The early primaries have been, for the most part, the Bernie Sanders show. Bernie notched early victories and had a lead in the delegate count. Meanwhile, early frontrunner Joe Biden was crashing in the polls and had failed to claim some of those key early wins. This despite a victory in South Carolina.
All that changed on Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden surged to victory in Super Tuesday contests across the South and beyond, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., claimed gold with a sizable win in delegate-prize California – divvying up the map on the biggest primary day of the season and indicating a tight battle between the two that is likely to drag on for weeks or more.
It emerged after midnight Wednesday that Biden had narrowly defeated Sanders in Texas, the second-biggest contest of the day. With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Biden was ahead of Sanders 33.3 percent to 29.3 percent, or 602,352 votes to 531,626 votes. The two candidates are likely to receive a similar share of the state’s 228 pledged delegates.
Biden had courted Texans as establishment support suddenly built for his campaign, even hosting a rally in Dallas on Monday night featuring a surprise appearance by former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Onetime rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, as well as several Obama administration officials, endorsed Biden’s presidential bid within the past week.
In a worrying sign for Sanders, who had expected to perform well in the state, Maine’s race call is still outstanding. With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders and Biden are within two percentage points.
The former vice president’s comeback was remarkable given his poor performances in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada earlier this year, which left many pundits declaring his campaign dead in the water. Biden won the most contests Tuesday – though who came out ahead in the delegate race remains unclear – and certainly outperformed expectations from just a week ago.
So what does this mean for the gun debate?
While Bernie Sanders has an anti-gun plan, that plan goes against his earlier support for gun rights. I’ve argued that Sanders is pandering for the Democratic base. I’m not saying Sanders would be decent for gun rights, mind you, but that he might be less bad in that regard. I think he’d be a trainwreck on literally everything else, but a bit less so on guns.
Biden, however, is a gun grabber and we all know it. He’s been one his entire political career and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. He’s made guns a focal point of his campaign as well, and while it has looked for a while that wasn’t a winning strategy even in the primaries, he’s surged ahead and is now a legitimate threat to Bernie.
However, the fact that two major Democrats dropped out of the race just the day before the biggest contest and threw their weight behind Biden is likely to smell fishy to many Bernie supporters. It’s not difficult to imagine many voting against the eventual nominee much like some did four years ago.
If that happens, it won’t matter too much what Biden says about gun control. The election will be about far more than that, even if a majority did somehow support Biden’s gun control proposals.
And let’s be honest, that’s a far cry from certainty.
Yet with Biden’s big win on Tuesday, that may well be signaling a shift in momentum that will eventually lead to guns playing a much bigger role in the general election than might otherwise be the case.
So get ready. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.