Bernie Sanders suspends campaign leaving nomination for Joe Biden

Bernie Sanders has suspended his presidential nomination bid, leaving Joe Biden clear to run against Donald Trump.

Sanders was trailing Biden and it looked unlikely he would get enough nominations, and with the upheaval due to Covid-19 making campaigning difficult Sanders has conceded to Biden.

NBC News: Sanders quitting Democratic race for president, Biden to be party’s apparent nominee

Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign, he announced on Wednesday, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful, and so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign,” Sanders told supporters in a livestream, saying he wished he could provide supporters with “better news” but “I think you know the truth.”

Biden released a lengthy statement on Medium after Sanders’ departure from the race, saying he “has put his heart and soul into not only running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life.”

“I know how hard a decision this was for him to make — and how hard it is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — who have been inspired and energized and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed,” Biden said. “Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement. And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

“We are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden and the path to victory is virtually impossible,” he said. Sanders called Biden “a very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”

Sanders: “Then together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,”

Now Biden versus Sanders

Joe Biden did unexpectedly well in Super Tuesday, in part due to competing moderate candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar pulling out last week and endorsing Biden.

So Super Tuesday was largely Biden versus Bernie Sanders, with Michael Bloomberg trying to get a foothold. But Bloomberg didn’t fire and has now pulled out, also endorsing Biden.

The Hill: Bloomberg drops out after terrible Super Tuesday, endorses Biden

Elizabeth Warren is still in, but lagging badly ‘assessing the path forward’.

So now it is down to a head to head between Biden and Sanders.

Image result for biden sanders

Biden (77), Sanders (78)

All I’ll say is I’m glad I don’t have to choose between the two, nor between either and Donald Trump, and not because they are all in their seventies.

Surprise results in first US primary

I haven’t been following the US Democrat presidential goings on much since they cranked up months ago, but they have got to a serious stage (still 9 months out from the election).

The first primary was held in Iowa earlier this week. The vote count was badly botched and the final results still aren’t known, but with 86% of caucus precincts counted the results are a bit surprising (all delegate numbers are estimates).

  • Pete Buttigieg – 11 delegates (26.5% of the votes)
  • Bernie Sanders – 11 delegates (25.6%)
  • Elizabeth Warren – 5 delegates (18.3%)
  • Joe Biden – 0 delegates (15.9%)
  • Amy Klobuchar – 0 delegates (12.1%)

This must severely dent Joe Biden’s chances. I thought he was too old and uninspiring to make a decent candidate anyway.

Sanders is up there for now but I don’t see him having wide appeal. He seems old enough to have red Das Kapital when it was first published.

I think that the Democrats would benefit if they manage to avoid a battle of geriatrics.

A big surprise to see Buttigieg heading the votes. I know very little about him, but he must have something going for him to get this sort of result.

The impeachment, Ukraine, Russia and election interference

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial continues in Washington. It is far more political than legal. Just about everyone expects the Republican dominated Senate to acquit Trump,

Regardless of the outcome, Trump is likely to remembered as a president who was impeached, just like it is one of the first things people remember Bill Clinton for (he was also acquitted).

The Democrats may lose this battle but they are trying to win a bigger war, this year’s election. The target of Trump’s Ukraine pressure is Joe Biden, who has a good chance of competing with Trump for the presidency (that is why Trump tried to pressure the new Ukraine to dump on Biden). So the impeachment attempt is likely to be a major influence on a geriatric face off.

There’s bigger issues involved, in particular the Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Here’s one take on that – allegations that Trump was promoting Russian fake news that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election.

Note first that the writer of this has Ukraine connections “Kenneth Foard McCallion is a former organized crime and counterintelligence expert with the U.S. Department of Justice, and has been counsel for former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and numerous other Ukraine pro-democracy leaders and businessmen.”

RealClear Politics – A Key Impeachment Fact: Trump Pushed Russian Disinformation

Article One of the Articles of Impeachment now pending before the Senate is primarily focused on President Trump’s extortionate demand that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation into the Bidens.

However, it should be kept well in mind by the House managers as they present their case on the Senate floor that Trump has also been impeached for improperly using the powers of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating, in the words of Article One, “a discredited theory promoted by Russia’s disinformation machine, alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”

Russian and right-wing media propaganda, and Trump himself, have wrongly claimed that CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to investigate the massive hack of its server, is “owned by a very rich Ukrainian” and is hiding evidence that could clear Russia of any wrongdoing in regards to the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. Intelligence agencies agree that this discredited theory, which deftly shifted blame for the cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system away from Russian and squarely onto Ukraine and CrowdStrike, originated as a Russian intelligence talking point before it gained traction in right-wing media outlets and, ultimately, in the White House.

Ukraine could not give into Trump’s demands for an “investigation.” Announcing an investigation of a leading U.S. presidential contender would have been harmful to Zelensky’s reputation, and an investigation by Ukraine into its own government for U.S. election interference would have been crippling to the Zelensky administration. Furthermore, the Ukraine government well knew that once it gave in to Trump’s extortionate demands for announcement of these two bogus investigations, the demands and the extortion would not stop.

