As I observed recently, we are not even remotely out of the woods yet.
To reiterate, Biden is a weak candidate:
- He has speaking disabilities, which impair his debate performance.
- He has many legislative skeletons in his closet.
- His Ukraine dealings, while not apparently illegal, still are a liability, and point to a likely history of nepotism.
He’s currently in the lead, but it’s far from an insurmountable lead. More debates are coming; it would be political malpractice to allow Biden become the nominee without stress-testing him. Much like it has been acceptable to stress-test Sanders on how well he responds to red-baiting (poorly, so far), it is acceptable to stress-test Biden on his weak spots.
And what happens if Biden massively fails the stress test? There is only one possible beneficiary, and his name is Senator Bernard Sanders. This is the downside of the moderates’ strategy of having everyone except Biden drop out: there is now no longer any fallback moderate candidate in the event that Biden suffers a massive campaign failure.
There really wasn’t any logical process of vetting or evaluation in that consolidation; it all happened stochastically. Clyburn endorsed Biden, most likely on the basis of a long political friendship from when both were members of Congress. The endorsement proved extremely valuable to Biden in the South Carolina primary. Moderates were increasingly nervous about Sanders playing the role Trump played in the 2016 GOP primary, and jumped at the chance to consolidate around Biden.
This is not to fault the moderates for foolishly choosing a poor strategy. They basically had no choice; time was rapidly running out for them to consolidate. There was, in fact, simply nothing the moderates could have done to easily sew up the nomination. Enough of the party’s base has moved far enough leftward that any reasonably open and democratic process is now sure to give progressives a significant amount of power throughout that process.
Biden’s weakness as a candidate is such that he has never done well before on the presidential campaign trail. Until the past week, he had never won a so much as a single state, despite this being the third primary he’s competed in. It is entirely possible that Biden returns to his old form, and if that happens there is no longer a thing that the centrist wing can do to stop Sanders from becoming the nominee.