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Nicolais: Am I about to get Berned by the Democratic primary?

With Sen. Bernie Sanders amassing a double-digit lead in Colorado, Democrats may need to begin worrying about November

I’ve held on to my ballot, watching debates, gathering information about the candidates, awaiting candidate flyers and preparing to vote in a Democratic primary for the first time in my life.

And it seems I’m already going to get Berned.

Heading into Super Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a double-digit lead in Colorado against his primary opponents.

Mario Nicolais

He is sitting at 27% of the vote with his closest challenger, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, checking in at 15%. While Sanders hasn’t exactly amassed a mandate-worthy percentage, he benefits from the fractured support no single rival has been able to consolidate.

I saw this four years ago when Donald Trump rode similar pluralities to the presidency. Personally, I’d been pulling for Sen. Marco Rubio but also liked Gov. Jeb Bush. Many Republicans felt the opposite. Or they were on the Sen. Ted Cruz bandwagon. Or Gov. Christie. Or … well, you get the idea.

In the end, Trump rode underwhelming pluralities to the nomination and an improbable November victory.

Sanders seems on the brink of playing the same trump card to perfection. Barring a major momentum shift – potentially spurred by a big Biden win in South Carolina on Saturday – Sanders will earn a commanding delegate lead by next Wednesday morning. Democratic candidates will no longer be focused on winning, but instead on stopping Sanders.

The odds aren’t in their favor.

That all brings me back to my ballot. If there were a clear-cut, individual challenger to Sanders, my choice would be easy. It isn’t that I dislike Sanders; I find the gruff, grumpy grandfather act a little endearing. It’s similar to the way I felt about the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia.

I just don’t buy into Sanders’ policy proposals. Sure, a lot of it sounds great. But that’s only if you overlook that even Sanders himself doesn’t know the full cost of his many plans.

To put it into perspective, in order to achieve government services similar to Denmark, a mainstay in Sanders’ “other countries have done it” mantra, anyone making over $65,000 would be taxed at a 55.9% rate. Talk about sticker shock.

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It’s also a huge problem for Sanders in a matchup against Trump.

Sure, recent polls show him beating Trump by almost as much as Biden or Bloomberg. But national polls can be very misleading. It doesn’t matter if Sanders racks up big wins in California and New York, but loses Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. Just ask Not-President Hillary Clinton.

It’s in those Rust Belt states, or Democratic fever-dream battlegrounds like Georgia or Texas, where Sanders’ policy proposals could drag down both his presidential campaign and his (nominal) party at the same time.

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How many voters in those critical Electoral College states won’t punch their ballot for Sanders? Or worse yet, be driven into the tiny, but welcoming hands of Trump?

I had this conversation recently with my father. He voted for Trump in 2016 but believes there are “two or three Democrats I’d vote for over him today.” 

But if the nominee is Sanders? He couldn’t cast his ballot for Trump fast enough.

I doubt his vote or my vote (likely for a Libertarian if Sanders is nominated) will matter much in Colorado. Given recent deep-blue-tinted election outcomes here, I’m reasonably confident our state will support any Democratic nominee. But losing votes like ours could be devastating in other states.

Between now and Tuesday, I’ll be dropping off my first-ever Democratic Party primary ballot. I’ll be voting for Biden and crossing my fingers that he eclipses the 15% mark necessary to accrue national delegates. 

If neither he nor anyone other than Sanders does, Democrats may want to begin pre-emptively crossing theirs for November.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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