Given Ukraine’s extensive experience with predatory Russian practices, the Ukraine government strongly suspected that Putin and his U.S. crony in the White House were capable of neutering and ultimately dismantling Ukraine as an independent pro-Western democracy. Due to the fortuitous public disclosure of the whistleblower complaint and the ensuing impeachment investigation, Ukraine was not forced to subject itself to this destabilizing humiliation.

Make no mistake, the Russians will not hesitate to manipulate the 2020 U.S. election in the same way they did in 2016. They know U.S. election machinery in key swing states is vulnerable, and that many electronic voting machine systems in these states are fully hackable.

The Democratic leadership is understandably hesitant to call Trump’s abuse of power what it is: TREASON. However, the House has at least given its managers the tools to explain to the American people during the impeachment trial that Trump was not just crassly seeking to further his own political interests at the expense of U.S. national security interests, but that he was also trying to do Russia’s bidding while, at the same time, selling out the United States and one of its staunchest allies. The House managers must not ignore this crucial fact.

(Parts of this are edited).

While the impeachment is likely to fizzle out, the issues surrounding it may swirl around the US election all year.

US Democratic presidential candidacy – popularity versus electability

There is no indication yet whether there will be any serious Republican contender for the presidential nomination prepared to stand against Donald Trump. That’s if Trump stands again for a job it is claimed he never really wanted in the first place – I think it quite likely Trump will stand again, as an excuse to keep having campaign rallies where he is cheered for his crass attacks and incitement, and to try to prove he can win the popular vote in an election without the help of the Russians.

All the action is in with Democrat candidates, where there are now eleven at least semi-serious contenders with ex-vice president Joe Biden now officially in the contest – Former VP Biden’s 2020 bid reshapes White House race

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the 2020 Democratic presidential field on Thursday as an instant front-runner, drawing momentum away from other leading candidates and putting new pressure on underperformers to find ways to stay relevant.

Biden, 76, a longtime U.S. senator who served two terms as former President Barack Obama’s No.2, announced his bid in a video describing the high stakes of the race to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and let that happen.”

Trump responded with typical name calling and irony:

Trump responded in a post on Twitter, saying “welcome to the race Sleepy Joe” and slamming Biden’s intelligence.

Someone of Biden’s political stature was bound to impact on the field of candidates.

Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, says it remains unclear if Biden can build on his loyal base of support. If that happens, it could come at Sanders’ expense.

Given his longstanding support from African-Americans and his partnership with Obama, Biden could also affect the candidacy of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who is widely regarded as a serious contender for the nomination.

Polls have already installed Biden as favourite. He is reasonably popular, but does that men he is electable?

Five Thirty Eight: Democrats Think Biden Is Electable, But He’s Not Everyone’s First Choice

Beating President Trump in November 2020 is really important to Democrats. Sizable shares of Democrats tell pollsters that a candidate’s “electability” will be a very important factor in their primary vote — even more than the candidate’s policy positions. The problem is that we don’t know for sure what makes a candidate electable.

But we can get an idea of what Democratic voters think an electable candidate looks like by finding polls that ask voters which 2020 presidential hopeful they think has the best chance of winning the general election, in addition to asking who they would support independent of electability concerns.

At least two recent polls have asked both questions: a Quinnipiac poll of registered Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in California and a Granite State Poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters (conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center). Perhaps unsurprisingly, in both cases, the percentage of voters who say each candidate is the most electable is very similar to the percentage of voters who support each candidate.

But there are some telling divergences: Some candidates widely seen as electable don’t have as much support from voters, while others who have generated a lot of voter enthusiasm aren’t seen as particularly strong general-election candidates.

The table below looks at the difference in each poll between the share of voters who support each candidate and the share who think he or she is the strongest general-election candidate, then averages those differences.

There is quite a difference between those two polls so I don’t think too much can be taken from it, but it shows that Biden and Bernie Sanders are the obvious front runners.

By election time next November Sanders will be 79 years old, while Biden will be nearly 78. If either won they would be presidents while in their eighties.

Trump is just a little younger – he will be 74 next election. I don’t think there’s much chance of him growing up by then.

If those three turn out to remain the leading contenders then health will be a wild card – health of the old men candidates.

There is a lot of campaigning to go just to get nominated, and there could be other candidates yet to declare their intentions, so it’s difficult to judge how it could go for the  Democrats.

Meanwhile if Trump puts himself forward again and doesn’t get beaten for the candidacy – it’s difficult to know what the Republicans would prefer, to stick with a badly flawed incumbent president, or to try someone else if anyone is prepared to stand against Trump – much will probably depend on what happens over the next 18 months with the economy, with trade deficits, with the huge and growing deficit, with international relations, and with sideshows like the US-Mexico wall.

And whether Trump can pull back support, especially in crucial states, or whether he keeps disappointing and pissing off more and more people.  His core support is at least 10% too light – but any Democratic opponent would also have to appeal to the moveable vote in the middle, and it’s far too soon to know if any of them look capable of that.

