Bernie Sanders vs. Joe Biden: US Democrats primary

Bernie Sanders vs. Joe Biden: US Democrats primary

In the Democratic candidate race in Michigan, a preliminary decision could be made. With a win, Joe Biden will be hard to stop.

© RENA LAVERTY / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

The area around St. Scholastica Church in Detroit is not what is called a preferred residential area. Many streets and front gardens are littered, and the windows on one house are missing. Little can be seen of the much-described revival of Michigan’s largest city.

Three older black men are standing at a federal stop. Who you like as democratic presidential candidate would see? “Joe Biden,” one of the three says without hesitation. The others nod. And why? “He cares about people,” says the man. “We don’t need a revolution.”

Sanders loses to the white voters

The Democratic primary is held in Michigan this Tuesday. Detroit is the largest US city with blacks in the population. The man who promises a revolution to the voters would have to do well here to win the primary. But for Bernie Sanders things are not looking good at the moment.

The left senator from Vermont is on the defensive after his competitor Joe Biden made a surprising comeback on Super Tuesday a week ago. He now has more delegate votes than Sanders. He needs a win in Michigan to get his campaign going again.

Biden is popular among black voters. In the southern states with a high proportion of black voters, such as Mississippi or Missouri, where elections are also held today, he is a clear favorite. Sanders must therefore gather delegates in the predominantly white states of the Midwest, otherwise he can hardly win the presidential candidacy.

Michigan, the tenth largest country in the United States by population, is of particular importance. Michigan is a so-called swing state. Traditionally, both democratic and republican candidates have chances of victory here. In 2016, Trump won in Michigan by less than 11,000 votes, which was just 0.3 percentage points. It was one of his most important successes

Four years ago, Sanders in Michigan also caused a big surprise. Back then, Super Tuesday had been disappointing for him. But then he won against Hillary Clinton, who had been the clear favorite, with a lead of 1.5 percentage points. Back then, the voices of the white population in the country and in small towns helped him to succeed.

He has also bet on these primaries, so far without success. In the predominantly white states of Maine, Minnesota or Massachusetts, Sanders performed significantly worse than four years ago. Apparently, many votes for him were protest votes against Hillary Clinton four years ago.

This time he needs more votes from black voters to beat Biden. At weekend events in Michigan he tried to present himself as a minority attorney. In Flint, he promoted a number of black celebrities to himself. There is little evidence that his situation has improved.

Those who have the momentum with the Democrats can be seen on Monday evening at the Renaissance High School in Detroit. People stand in line in front of the school. The mood inside is exuberant. The main speaker is repeatedly interrupted by “Let’s Go Joe!” Calls. No doubt Biden is the man of the hour.

The former vice president is the candidate that the majority of his party currently believes in Donald Trump to beat. This does not mean that many are enthusiastic about him. His followers are particularly concerned about his age and obvious frailty. But he appeals to a much broader electorate than Sanders, who is particularly enthusiastic about young people. Or, as the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Withmer, says that evening: “Joe Biden knows how to form coalitions.”

Who will be “running mate”?

Many Democrats expect Biden to get through a term at best. It is therefore also interesting who Biden chose as a partner for his performance in Detroit. The California Senator Kamala Harris had applied for the presidential nomination but had already dropped out of the race last year due to poor polls. She has spoken out for Biden these days.

Harris is considered a potential candidate for the vice presidency. Biden’s age and general condition make the election of a vice president more important than it is usually. Whoever Biden chooses as a “running mate” is also an important aspirant for the presidency in four years. Maybe earlier.

Harris has not been considered a Biden fan. She is clearly to his left and even accused him of working with racist Senate colleagues last year. That she says she is “proud to support Joe Biden” says a lot about how strong his position is in the race for the presidential candidacy.

But Sanders won’t give up easily. The Vermont senator attributed his poor performance on Super Tuesday to machinations by the “establishment” and “the billionaires”. On Monday evening, young people disrupt Biden’s appearance, initially with protests against the NAFTA free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, for which Biden voted differently than Sanders. Then another group of young people holds up “No to Joe” posters before folders lead them out of the room. It is clear that Sanders and his followers will not leave silently.

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