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2 Democratic strategists on how Biden gained momentum for Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday’s primary results represented a dramatic turn on the road to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. What did not seem possible only days ago has materialized, as moderate voters united to support former Vice President Joe Biden. Sen. Bernie Sanders is far behind in delegates. Judy Woodruff reports and talks to Democratic political strategists Guy Cecil and Nick Chedli Carter.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A dramatic turn on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination. What didn't seem at all likely last week is now driving the narrative, as moderate voters come together behind one candidate, leaving two men leading, in a fight to the finish.

    In Los Angeles, Joe Biden basked in the glow today of his stunning return to front-runner status in the Democratic field.

  • Joe Biden:

    Those of you who have been knocked down, those of you who have been counted out, this is your campaign.

    (LAUGHTER)

    We welcome all those who want to join us, all those who want to join us, and to build a movement. And this is a movement we're building. It is a movement.

    And we need that movement to beat Donald Trump and to build a future we all know is possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The former vice president won 10 of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday, from Maine and Massachusetts, to a sweep of Southern states, and even to Minnesota and Texas.

    California ended up being the biggest of four Super Tuesday wins for Senator Bernie Sanders, although how many delegates he and Biden will glean from the Golden State remains in flux.

    In stark contrast, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had an abysmal showing, and quit the race today.

  • Michael Bloomberg:

    Our campaign today for the presidency ends, but our campaign for a better America, a stronger America, a more just America, a more equal America, and a more united America continues, and, together, we will get it done.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bloomberg won one only one contest, in American Samoa.

    That's after pouring half-a-billion dollars of his own money into his campaign, hoping that heavy paid advertising would yield big returns.

  • Narrator:

    Mike Bloomberg for president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Instead, he quickly joined former Democratic primary rivals, including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in endorsing Biden.

    All of them had emphasized moderate credentials, while trying to position themselves as counterweights to President Trump.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    Welcome to Burlington, everybody.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sanders sized up the radically revised political landscape today from his home state of Vermont, and he sharply criticized the rush to Biden's column.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    There has been never a campaign in recent history which has taken on the entire political establishment, and that is an establishment which is working frantically to try to defeat us. And there has not been a campaign, I think, that has had to deal with the kind of venom we're seeing from some in the corporate media.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The race's other progressive candidate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, spoke last night in Detroit, before the results fully revealed her Super Tuesday letdown.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    And the pundits have gotten it wrong over and over. Cast a vote from your heart.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    And vote for the person you think will make the best president of the United States of America.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Warren could manage no more than third place in her home state, and she spent today assessing her next steps.

    Meanwhile, there were signs of a turnout surge in yesterday's Democratic contests. Virginia saw 500,000 more ballots cast this year, compared with its Democratic primary in 2016.

    But some locations also saw extreme wait times for voting. One example, Texas Southern University, a historically black school in Houston, where news reports say some voters waited up to seven hours to vote.

    Six more states are holding contests in less than a week, the next mile marker in what could now be shaping up as an extended one-on-one battle for the Democratic nomination.

    For a closer look at last night's results, we're joined by two veteran Democratic strategists.

    Guy Cecil was the political director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and he is now the chairman of Priorities USA. It's a Democratic super PAC. And Nick Chedli Carter was the national political outreach director for Bernie Sanders in 2016, and then the head of progressive outreach for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

    And we welcome both of you to the "NewsHour." Thank you for being here.

    I'm going to start with you, Guy Cecil.

    How do you interpret what happened yesterday?

  • Guy Cecil:

    Well, obviously, there was a lot of movement over the last four or five days.

    I certainly think the Clyburn endorsement began that momentum, the victory in South Carolina, and I think it really carried over through the weekend, in large part because there was so much coverage in momentum of the Biden campaign, perhaps more positive coverage than he had received in the entire election.

    The reality is, we're down to a two-person race, that, despite the candidates that are in the race, either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want to get to that in just a minute.

    But, Nick Carter, is for there to be this much of a change in the race in just a short period of time, how do you interpret it?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Well, I think the phrase that the impossible is inevitable rings very true for this election.

    But I also think it's important to keep in mind that both Sanders and Biden were heavily favored months before Super Tuesday. And both have pretty resilient constituencies in a lot of these states that are playing out right now.

    So, frankly, as surprising as yesterday may have been for a lot of folks, I think it's also important to keep in mind that both these candidates have durable and strong followings across the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let's talk about those constituencies, because, Guy Cecil, there's been some much focus on, oh, well, it was a last-minute thing. Voters were paralyzed with indecision, and they saw Joe Biden could win in South Carolina, and they thought, OK, I will go with him.

    But what do you see underlying that in terms of who voted for Joe Biden and who didn't?

  • Guy Cecil:

    Yes, I think the thing that has made these two candidates stand out is the durability of their base support, right?

    We have seen Bernie Sanders not only do well with young people, but really make inroads in particular with the Latino community, not just in California, but across the country. And with Joe Biden, we have seen a group of support not just from African-Americans, but in particular from suburban women.

    And I think those two have been pretty durable for both of the candidates. And I think, going forward, you're going to see a pretty stable race. And, really, what it's going to come down to is the rest of the makeup of the states that we have to vote still.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And who do you see — Nick Carter, when you look at Bernie Sanders' support, who's with him? We keep hearing it's young people, but who else?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Well, I think young people. And I wouldn't underestimate how important it's going to be.

