Sanders Says He’ll Drop Out if Biden Has Plurality

Playing nice? Or setting up a fight?

An interesting and under-reported story via Axios:

Bernie Sanders told MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Wednesday he would drop out of the 2020 race if Joe Biden won a plurality of pledged delegates at July’s Democratic convention.

Details: “If Biden walks into the convention, or at the end of the process, has more votes than me, he’s the winner,” Sanders told Maddow. But he added if it ended up being that a candidate only had a plurality of votes and a second ballot were required that could potentially be decided by superdelegates “it would be a real, real disaster for the Democratic party.”

People would say ‘the person who won the most votes didn’t get selected.’ Not a good idea.”

Interesting, if true. Many of us had presumed that he would take a scorched-earth approach if denied the nomination.

Now, possibly, this is an indicator that he thinks he’ll have the plurality going into the convention and we can read it as a warning that he’ll raise a ruckus if Biden gets the nomination via superdelegates.

For what it’s worth, I think that, in the event no candidate achieves a plurality of pledged delegates going into the convention, it’s reasonable for the top two vote-getters to fight on. That’s especially true if the delegate count remains close. A candidate that can’t put together a majority coalition with his own party is likely not to be viable in the general election.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    [James, I think you meant to say, “if no candidate gets a majority]

    I’m astounded. Does he think he will have the plurality? Does he think if he doesn’t get the plurality he would get shredded for pivoting so transparently? Or does he honestly think this is just right thing*? No matter what, if he actually drops out I will give him kudos.

    *FWIW I think the idea that a plurality but non-majority winner automatically getting the nod is exactly the wrong thing to do. The most pertinent fact is that more people didn’t want you than wanted you. We end up with states like Maine were the majority of its citizens are actually decent people but the “plurality wins” rules resulted in two terms of an ignorant, incompetent racist as a governor.

    1
  2. gVOR08 says:

    I confess I was only half paying attention to that interview, but it struck me that Sanders was doing a lot of ‘we got this issue into the conversation’ and ‘it may not succeed now but we have to try’ sort of remarks. I very much got the impression he’s in a mode of it ain’t over til it’s over, but it’s pretty much over. Barring, of course, Biden having health issues or a real black swan, like a GOP investigation actually finding something.

    2
  3. Andy says:

    Serious question – has anyone ever asked Sanders when/if he will join the Democratic party?

    If he wins the nomination is he going to keep is nominal “independent” status – what about if he wins the Presidency?

    Does he not realize how unseemly it appears to a lot of people to lecture Democrats about what a “disaster” it would be if party leaders decide that their candidate for the highest office in the land probably ought to go an actual member of said party?

    Or maybe if he wins he will formally align with the DSA which much more closely represents his views.

    18
  4. de stijl says:

    2024 cannot happen soon enough.

    We should gene splice hibernation into human DNA. Bears have it figured out. I do not want to deal with this crap. Wake me up when it is nicer.

    I will miss Larry David’s take on Sanders.

    Curmudgeonliness is not a word one sees often.

    6
  5. PJ says:

    Interesting, if true. Many of us had presumed that he would take a scorched-earth approach if denied the nomination.

    Sanders (and most Sanders supporters) is a lot saner than some very vocal Sanders supporters.
    I believe that he understands what is important and that he will do the right thing if and when there’s no path left to winning.

    7
  6. Jen says:

    @Andy:

    Serious question – has anyone ever asked Sanders when/if he will join the Democratic party?

    I’ve always found it irksome that he files for his Senate race as a Democrat, wins the Democratic primary, and then switches parties to Independent to run in the general election. He doesn’t need to do this to be on the general election ballot, he does it specifically to block any Democrat from running against him in the general election.

    This sort of ballot malleability is apparently a family trait, his son ran for Congress in NH District 1, even though he lives in NH District 2.

    14
  7. Lounsbury says:

    Well if the world is lucky, Michigan will crush Bernie

    1
  8. Andy says:

    @Jen:

    Thanks Jen, I didn’t know about that history. Not a good look for him.

    2
  9. Mu Yixiao says:

    @de stijl:

    We should gene splice hibernation into human DNA. Bears have it figured out. I do not want to deal with this crap. Wake me up when it is nicer.

    Oddly enough, the gene for hibernation is already in the human genome. It’s just latent.

    3
  10. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’ve read cells in the retina are sensitive to some wavelengths of ultraviolet, but the cornea blocks them. also I recall something about mice going into hibernation when placed in an atmosphere with a high concentration of some sulfur compound.

