To the surprise of no one, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders officially entered the 2020 Presidential race. He immediately becomes the democratic frontrunner thanks to his surprisingly strong showing against Hillary Clinton and his ability to raise money. He reportedly received nearly six million dollars in donations in one day. Most came from small donors.
Sanders is right when he says many in his party, including other Presidential candidates, have adopted parts of his 2016 agenda, including Medicare for all and a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage. But will that message sell across the country?
The primary calendar is different this time around. No doubt Sanders will get out of the gate quickly in New Hampshire, but then faces very different challenges in Nevada and South Carolina. California’s decision to move its primary to Super Tuesday in early March could cut both ways for Sanders. California is a very democratic state and his progressive agenda should play well there. But one of his main rivals, Kamala Harris, is a Senator from California.
Virginians vote on Super Tuesday as well. In recent years the Old Dominion has changed from a solidly red state, to a purple one to blue. The statewide sweep by democrats of Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, coupled with strong gains in the House of Delegates, made Virginia a model for democrats across the country.
The recent turmoil at the top has no doubt tarnished that image, but it hasn’t changed the electorate. Virginia voters have moved in the Democrats direction, but have they moved far enough to accept the idea of free college tuition? Can he sell a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage in a state which prides itself on being business friendly?
Other Democratic contenders, like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, have not adopted those ideas and are trying to steer a more moderate course. And then there’s the question hovering over former Vice President Joe Biden. Will he or won’t he run? So far, he remains Hamlet-like in not jumping in. If he does, he would become the frontrunner.
A week is an eternity in politics these days, but the Democratic nominee will shape and carry the party’s message. The Sanders agenda, or a more moderate tone to try to appeal to independents is the choice. It’s going to be an historic race and closely followed by Virginia Voters.