’t need O or anyone else to pitch him on endorsing Biden. He’s intelligent; he was perfectly capable of looking ahead a week and imagining the results on Super Tuesday if the “muddle in the middle” remained unresolved. He wasn’t going to win anywhere. His money was surely about to dry up. If he enabled Bernie’s march to the nomination by drawing votes from Biden, centrists would lambaste him for running a vanity candidacy that ended up damaging the party’s chances against Trump in November while progressives would continue to hate him for reasons various and sundry. Quitting in order to resolve the muddle in the middle expeditiously was the rational thing to do. Buttigieg is a highly rational character.
I can’t find any evidence of Obama leaning on Klobuchar, which is probably because there’s no way to lean on her effectively. She has a death grip on her Senate seat in Minnesota. Her enemies within the party wouldn’t dare primary her, partly due to the futility of the effort and party because Minnesota is trending purple and can’t be taken for granted. There would have been no repercussions for Klobuchar if she had stayed in despite the dismay of party leaders. She had the same rational calculation before her as Buttigieg did, not wanting to be the scapegoat if she inadvertently helped Bernie prevail on Super Tuesday and also well aware that her fundraising was headed down the tubes after a series of fourth- or fifth-place finishes.
Bernie should have just said what he meant: Pete and Amy are part of the establishment and they want Biden to win. It’s in their self-interest, ideologically and professionally, to help him. But picking a fight with Buttigieg and Klobuchar voters would be a dumb thing for him to do right now so this is what we get instead.
The hard fact for Sanders is that he wouldn’t have to worry about establishment candidates dropping out and endorsing Biden if the working class liked him more. Despite his overt message of class warfare, Bernie trailed Biden on Tuesday night across counties with higher unemployment. In places where the unemployment rate was below 4.0 percent, Biden led Sanders 33/29; in places where it was above 7.2 percent, he led 43/26. Biden also did much better in counties with fewer college grads. In places where 25.7 percent or more of residents hold bachelor’s degrees, Joe led by just four points; in counties where fewer than 14.9 percent of residents do, he led by 27. Obviously, race is mixed up to some degree in those numbers: Bernie finished a point ahead of Biden in counties where the population is 88.7 percent white or higher whereas Biden led in counties where it’s lower. The takeaway is that Sanders’s socialist agenda hasn’t made the kind of inroads it needed to make among poorer Americans, especially African-Americans, to give him an advantage over Joe.
Still, I don’t think he’s going to get blanked on Tuesday. Two recent polls of Washington state show him trailing Biden by one and three points, respectively, with Warren at 10 percent in the former and at five percent in the latter. I have to believe that the coronavirus epidemic in the state will also drive turnout sharply down, which probably favors the candidate with more enthusiastic supporters. That’s Bernie. So he’s likely to win Washington but he reeeeally wants to win Michigan in order to prove that he’s still a force in the midwest and isn’t losing ground since 2016 by dropping states now that he won then. Stay tuned.