    Back on topic, I hope Sanders won’t forget a few weeks hence that what he’s said on tape will remain on tape for a very long time, and can be used against him.

  11. de stijl says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    That is very cool.

    We should petition Bill Gates to fund a team to research how to make that latent behavior optional.

    There is a lot of crap I would prefer to sleep through. I have issues with avoidance.

    3
  12. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve always found it irksome that he files for his Senate race as a Democrat, wins the Democratic primary, and then switches parties to Independent to run in the general election.

    How is he allowed to continually do this? I’m surprised the Democrats in Vermont haven’t done something to stop that…I mean, are they worried that they’ll make him mad? Like he’d ever caucus with the Republicans instead…

    4
  13. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Guy who games the system to his benefit assumes others will too.

    2
  14. mattbernius says:

    Vox’s Andrew Prokop crunches the data and reveals that even with Sander’s pledge, this is still going to take a while:

    If Biden wins 55% of pledged delegates going forward, he wouldn’t clinch a majority till June.

    If Biden wins 60% of pledged delegates going forward, he’d clinch around late May.

    If he wins 65%, he’d clinch around early May.

    Even if he wins most states, this could take a while
    https://twitter.com/awprokop/status/1235681492623388685

  15. Jen says:

    @An Interested Party:

    How is he allowed to continually do this? I’m surprised the Democrats in Vermont haven’t done something to stop that…

    Two things: one, he’s basically an institution unto himself in the state; two, it’s Vermont, and the quirkiness factor is sort of a state characteristic.

    2
  16. PJ says:

    @Jen:

    This sort of ballot malleability is apparently a family trait, his son ran for Congress in NH District 1, even though he lives in NH District 2.

    There’s a lot more about his son. One should not be worried about a political dynasty forming.

    And he got 2.7% of the votes in the primary, finishing 6th.

  17. EddieInCA says:

    https://www.mediaite.com/politics/joe-biden-opens-up-49-point-lead-on-bernie-sanders-in-florida/

    Bloomberg is in 2nd in this poll. Expect the margins to grow as Bloomberg numbers dissappear over next few days.

    1
  18. An Interested Party says:

    @Jen: I’m really surprised that an ambitious Democratic politician hasn’t tried to break that up…are there any Democrats in Vermont who could beat him in an election?

    @EddieinCA: Hmm, if someone wants to win in Florida, it’s probably not a good idea to say anything nice about Castro’s Cuba…

    1
  19. EddieInCA says:

    It is fascinating to read the results on various issues and subjects from this Michigan poll conducted a few days ago.

    A few surprising takeaways (at least for me):

    – Younger people are more interested in health care this election than beating Trump. Every other demographic, except young people, put “Beating Trump” as the #1 priority. Among the 30-39 age group, the “Economy” was tied with “Beating Trump”, with both at 23.1%.

    – Medicare for all is favored among just 34% of Michigan Democrats.

    – The candidate most hurt be another candidate in the race is Joe Biden being hurt by Mike Bloomberg.

    – 9% of voters said they could not support Bernie Sanders for President. Of particular note, 14.6% of voters over the age of 65 said they could not support Bernie Sanders for President. 12.4% of white voters said they could not support Bernie Sanders for President.

    – On a ten point scale, voters were asked how enthused they were about voting in the General Election.
    Biden – 9.5
    Sanders – 9.3
    Bloomberg – 9.6
    Warren – 9.7 (looking at you Teve).

    Read the whole thing. Good stuff if you’re a junkie.

    (Edit – Doh! Would help if I added the actual link…)

    https://www.scribd.com/document/450004461/Michigan-Democratic-primary-poll-results

    2
  20. EddieInCA says:

    @An Interested Party:

    @EddieinCA: Hmm, if someone wants to win in Florida, it’s probably not a good idea to say anything nice about Castro’s Cuba…

    I spent four years in South Florida. The moment I read, then saw, that piece of news, I told my wife “Bernie is done in Florida”. Yes, the younger generation of Cubans don’t care about Castro all that much, but their parents and Grandparent do, and that’s who votes.

    1
  21. Jen says:

    @PJ: Oh, I know. I’m in NH District 1. 🙂

    @An Interested Party: I genuinely don’t know why they seem okay with it in Vermont.

