When I wrote about Bernie’s choice this morning, it was hard to say how long he might take to make it or even which way he would go. But as the day wore on, there were more and more signs that the end appeared to be near for the elderly socialist. For one thing, he wasn’t heading to any of the upcoming primary states to hold rallies. He and his wife were heading back to Vermont to “reassess” the campaign. When was the last time you heard about a candidate reassessing their campaign without seeing them leave the race shortly thereafter?
Now there’s been another indicator that Bernie may have thought better of continuing the battle. Axios is reporting that the Sanders campaign has “paused” all of its digital ads on Facebook. That’s typically a money-saving maneuver for someone who has seen the writing on the wall.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign currently has no active Facebook ads, the morning after another disappointing finish in a series of primary contests.
Why it matters: A pause in digital advertising spend on Facebook has been a good indicator that candidates are dropping out of the 2020 race before. Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg made their Facebook ads inactive hours before they suspended their campaigns.
The state of play: Sanders and his wife Jane are traveling back to Vermont today to “assess the path forward for our campaign,” per a note from his campaign manager Faiz Shakir.
Keeping in mind that this isn’t official yet, there are a few things we should be watching for if Sanders does officially drop out of the primary race. The first will be whether or not Bernie comes out and endorses Joe Biden and, if so, how heartily he does it. You’ll recall that the 2016 Democratic primary didn’t exactly end with hugs and kisses between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
More than a week ago, during a rally in Iowa, Sanders said that he would absolutely be supporting the eventual nominee if he didn’t win and he “hoped that the other candidates feel the same way.” I don’t have a hard time picturing him endorsing Biden, really. While Sanders continued to rail against the “Democratic establishment” this cycle, there hasn’t been nearly as much bad blood directly between him and Uncle Joe.
Of course, Joe Biden is the other person to watch. If Bernie does clear out, he’s the last man standing. The one thing he doesn’t want to see is a rerun of 2016 where the Bernie Bros blame him for Sanders’ failure to launch and start turning against him. That was one of the contributing factors in Hillary’s loss.
But that means that Biden is facing a choice of his own. He can start reinforcing his recent lurches to the far left in an effort to convince Sanders’ supporters that he’ll push for some of Bernie’s platform to keep them on board. But if he does, he’s feeding more ammunition to Donald Trump when the two meet for debates later this year. His other choice is to start the inevitable glide path back to the center, but that risks convincing Bernie’s base that Joe is the same moderate, establishment tool that they always accused him of being.
Tough call for Joe Biden, I think. He’s already walking something of a tightrope as it is. An enthusiastic endorsement from Sanders might go considerably further than a simple press release saying, “Well, at least he’s not Donald Trump.”
If I have to make a call on that question (and I’ve been off on my guesses too much this year as it is), I think Biden gets the Sanders endorsement pretty quickly, but it’s lukewarm at best. If Bernie Sanders has given us one calling card over the past five or six years it’s that he’s really not a good loser.