Tonight’s lessons, in order of how clear they are:
- Mike Bloomberg has provided us a salutory lesson: you can’t just buy a presidential election no matter how much money you have. He flamed out utterly tonight and needs to drop out immediately if he really means it when he says his singular goal is defeating Donald Trump. Continuing to run would accomplish nothing except to embarrass him even further.
- Elizabeth Warren has been slipping in the polls and will slip even more after being blown out tonight. She should drop out.
- Joe Biden is also proving that money isn’t everything: not only is he winning solidly, but he’s doing it on a shoestring. However, he should attract a lot more money after his performance tonight, and this will demonstrate that money’s not nothing, either. He’s now in a virtuous circle, with victory bringing in more money and more money helping him win more states, rinse and repeat.
- Bernie Sanders 2020 sure looks a lot like Bernie Sanders 2016. He has his fans, obviously, but he tops out at 30-40 percent of the vote. Like it or not, there’s just not stronger support out there for a revolution, and Bernie isn’t willing to moderate his message to win over more supporters. That’s admirable, in its own way, but it’s not how you win a nationwide election.
- It’s obviously Bernie vs. Joe from here on out. Like 2016, I expect that Bernie will stay in until the bitter end no matter how unlikely an eventual victory becomes. I hope he proves me wrong.
And how did I vote today? I was not willing to vote for either Sanders or Bloomberg, so I wavered between Warren and Biden. In the end, though, I voted for Joe Biden. Policywise, I think he’s better than a lot of progressives give him credit for, and in any case it hardly matters since Republicans will allow very little of any Democrat’s policy to pass. On foreign policy, I think Biden learned a lot during the Obama years and is now, deep in his gut, much less interventionist than he used to be. I won’t deny that his gaffes and obvious cognitive slips aren’t concerning, but it’s also easy to overplay those—especially if you support someone else.
In the end, I couldn’t shake free of my central concern over Elizabeth Warren: that she’s too rigid in her beliefs to make the kinds of adjustments politicians have to make if they want to win a general election. I think she’d rather be right than president, and if she won the nomination that’s exactly what she’d be.