Former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive Democrat nominee on Wednesday after his top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), opted to suspend his campaign.
Biden, who started the race as the frontrunner, before stumbling in the early primary contests, all but locked up the nomination after scoring landslide victories during the month of March, including in South Carolina and Super Tuesday. Sanders, himself, confessed as much last month, after suffering a route in the Michigan primary.
Despite those losses, Sanders seemed poised to continue his quest for the Democrat nomination, even though allies conceded the battle was already lost. The option to press onward, however, became nearly impossible with the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Sanders, who relied heavily on grassroots activists and small donors to power his campaign, was hit harder by the pandemic than the former vice president. Without the ability to make his case in person to voters, and the media paying little attention to his candidacy, the Vermont septuagenarian seems to have ascertained that Biden’s delegate lead would be insurmountable under the present circumstances.
“I wish I had some better news, but we are now some 300 delegates behind former Vice President Biden,” Sanders said on Wednesday when announcing his decision to suspend. “The path toward victory is now all but impossible.”
The Vermont senator’s exit is a victory for not only Biden, but also the Democrat establishment. As Breitbart News reported in March, the establishment rushed to consolidate behind Biden in the 72 hours between the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday. Those efforts ranged from the high-profile endorsements of party leaders to free media coverage. They also coincided with the surprise withdrawals of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Pete Buttigieg, who subsequently threw their support behind the former vice president.
With the establishment support, Biden overwhelmed Sanders on Super Tuesday. The former vice president won resoundingly, emerging victorious in 10 of the 14 contests. Biden’s performance was all the more astounding given the shallow infrastructure his campaign had in many of those states and his persistent fundraising troubles.
It is unclear if Biden would be the presumptive nominee if not the for the establishment coalescing. Although the former vice president entered the 2020 contest as the presumed frontrunner his campaign cratered ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden’s lack of enthusiasm among voters in those early contests was evidenced by his fourth and fifth place finish in each, respectively.
The 77-year-old former vice president was also hamstrung by frequent gaffes and lapses on the campaign trail. A number of those verbal missteps, including one in which Biden appeared to forget a key quote from the Declaration of Independence, only fueled speculation on the left about the state of his cognitive health.
“He is a candidate that is mentally deteriorating. People in the Democratic establishment say, ‘Oh don’t say that.’ They really believe that they can shield Joe Biden from public scrutiny and the reality is, they can’t,” Justin Horwtiz, a Democratic strategist and Sanders supporter, admitted during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Adding further to the improbability of the former vice president’s current position is that Biden has long trailed Sanders on the money front. Since jumping into the race last April, Biden has raised only $75 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Sanders, on the other hand, pulled in more than $181 million.
The former vice president’s fundraising issues stem from a penchant for excessive spending, especially on luxury air travel, and an inability to make inroads with small-dollar donors. Unlike Sanders, Biden’s campaign has been mainly fueled by deep pocketed allies able to contribute the maximum amount. It remains to be seen if the former vice president will be able to ramp up his fundraising operation for what is expected to be an expensive general election.
Regardless of all those lingering issues, Biden was quick on Wednesday to acknowledge his new role as the presumptive Democrat nominee.
“While the Sanders campaign has been suspended—its impact on this election and on elections to come is far from over,” Biden said in a statement following Sanders’ exit.
Together we will defeat Donald Trump. And when we do that, we’ll not only do the hard work of rebuilding this nation—we’ll transform it,” the former vice president added.