Speaking from Burlington on Wednesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cut to the chase: “Last night was obviously not a good night for our campaign, from a delegate point of view,” he said.
And that, frankly, was understatement: Sanders was routed in Missouri, in Idaho and in Mississippi where, according to exit polls, 84 percent of black voters backed his opponent. In Michigan, where in 2016 Sanders mounted a surprise comeback win against Hillary Clinton, he appears to have lost every single county to Joe Biden. Sanders did win North Dakota, and he continues to lead the vote count in Washington, where final results are not yet available. But the odds that he can win the Democratic primary are vanishingly small at this point. (One in 100, according to the forecasters at 538.)
But Sanders did declare a victory of sorts on Wednesday: “We are strongly winning in two enormously important areas, which will determine the future of our country,” he said. Support is growing for many of the issues he’s championed, Sanders pointed out, and he continues to be the overwhelming favorite of younger Democratic voters.
“Poll after poll, including exit polls, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda,” Sanders said, ticking off the increasing support for issues he’s campaigned on, raising taxes on corporations, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, providing healthcare to all Americans, transforming the economy to address climate change, criminal justice and immigration reform.
“It is not just the ideological debate that our progressive movement is winning — we are winning the generational debate. While Joe Biden continues to do very well with older Americans — especially those people over 65 — our campaign continues to win the vast majority of the votes of younger people and I am talking about people not just in their twenties, but in their thirties and forties, continue, in very strong numbers to support our campaign.”
Exit polls did show Sanders as preferred candidate for voters under the age 45 on Wednesday. But that’s not much help when such a large part of the electorate — 70 percent in Missouri, for example — are over 45.
Sanders characterized the divide as a warning for Democrats, and he directed a message at the ill-defined Party Establishment: “In order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country and you must speak to the issues of concern to them. You cannot simply be satisfied by winning the votes of people who are older.”
Sanders, who is scheduled to meet Joe Biden for the first one-on-one debate this Sunday in Arizona, said he was looking forward to the opportunity to ask about, for instance, the 500,000 people who go bankrupt over medical debt every year, and whether he would really veto a Medicare for All bill if Congress passes one. Sanders said he planned to ask Biden how he’ll tackle climate change, noting scientists say we have less than a decade to transform the economy to address it. He said he’d push Biden on access to higher education and student debt, as well as on racism and mass incarceration in the criminal justice system. Inhumane immigration policies, child poverty, homelessness and the high cost of housing all made Sanders’ list.
In essence, Sanders said, he wasn’t going anywhere without getting some answers first. “Donald Trump must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen,” he said. Then he walked away from the podium without taking questions from reporters.