Biden is the guy voters trust right now
CNN political director David Chalian says given the rate that former Vice President Joe Biden is winning delegates, he would call it “a near insurmountable lead” over rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
CNN Opinion asks contributors to weigh in on the Democratic primary results in Arizona, Illinois and Florida — and what they portend for the race ahead. The views expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the contributors.
Paul Begala: The coronavirus crisis raised the stakes
SPOILER ALERT: Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for President. Period. Full stop.
His resounding, astounding victory in Florida doesn’t just send a message, it effectively ends the contest. At this writing, Biden is leading in 67 counties in the Sunshine State. There isn’t a 68th. In Florida, as he has across 16 other states so far, Biden has assembled the multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition essential for a Democratic victory in November.
Now it’s up to Bernie Sanders to turn his guns — and his millions of energetic, committed supporters — away from the battle and toward the war. Sanders has won in many important ways: there is no doubt his candidacy has pushed the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. But at the end of the day, as Biden said, voters want results, not a revolution.
The coronavirus pandemic has raised the stakes. Governing is no longer a reality show. Voters may no longer believe that politics is mere spectacle. It is a life and death matter. So many of the qualities that some disparaged in Biden: his calm demeanor, his refusal to demonize, his insistence on unity, his moderate instincts, his decades of experience — they now appear tailor-made for the current crisis.
What’s perhaps most comforting to me is that Democrats really believe in democracy, and they weren’t about to let even a pandemic keep them from turning out to nominate Biden and, ultimately, defeat Donald Trump. Only 8% of Illinois voters and 6% of Florida voters told pollsters, in CNN’s preliminary polling that began last Thursday, that the coronavirus could change their decision to vote.
American voters have often drawn on a deep reserve of courage. We voted during the Civil War. We voted during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. We voted through two World Wars. And African-Americans registered and voted even when racist terrorists cursed them, beat them and murdered them.
Our economy is teetering. Our health system is tottering. But our democracy — at least among Democrats —-is still standing strong.
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and served as a counselor to Clinton in the White House.
Tara Setmayer: It’s time for Sanders to step aside
Joe Biden’s landslide wins in Illinois and the important swing state of Florida should be the nail in the coffin for Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. As primary voters in three states headed to the polls in the midst of an unprecedented national public health crisis, it’s clear they decided they want former Vice President Biden to represent the Democratic Party in the November general election.
Over the last week, Biden has capitalized on the president’s inept coronavirus response by presenting his own plan to combat the pandemic and doing so with a reassuring calm and confidence that comes with decades of experience and two terms as vice president.
During the recent CNN head-to-head debate with Sanders, Biden’s experience and practical approach to handling the outbreak came across as sufficiently presidential. Sanders, on the other hand, seemed out of his depth when confronted with how he would respond to the current crisis.
Even with the postponement of Ohio’s primary, the latest results make it almost a certainty that Sanders cannot catch Biden in the delegate count. With more primary disruptions possible due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s time for Sanders to step aside. Why subject the Democratic primary to any further unnecessary turmoil?
Dragging out the inevitable only helps Trump. The time is now for Biden to pivot to the general.
Tara Setmayer is a former GOP communications director, host of the “Honestly Speaking with Tara” podcast, a Harvard Institute of Politics 2020 Resident Fellow and a CNN political contributor. Follow her on Twitter @tarasetmayer.
Chris King: Dems in the swingiest of swing states love Biden
When I was running as the 2018 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida, I had the unique opportunity to campaign alongside both Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders throughout the state. And while both men are indeed highly respected by the Democratic electorate, on Tuesday Biden undeniably demonstrated that he owns Florida, the swingiest of swing states. And there are a few good reasons why.
First, Biden connects with voters’ hearts. When I campaigned with him, he outworked, outlasted and out hustled me on every rope line. He genuinely loved connecting with people — you had to physically pull him away from voters he wanted to meet. He smiled, he listened, and most importantly, he cared.
Second, Florida hates socialism. It is ingrained in the minds of nearly every Floridian that socialism is the absence of faith and entrepreneurship — two important forces in the fabric of the state. Sanders’ decision to accentuate the positive aspects of Fidel Castro’s regime (namely, his literacy program) was a disaster. Every Floridian, Democrat or Republican, knew that it was simply wrong, and his decision to double down equates to political malpractice.
Third, the power center of the modern-day Democratic Party is the black voter — and Florida, like many southern states, has many black voters. Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million and the army of “Bernie bros” could not do what South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the black church and working class African-American voters could. Biden is our nominee because black voters love him, trust him and continue to have his back.
Winning Florida is the ultimate path to defeating President Donald Trump in November, and Biden has proved he can do it.
Chris King was the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Florida. He is the CEO of Elevation Financial Group in Orlando. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKingFL.
SE Cupp: Dems need a nominee they can get behind
Tolerance among Democrats for Bernie Sanders’ vainglorious and obstinate exercise in futility must be running out after Joe Biden’s projected wins in Florida and Illinois. With no conceivable path to the nomination for Sanders, and a report earlier today in the Daily Beast that he does not plan on quitting after tonight, expect the frustration among Democratic operatives and even voters to grow more vocal.
Sanders is performing WORSE in some counties and states than he did in 2016, vaporizing his only selling point, which was that he could grow and expand the Democratic base. He is not; he cannot. Add to this, of course, the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic and global health crisis, and it makes his refusal to step aside even more painful and self-centered. Whether you like Biden or not, Democrats need a nominee they can galvanize and coalesce behind. And America deserves an election with a clear choice.
SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.”
Alice Stewart: Coronavirus is dictating who the primary winner is
Leadership in the era of the coronavirus pandemic is clearly on the ballot for voters in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Before Super Tuesday 3.0, the choice for Democratic voters was moderate vs. progressive. At the height of the coronavirus scare, the driving force for voters appears to be who can they trust to handle a major crisis. And, according to CNN primary polling, voters trust former Vice President Joe Biden over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Those numbers are playing out in the ballot box, as Biden is the projected winner in Florida and Illinois.
Biden made a strong case for his ability to lead in tumultuous times during the CNN debate over the weekend. He carried a tone of reassurance and resolve in a time of crisis. Sanders was business as usual — angry and defensive.
It’s no longer about policy contrast — it’s about leadership contrast. In these times, voters want more than someone who touts Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and free college tuition. They want someone who they believe will bring the party together in the primary — and bring the nation closer together in November.
Democratic voters believe Biden is that person.
With Biden leading by more than 200 points in the delegate race, the question is now not if Sanders will get out, but when.
Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, a Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy Institute of Politics, and former communications director for Ted Cruz for President.