  22. PJ says:

    @Jen:
    I knew you’re in NH, it was more for everybody else, I recall his son running and then I stopped paying attention 🙂

    1
  23. Mister Bluster says:

    US Con Art. I Sec. 2 Par. 2
    No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

  24. de stijl says:

    @Jen:

    Inertia and inattention explain a lot.

    And not just in this instance, but in general.

  25. Kurtz says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Yeah, there are some interesting results in the cross-tabs.

    Medicare for all is favored among just 34% of Michigan Democrats.

    I find this result interesting for a few reasons. The options given: do nothing, change the ACA without going “beyond that,” public option/mfa for those who want it, and mfa/no private insurance.

    25.5% chose one of the first two options, heavily weighted toward relatively minor changes to ACA. An important note: those two options exclude expaning Medicare.

    The medicare expansion questions are not exclusive to each other.

    My question is how many of those who chose the public option would be okay with mfa, but answer option 3 for political reasons, for cost reasons, or (like me) out of concern that overhauling 20% of the economy in a short span may be a bad idea.

    The other thing is how the age groups asnwered this question.

    The 50-64 and 65+ groups aligned on these questions. ~30% favored no changes or minor changes to ACA. But the rest (excluding non-responders) favored major a expansion of Medicare in some form.

    I also find it curious that 30-39 year olds were the ones most likely to support mfa.

    My speculation: they were just getting out of high school/starting college when the financial crisis hit. And they are more likely to have personal experience with medical problems than 18-29 year olds are.

    Of course, the poll only surveyed 600 people. Breaking it down into five age groups is likely to produce significant noise.

    One note on the Sanders numbers. If resistance to him was ideologically-based, you would expect that self-identified conservatives would be the most likely to say they would not support him. It’s actually moderates who say it the most.

    It makes me think that some of that is just primary period bluster, concerns about electability, and/or worries about his ability to pass an agenda. Meaning, I’m not sure that it is based on his particular platform.

    I would expect that number to go down if he was the nominee. But I understand not wanting to risk it with Trump in office.

    Thanks for the link.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    Younger people are more interested in health care this election than beating Trump.

    Without beating Trump, nothing positive will be done about health care…I wonder if these younger people realize that…

    3
  27. MarkedMan says:

    @An Interested Party: Re: someone primarying Bernie in Vermont. My understanding is that the deal is that if Bernie caucuses with the Democrats the party will not put any funds into a real Democratic primary opponent

  28. just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I also find it curious that 30-39 year olds were the ones most likely to support mfa.

    I don’t. 30-39 year olds are the ones that are getting married, starting new lives and families. They are also the ones who I suspect are less likely to have extra money just lying around to spend on expanded health insurance premiums for their children.

    (They may also be more likely to suspect that their employers will eventually pass most of the HI premium cost onto them–provided they’re not already experiencing that.)

    1
  29. Kurtz says:

    @just nutha ignint cracker:

    I guess, but I’m only speaking in terms of mfa vs. a public option, not in general.

    I would think parents of young children would be interested in a menu of options, but I’m not a parent so…

    The survey gave both of the options, so it’s unclear to me why this particular group would prefer one over the other vs. the 40-54 year olds.

    Perhaps there is a difference once the older group approaches their fifties–their preference probably reverts to similar preferences to the next oldest cohort.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    My understanding is that the deal is that if Bernie caucuses with the Democrats the party will not put any funds into a real Democratic primary opponent

    Some deal…what would he do if they did put funds into a real Democratic primary opponent? Certainly he wouldn’t caucus with Republicans…

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @An Interested Party: I seem to recall that there was at least one occasion that required a 51st vote to insure a Democratic Majority leader as opposed to a tie vote with a Republican VP breaking the tie. And it’s been close before. (Other than voting for Majority leader at the beginning of term, I’m not sure if there are any other obligations imposed, but there might be more to the deal.) They know Bernie will win Vermont as an independent and obviously he’s made it clear that he won’t support the Dem Maj Leader even if he has a primary opponent. Makes sense from Bernies point of view. He’s made it clear his whole career he sees very little difference between the D’s and R’s – considering them both hopelessly corrupted.

  32. An Interested Party says:

    He’s made it clear his whole career he sees very little difference between the D’s and R’s – considering them both hopelessly corrupted.

    And yet he’s seeking to become the leader of one of those “hopelessly corrupted” political parties…

    1
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kurtz: How many people get a “menu of options?” While I was working, the company that was union offered one, as a teacher, I had a menu, but in my other jobs I either had no coverage at all or only one option. Maybe times have changed, though.