Biden bashes Clinton

Joe Biden has said what many people thought, especially voters in some pivotal US states, Hillary Clinton wasn’t a great candidate. She was so poor she lost to Donald Trump, someone with no political experience and lacking support even within his own Republican Party.

Phily.Com: Joe Biden slams Hillary Clinton: ‘I never thought she was a great candidate’

Joe Biden has a reputation for saying what’s on his mind, and on Thursday night, he reportedly didn’t hold back at all about former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” Biden reportedly told an audience of hedge fund managers at the annual SALT conference in Las Vegas.

“No man or woman should announce for the presidency unless they genuinely believe that for the that moment in the nation’s history they are the most qualified person to deal with the issues facing the country,” Biden continued, according to TheStreet’s Ronald Orol.

Despite his criticism of candidate Clinton, Biden did add that he thought Hillary would have been “a really good president.”

She may have made an ok ‘same old’ establishment sort of president, but she is unlikely to have shaken up fundamental problems in the US political system. She was one of the established ruling class.

And we will never know how she would have managed the job.

Biden considered standing against Clinton for nomination last year but decided against it. His son had died then previous year. he would have been very establishment too.

Biden has repeatedly said his emphasis right now is on his family being “put back together,” but on Thursday left the door open about a possible run in 2020.

“If I get those things done, and I’m healthy and viable, and it looks like I’m the best man to do it, I may very well do it,” Biden said. “But my family comes first.”

“Could I? Yes,” Biden continued. “Would I? Probably not.”

Biden would be nearly 78 years old in 2020. At age 70, President Donald Trump is the oldest president to ever assume office.

Probably not. If he won he would be nearly 82 by the end of his first term, so a second term would be a stretch on age and health alone.

In any case the Democrats need to be doing something very different if they want to rebuild after their embarrassingly poor results last year. They lost the presidency, and failed to gain a majority in either the senate or Congress.

To revitalise, the Democrats need someone much different to either Clinton or Biden to lead them.

A problem with US politics is that parties don’t decide who might lead them until election year, so the next three years may be manoeuvring of those wanting to set up their preferred presidential candidate more than addressing the real and fundamental problems in the party and the country.

 

US warship visit

A very unsurprising announcement on the visit to New Zealand of US Vice President Joe Biden – the US has formally accepted an invitation to send a naval vessel here later this year.

Stuff: Biden confirms US ship visit

It won’t be a nuclear powered or armed ship. It can’t be, as New Zealand law does not allow it.

New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987

Prohibition on stationing of nuclear explosive devices

No person shall emplant, emplace, transport on land or inland waters or internal waters, stockpile, store, install, or deploy any nuclear explosive device in the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone

9 Entry into internal waters of New Zealand

(1) When the Prime Minister is considering whether to grant approval to the entry of foreign warships into the internal waters of New Zealand, the Prime Minister shall have regard to all relevant information and advice that may be available to the Prime Minister including information and advice concerning the strategic and security interests of New Zealand.

(2) The Prime Minister may only grant approval for the entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by foreign warships if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any nuclear explosive device upon their entry into the internal waters of New Zealand.

11 Visits by nuclear powered ships

Entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power is prohibited.

So a US ship visit should be uncontroversial.

Except that it brings to an and a thirty year hissy fit by the US who reacted petulantly when  another sovereign nation passed laws that had massive public support.

Trumped by Democrats

Donald Trump for President? Perhaps in America it could happen but it looks more like he will disrupt the Republican chances.

Trump is the leading Republican contender in polls but also the most opposed. And he lags behind all the leading Democrats in the latest Quinnipiac poll.

Favourability ratings (all voters):

  • Donald Trump 27 – 59
  • Hillary Clinton 40 – 51
  • Jeb Bush 43 – 42
  • Scott Walker 36 – 27
  • Joe Biden 49 – 37
  • Bernie Sanders 32 – 25

Republican voters for:

  • Donald Trump 20%
  • Scott Walker 13%
  • Jeb Bush 10%

Republican voters “would definitely not support”:

  • Donald Trump 30%
  • Chris Cristie 15%
  • Jeb Bush 14%

Jeb, the third Bush to try for the presidency, looks to be battling too.

Hillary Clinton also tops both the for and against but on quite different levels to Trump:

Democrat voters for:

  • Hillary Clinton 55%
  • Bernie Sanders 17%
  • Joe Biden 13%

Democrat voters “would definitely not support”:

  • Hillary Clinton 9%
  • Martin O’Malley 8%
  • Lincoln Chafee 8%

Match-ups (all voters) are interesting:

  • Clinton versus Trump 48% – 36%
  • Clinton versus Bush 41% – 42%
  • Clinton versus Walker 44% – 43%

I’m surprised Joe Biden is a serious contender but:

  • Biden versus Trump 49% – 37%
  • Biden versus Bush 43% – 42%
  • Biden versus Walker 43% – 43%

It’s only fifteen months and about 15 billion polls and dollars until the US election.