    I think one of the problems with how the election is being reported right now is the emphasis being placed on exit polls. And I think that's driving a false narrative about a lack of youth turnout right now. So it's going to be really interesting to track those results over the coming weeks.

    Also, young Latinos, which, if you think about states like Arizona that are voting on March 17, that's going to be very relevant.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Almost two weeks.

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Exactly.

    And then also folks that have been disenfranchised and uninterested in Democratic Party politics as usual. I think one of the things that's so transformative about Bernie's campaign is that it's doing politics in a very different way, and so individuals who've never voted before or who have voted infrequently because they have been turned off by Democratic politics as usual.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, has this come down to — Guy Cecil, to the clash of two great ideologies, one a moderate Democrat, and one a much more liberal progressive? As Bernie Sanders says, I want a revolution, Democrats.

  • Guy Cecil:

    Yes, look, I think part of it is ideology. I think part of it is style.

    You have two Democrats that approach politics in different ways. The big challenge, I think, going forward is that, when you look at the remaining states that we have to vote, most of the delegate-rich states, and most of the states where one of the candidates has a chance to really run up delegates, favors Joe Biden, places like Florida, places like Georgia, delegate-rich areas.

    And I think that's going to be the big challenge, over ideology, over approach, is simply the delegate math of retaking the lead, once you have lost it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So how does Bernie Sanders do that? How do you see, Nick Carter, his challenge going forward?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Well, Bernie is probably the best person to answer that.

    But if I were in his shoes, I think it's really important to recognize the nuances of the primary. And I think something the campaign needs to be more intentional about is engagement of local and state party leaders, that there are some nuances about the primary process that must be taken into account.

    And…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Like what? What's an example?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Well, for example, I think there is a lot of enthusiasm that comes with Bernie's campaign, but how that translates down-ballot.

    I think you have seen examples, when you look at some of the support he now has in Congress, that there is a new class of lawmakers that are in the Bernie vein of the Democratic Party, which is exciting, but also a more intentional engagement of some of those local leaders, because the primary is a little bit more of an insular process than the general election.

    And it's important to recognize the hard work that's being done in the states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You bring up endorsements. I mean, I think across my e-mail, every few minutes, Guy Cecil, there comes another endorsement of Joe Biden, a former senator, a former member of Congress, or a governor.

    How much do those endorsements matter at this point for either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders?

  • Guy Cecil:

    Look, I think the most important endorsement of this entire process happened in South Carolina.

    And every time there's another endorsement, it becomes a little bit less important. What it does do, though, is just continue the impression of momentum, right? When you think about how you identify momentum, you identify it by winning races, you identify it by polls, you identify it with money, which the Biden campaign is now starting to raise in significant rates, or with endorsements.

    And I think the impression of forward movement from the Biden campaign is something that the Sanders folks need to address in a more direct way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you mean?

  • Guy Cecil:

    Well, I think they need to compensate for the fact that it's difficult to restart that momentum, right, that so much attention was placed on Super Tuesday. There was such an expectation that Sanders was going to win.

    And now they have got to rethink how they create that impression — impression of momentum, when the calendar doesn't necessarily favor them in that way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

    And I want to get you to respond to that.

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Well, I think there's no doubt that these — the endorsements over the last few days were critical to this momentum shift in Joe Biden that you saw yesterday.

    However, I think it's also important to keep in mind that the endorsements of Bernie Sanders from some of the leading progressive organizing groups in the country, Make the Road, for example, People's Action. These are endorsements he didn't really have in 2016.

    And, frankly, big-ticket elected officials was another thing that I'm not sure how much that's going to impact his campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Neither one of you — or I haven't asked you yet about Elizabeth Warren. What role does she have?

    We hear she's reassessing, rethinking. What do you see?

  • Guy Cecil:

    Look, I think Elizabeth Warren entered this race to be president, and not to make a point.

    And, clearly, her path to the nomination is for the most part gone. So I think she's going to have to spend some time over the next few days thinking about how she wants to engage in this process.

    As an Elizabeth Warren fan myself, I think a lot of us were hoping that she would go longer into this process, simply because she's been a powerful voice for women and progressives and for — and for Democrats.

    But the reality is, this is a two-person race at this point.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I think I sense you nodding, that you agree with that?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Oh, absolutely.

    I think whoever gets her endorsement, that's a huge boon for their campaign. And I think there's something to be said about her robust working relationship with Senator Sanders.

    But I think we will see what she ends up doing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Whether she ends up — but, right now — we have only got 30 seconds — it comes down to a fight to the finish between these two. That's what you're saying.

  • Guy Cecil:

    Yes.

    Look, I think the most important thing right now is that, when we have a two-person race, the chances for a contested convention have dropped pretty precipitously. And I think, for Democrats, for those of us that care about defeating Donald Trump and supporting the nominee, whether it's Sanders or Biden, that's a really important development.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chances of a brokered convention?

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    I would agree with that.

    But I would also point out that both these candidates bring very unique strengths, but also very unique weaknesses. And I think that whoever wins the nomination is going to have to really work to bring the party together.

    Bernie Sanders, for example, is going to be unique in his ability to mobilize young people, Latinos, and other constituencies, which are things that Joe Biden is going to have a really hard time with.

    So, I do think unity, as the process moves forward, is going to be really important.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's going to be fascinating.

    Nick Chedli Carter, thank you very much. Guy Cecil, thank you. We appreciate both of you being here.

  • Guy Cecil:

    Thank you.

  • Nick Chedli Carter:

    Thank you very much.

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