Another View: N.H. win propels Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday night by only a narrow margin over the former mayor of a small city (half the size of Providence), Pete Buttigieg. But the victory was enough to propel Mr. Sanders to front-runner status for the party's nomination.

That is incredible, when you think about it.

Mr. Sanders is not even a Democrat when not running for president. He brands himself an independent and a democratic socialist. He has unkempt hair and, at times, the demeanor of an angry old man. He is 78 years old and suffered a heart attack last year. That a major party is embracing him is, perhaps, as astonishing as the decision of Republicans four years ago to turn their party over to an obnoxious reality TV star with worse hair, Donald Trump.

What Mr. Sanders does have is an air of authenticity. He is who he is. And he taps into the palpable rage felt in the Democratic base over the rise of Mr. Trump and the triumph of free-market capitalism, which these supporters believe despoils the planet and leaves too many people on the losing end. He is their warrior.

He easily brushed aside Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who advances similar policies, in New Hampshire.

That is troubling to many Democrats, who fear that his far-left policies and brusque personality will drag the party down to defeat in November. A Gallup poll of Americans taken last month and released this week shows that 53% would not vote for a socialist.

But who might be the alternative?

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Mayor Buttigieg, seen as more moderate, faces an uncertain future in states with a large number of African American voters, who are not particularly supportive of a gay candidate.

The longtime front-runner, Joe Biden, was popular with those voters as President Obama's vice president. But he seems to have flamed out, finishing a distant fifth in New Hampshire. His gaffes have left many scratching their heads, and his candidacy is clearly on life support. The Democrats' impeachment bid unhelpfully focused attention on his and his son's dealings with Ukraine for months.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar finished a surprisingly strong third place in New Hampshire, and could be the moderate hope. But though she performed better than expected, she did finish third, not first. And she lacks the organization and the army of support that Mr. Sanders has heading into the other primaries.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, embraced by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, has been touted as a moderate alternative who might save the party from destruction. With vast amounts of money to spend on advertising, he blew off New Hampshire and is counting on Super Tuesday, March 3, to propel him to contention. But tapes released this week of his comments about police strategies in New York will strike many Democratic voters as racist, and could hurt him in states with large numbers of African American voters.

On top of all this, the party must worry the base might bolt in November if Mr. Sanders were unfairly denied the nomination.

Thus, many Democrats seem to be increasingly concerned about their presidential nominee, for all the disdain many Americans have for the odious behavior of the Republican incumbent. Look for the long knives to come out against Mr. Sanders over the next several days and weeks.

— Providence (R.I.) Journal, Feb. 12


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