Watchers of US presidential campaign are in awe. Last week, a forgotten presidential candidate was resurrected, within a matter of days, as tactical voters across the US came together and voted in droves for an old hand to take on Donald Trump this November. Joe Biden, Obama’s VP, is back from the dead, sweeping 10 out of 14 nominating states in the Super Tuesday phase of Democratic presidential nomination process March 3. Obama Democrats must be relieved.
Nothing works like winning itself. After a disappointing start in February’s contests, Joe now clearly has the momentum on his side. Now it’s essentially a two-horse race between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders. Both candidates will try to amass as many more delegates as they can, but the way Democratic presidential primaries are structured, it is hard to catch up with a candidate that has an early lead. But there is far more clarity on the race now; Democrats have African-American voters to thank.
Joe’s rise is also helped by prominent endorsements and political implosion of one Michael Bloomberg (who is reportedly worth $60 bn). The former NYC mayor spent over $500 million of his own money to build a campaign dominated by advertisements. But the Democratic base didn’t buy into Bloomberg’s ad-fueled candidacy; he has now bowed out. His billions are now going to fund Joe’s campaign.
It helps Biden that the race is no more fragmented. The “liberal” lane is owned by Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden is riding on the old “moderate” lane. Moderate politics has silent but higher support in the US than liberalism’s vocal but minority demographics. This is compounded by political differences between the two rivals. Bernie is a challenger to political establishment, and Joe embodies that establishment. Bernie is popular among millennial folk, whereas Joe invokes nostalgia among older demographics.
Perhaps what matters most in the race going forward is the two candidates’ divergent approach on how to build a vast coalition of voters to defeat Trump in November. Bernie is not backing down from his socialist promises, which have not and would not appeal to a majority of American voters in a general election. Meanwhile, Joe is a pragmatist bipartisan figure who Trump Republicans may also find appealing.
Still, it may not be before April that a presumptive nominee on the Democratic side may become clear. The fears of coronavirus spreading further are real, with likely impact on turnout for the remaining two-thirds of the Democratic primaries. Another likely source of friction will be Bernie’s growing sense of victimization against the Democratic Party, which his base feels is trying to stop him again from nomination.
Meanwhile, the deadly virus is testing Trump’s made-for-TV presidency. The number of deaths in the US is unfortunately on the rise. However, no amount of deflection from White House or peddling of conspiracy theories from right-wing-types will help the US in tackling the outbreak. Only competent folks at positions of authority can help. Shirking responsibility, Trump, who is being accused of spreading misinformation, has appointed his VP Mike Pence to tackle the virus, or as some say, take the fall.
Past statements from both candidates have been generally benign towards Pakistan. (For some background, read: “Uncle Biden and Pakistan,” published May 28, 2019; and “A surging socialist,” published February 6, 2020). Both Biden and Bernie want the US out of Afghanistan, and if either of them gets elected, the likelihood of honoring the Afghan peace process will be high. In other words, the US may find in its interest to seek Pakistan’s support to pacify Afghanistan post-troop withdrawal next year.