After Nevada, moderates try to slow Sanders’ momentum
CHARLESTON, S.C. >> Bernie Sanders’ commanding Nevada caucus victory made him a top target for his Democratic rivals and a growing source of anxiety for establishment Democrats worried that the nomination of an avowed democratic socialist could cost the party in November.
The win solidified Sanders’ front-runner status as the race turned to Saturday’s presidential primary in South Carolina. The Vermont senator was trounced in the state by more than 40 percentage points in 2016, but he is hoping that his success in diverse Nevada will prove to black voters in South Carolina that his campaign has broad appeal.
Any momentum that Sanders gains in South Carolina could be devastating to former Vice President Joe Biden, who is looking to the state for a commanding victory that can keep his candidacy alive through Super Tuesday. The March 3 contests will unfold in 14 states and award one-third of the delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.
With time running short, moderate Democrats grew increasingly nervous Sunday that Sanders’ call for a political “revolution” would drive voters away from the party, both in the matchup against President Donald Trump and in House and Senate races.
“I think it would be a real burden for us in these states or congressional districts that we have to do well in,” South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip and the top-ranking black Democrat in Congress, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Prominent Democrats expect Clyburn will endorse Biden this week. The congressman said he’ll back a candidate on Wednesday — after the next Democratic debate — and pointed to the impact a Sanders nomination would have on House districts Democrats flipped to take control of the House in 2018.
“In those districts, it’s going to be tough to hold on to these jobs if you have to make the case for accepting a self-proclaimed democratic socialist,” he said.
Sanders’ campaign argued he will bring in new and infrequent voters — largely progressives, young people and voters of color — who have been alienated from the process and seek a drastic overhaul of Washington, not merely trying to oust Trump.
He successfully relied on that coalition Saturday to dominate his Democratic rivals in Nevada, pulling far ahead of Biden, the secondplace finisher, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who came in third. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren landed in fourth, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California billionaire Tom Steyer were in a close race for fifth as the Nevada Democratic Party continued to tabulate results.
Sanders celebrated the win in Texas, a top Super Tuesday prize and a state that Democrats see trending their way thanks to a growing Hispanic population and opposition to Trump in the suburbs.
Sounding like a candidate who had already secured the nomination, Sanders told thousands of cheering supporters who filled a basketball arena on the campus of the University of Houston that he would win in the state both next month and next fall.
“If working people and young people of this city, black and white and Latino, gay or straight, if our people stand together, come out to vote, we’re going to win here in Texas,” he said.
Sanders was announcing a plan to provide universal, government-funded child care until age 3 and universal pre-kindergarten programs after that. In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, he said he’d pay for it using part of the proceeds from his previously announced wealth tax, which would be levied annually on fortunes worth more than $32 million.
Sanders’ new status was clear as most of his rivals sharpened their focus on him.
On Sunday, Buttigieg ripped Sanders’ for his massive and often combative online following, saying the nominee’s job “is to call people into our tent, not to call them names online.”
Speaking to a crowd of thousands gathered in a high school football field in Arlington, Virginia, Buttigieg said Democrats should nominate someone who will focus on “mobilizing, not polarizing the American majority.”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event in Austin, Texas.