Bloomberg Backs Biden
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It is the morning after Super Tuesday, and the repercussions are coming quickly. Joe Biden won big. And former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg just announced he will suspend his campaign after failing to win any states last night, and we are getting word that Senator Elizabeth Warren may be rethinking her path to the nomination. Joining us now to talk through the latest news, NPR political correspondents Scott Detrow and Mara Liasson.
Hi, you two. Thanks for being here.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So Mara - I want to start with you, Mara. Mike Bloomberg didn't just drop out of the race; he also endorsed Joe Biden. What kind of a difference will that make for the former vice president?
LIASSON: Well, I think it will make a difference. Don't forget - the only reason that Mike Bloomberg got into the race is that, originally, he said he didn't want to run because he thought Joe Biden was strong; when he saw Joe Biden collapsing and the left-wing candidates that he thought were too far to the left to beat Donald Trump surging, that's when he got in.
LIASSON: He also said, all along, no matter who the nominee is, even if it isn't him, that he would spend whatever it took to defeat Donald Trump. So what it means for Joe Biden going forward is that Michael Bloomberg's huge wallet - you know, he's worth over $60 billion - is going to be at the disposal of the Democratic Party and Joe Biden. And that is a huge, potentially game-changing, historic thing because the out-party is always outspent by the incumbent president and his party, and that might not be the case this time.
MARTIN: Right. But Scott, you've been following the Sanders campaign. I mean, can't they leverage this to their advantage, the Bloomberg-Biden connection, at this point?
DETROW: I think that's something I'll be listening for going forward. It was interesting to me that, just like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders seemed very happy to rail against a multi-multi-multibillionaire who was spending a half billion dollars to hop into the race at the last moment. It was, like, a tailor-made opponent for Bernie Sanders.
DETROW: But over the last few days, the last week or so, it's really become just a throwaway line here or there, and Sanders has increasingly focused his attacks on Joe Biden and his long track record in the Senate, especially voting for things like the Iraq War, for things like NAFTA and other trade deals, to - and now he's airing ads in Florida and Michigan and other states voting next against Joe Biden. The Sanders campaign has increasingly calibrated all of its focus against Joe Biden, saying it was an effective two-person race. Now, increasingly, it's going to be an actual two-person race at this point...
DETROW: ...With Elizabeth Warren being the exception for now.
MARTIN: So let's...
LIASSON: Can I say...
MARTIN: Yeah, go ahead, Mara.
LIASSON: No, I was going to say something about those ads. The ads attacked Joe Biden for his votes on Social Security and the Iraq War and trade deals. But he also has an ad, an unusual ad for Bernie Sanders, tying himself to Barack Obama...
MARTIN: I saw that.
LIASSON: ...The guy he said wasn't progressive enough...
LIASSON: ...And didn't care about - and suggested that Obama didn't care about working-class and middle-class Americans. He's going to get a lot of grief for that. The big task...
LIASSON: ...Going forward for both of these candidates is, sure, they want to beat each other, but in the end, how do they unite the party, which means appealing to each other's voters. They can't win without appealing to each other's voters. How does Sanders do that? How does Biden do that?
DETROW: And that was the first step that...
MARTIN: But isn't that what he's trying to do with that ad, Scott?
DETROW: I think that was the first substantive step. It's after Super Tuesday; the words are sometimes trouble.
MARTIN: Substantive (laughter).
DETROW: Yes, that was the word. Thank you, Rachel. It was the first step along those lines that Sanders has taken in a while in an appeal to more moderate, more - the types of voters who might be a little more OK with that establishment that Sanders blasts every day. That was a really interesting ad to me, the look-Barack-Obama-likes-me-too ad.
LIASSON: He's going to get a lot of flak for that.
MARTIN: Right. But a lot of people have talked about the need for - if you want a progressive agenda in this country, that it has to come with more empathy for the other side, that it can't just be, you know, us versus them. So we'll see if that works for him moving forward. We should take a minute and talk about Elizabeth Warren because she came in third in her home state of Massachusetts. Our own Asma Khalid has confirmed that she and her team are reassessing the path forward. I mean, what happened, Mara?
LIASSON: That is such a good question because Elizabeth Warren started this race with the best organization, the best political skills, the ability to tell her personal story and explain her plans in commonsense, down-to-earth language, and it just didn't take off. People who wanted a progressive candidate went to the original OG, Bernie Sanders.
LIASSON: And then she started bleeding votes to other candidates who appealed to liberal, college-educated Democrats like Pete Buttigieg. Some of it was gender. Some of it was strategic mistakes that she made when she came out with a plan to pay for mandatory Medicare for All without raising taxes on the middle class. Turns out she had to raise taxes on everything else that moved. I think that books will be written about what happened to Elizabeth Sanders - I'm sorry...
MARTIN: Elizabeth Warren.
LIASSON: ...Elizabeth Warren's wonderful campaign.
DETROW: And I don't know if necessarily her supporters would all go to Bernie Sanders if she does, in fact, drop out of this race. We have seen in the last few contests she draws a lot of support from high-income, high-education people, people who live in cities, women in particular. I don't know if that's necessarily the Sanders base.
MARTIN: So just one more note on that Bernie Sanders ad and the need to build a coalition, right? I mean, we saw Joe Biden do so well with African Americans, not just in South Carolina but across the board on Super Tuesday. Clearly, Bernie Sanders feeling like that's a demographic that he needs to figure out a way to build.
LIASSON: I think it's a little late. The states coming up have a lot of African Americans. The Hispanics that vote in Florida, which votes in two weeks, are not the kind of Hispanics that are going to be happy about Bernie Sanders' comments about Fidel Castro.
MARTIN: Scott, final thoughts?
DETROW: You know, one interesting thing that producer Barbara Sprunt and I noticed is, as the night went on, the Sanders supporters in the crowd seemed more happy, more optimistic. It's almost like having everyone against them and being the underdogs is the natural state for Sanders...
DETROW: ...Not that state of being the front-runner of the past month.
MARTIN: Right. We'll see how that unfolds. NPR's Scott Detrow and Mara Liasson with news that Mike Bloomberg has dropped out of the presidential race, now endorsing Joe Biden.
DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.