State of the Race 2020: Arizona, Florida, and Illinois

Written by Ben Szioli

BILL BELICHICK AND THE ART OF THE COMEBACK

If there’s one thing you don’t do in football, historically, it’s leave time on the clock when Patriots coach Bill Belichick is down by less than one possession. It doesn’t matter how little time you leave. All it takes is a few seconds for (as of today, free agent) Tom Brady to drop back and fire into the endzone. Brady to Edelman; Edelman tucks; one foot; two feet inbounds; touchdown. That four-point lead turns into a three-point deficit, and you get the ball back with peanuts on the clock — from winning to losing in the last ten seconds of the game.

I compared the establishment’s support of Former Vice President Joe Biden (DE) to a Hail Mary, and I made the same comparison of Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)’s Sunday-night debate performance. If that’s the case, then Senator Sanders got the throw off. Ball’s in the air.

Like Bill Belichick, Bernie finds himself down by a non-fatal margin with time running down on his presidential run. Former Vice President Biden’s delegate lead is surmountable, but only if Sanders starts winning states. With everything down to one night, Sanders held nothing back.

Though both candidates won exchanges during the debate, Bernie’s victories felt realer. Biden’s victories more often were messaging victories. For example, a surreal moment came when Biden vigorously defended the bank bailouts of 2008, claiming that Bernie wanted a Great Depression and a banking crash instead of bailouts. Bernie, focused on his own talking points, let that weak argument slide through, rather than pointing out that his own plans would have solved the Great Financial Crisis without needing to bail out the bankers.

But while Biden may have torched a few strawmen that looked like Bernie, when it came to his record versus Biden’s, Bernie ragdolled the real thing.

Challenging Biden to explain if he had ever advocated Social Security cuts during his tenure as a Senator, Bernie caught Biden in a ridiculous lie: Biden claimed he never had. Video throughout Biden’s career contradicts this. Biden, in fact, at the time bragged about his repeated attempts: “And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”

When pressed further, eventually Biden must have realized how bad the exchange looked. He switched to deflecting by arguing that he had to dangle those Social Security cuts in order to attract Republicans. Bernie, placated, essentially asked Biden to be honest and simply admit that this was his record. When Biden protested further, arguing that, essentially, it was no harm, no foul because the cuts never passed, Bernie laid down the line that could change this race: “I know, because people like me stopped that.”

This is Bernie vs. Biden in a nutshell. They spent decades together in Congress. Bernie clearly laid out the argument last night that Biden took the easy way out that whole time, while Bernie stood in the same room and made tough choices, ultimately cleaning up after self-styled pragmatists like Biden who inked deals with the devil because it was easier to follow the donors.

There are only a few minutes left in this football game of an election, and there seem to be plenty of timeouts to go around. Will Bernie make the catch? It’s incredibly unlikely. Just like every other endzone throw, it’s vastly more likely that someone will drop the ball. But nevertheless, the ball’s in the air, and the clock is still running.

ARIZONA, FLORIDA, ILLINOIS, AND POSTPONED PRIMARIES

Today, before the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, three states go to vote. Ohio has already delayed their election by executive action, drawing threats from the DNC of delegate penalties for states with delayed primaries.

The three states that remain are vital to Sanders and Biden. A win in Arizona would signal that Bernie 2020 is still breathing. Drawing close in Florida would prove that the ridiculous Fidel Castro controversy is not enough to shake Sanders’s Latina/o support. A strong performance in Illinois can walk back some of the demographic doom and gloom that clouds the campaign ever since Michigan.

Biden needs to win all three states in order to argue that this primary is truly over. Polling says that he will win easily.

But like I said, Bernie put up a Hail Mary at the debate, and today could see that pass caught. It would then be left to Biden to chase him down and save the lead Biden built up through central party support. A touchdown would be two wins. No one believes that’s possible, but for the world to change now, a lot of people are going to have to turn out to be wrong.

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