Can Bernie Sanders still win after Super Tuesday?

Ron Kampeas

Bernie Sanders walking onstage to greet supporters after winning the Vermont primary on Super Tuesday in Essex Junction, Vermont, March 1, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders walking onstage to greet supporters after winning the Vermont primary on Super Tuesday in Essex Junction, Vermont, March 1, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump both won decisively on Super Tuesday, but neither swept the 11 states at stake on the biggest day of the presidential primaries.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., won four state Democratic primaries, giving him a total of five after he took New Hampshire last month.

On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won three states and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., won one, Minnesota, and performed better than expected in another, Virginia, where he came in second to Trump. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, have yet to win a single state in the GOP contests.

That means questions remain.

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Is this the beginning of the end for Sanders?

Unlike the Republican crowd, Sanders and Clinton have generally refrained from the kinds of attacks on one another that could be used by the opposition party in the general election. Sanders in a debate last year famously dispensed with the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, calling it irrelevant. In recent weeks, though, he has sharpened his attacks on her for taking Wall Street money, including for speeches to finance companies.

After Tuesday’s voting, Clinton commands more than a thousand of the 2,383 delegates needed for the nomination, while Sanders is at 408. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky, a liberal columnist, advised Sanders to realize that it’s essentially over, and that his rationale for staying in the race now would be to influence Clinton rather than destroy her:

“From here on in, Sanders ought to lay off the attacks on Hillary Clinton, the Goldman Sachs speeches and all the rest. Eventually, he’s going to lose. She’s going to win. He can do it in a way that burnishes his standing in the party he’s decided to be a member of and that makes him a pivotally powerful senator during a potential Clinton presidency. Or he can do it in a way that damages her reputation and ultimately his own.”

Sanders’ speech, in Burlington, Vermont, suggested that he may be receptive to that approach. He included a single, gentle, jab at Clinton about her claim that he thinks “too big,” but trained most of his fire on Republicans. Tellingly, he also, poignantly, looked back to the launch of his campaign rather than to his victory, and seemed to embrace his candidacy as a vehicle for influencing the race as opposed to winning it.

“What I have said from day one in this campaign and I suspect many of you were down on the lake with me when we announced on that beautiful day, what I have said is that this campaign is not just about electing a president. It is about making a political revolution. What that revolution is about is bringing millions of millions of people into the political process. Working people who have been so disillusioned, they no longer vote. Young people who have never been involved,” he said.

Cruz or Rubio: Whom does the Jewish establishment favor?

They say familiarity breeds contempt. Both Cruz and Rubio are youthful sons of Cuban immigrants who have at times been propelled by the Tea Party.

Cruz made the case Tuesday night that it’s time for Rubio to clear out. “After tonight we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten that can beat and that will beat Donald Trump,” he said in a Houston area rally, noting that his three wins brings to four his total victories in the nomination contest.

Rubio wasn’t budging.

“No matter how long it takes, no matter how many states it takes, no matter how many weeks and months it takes, I will campaign as long it takes and wherever it takes to ensure that I am the next president of the United States,” he said in Miami.

Where are the Jews lining up? Rubio remains a favorite of pro-Israel conservatives; witness the spin in the day-after column by Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post columnist who is something of a bellwether for the pro-Israel subset among Republicans:

“The premise of Cruz’s speech was that he was the only candidate to have beaten Trump. One problem: Just a short while later, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) won Minnesota. Moreover, Rubio has come in ahead of Cruz in not only Minnesota but in states in which neither won (Vermont, Virginia and Massachusetts, not to mention South Carolina and Nevada). Even in a state Cruz once banked on winning, Georgia, Rubio edged him out for second place. It sure seems like Rubio, especially with Cruz out of the race, would be the strongest candidate against Trump in states yet to come, including Florida, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey (some now want Christie to resign, so he may not be the best Trump surrogate there) and other states outside the Deep South.”

Additionally, a major pro-Israel Rubio backer, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, is reportedly involved in the establishment of a political establishment committee aimed at stopping Trump.

On the other hand, Cruz, who just weeks ago was lumped with Trump as the bane of the Republican establishment, is beginning to attract mainstream attention as the best chance to stop the real estate billionaire. That’s true too among the party’s most prominent pro-Israel contingent. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., perhaps the senator closest to the pro-Israel community and who once likened Cruz and Trump to different modes of violent death, is now saying he can stomach Cruz, if it means stopping Trump.

Cruz also posted a list of “Jewish leaders” who have endorsed him. These are routine for campaigns, and in this case, as in many others, the list includes folks whose “leadership” seems limited to their appearances on such lists. There are, however, some notable inclusions: Sarah Stern’s group, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, has been funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who reportedly is wavering between Cruz and Rubio. Ben Chouake is the president of the biggest pro-Israel PACs, NORPAC. Michael and Barbara Ledeen have been deeply involved for decades in Republican foreign policy shaping.

Will the candidates stop trolling each other about Israel and Jews?

Not likely. Note where Rubio, Trump and Clinton delivered their speeches: Florida, the state where a March 15 primary is must-win for all three, and which includes a substantial Jewish constituency that has been a battleground in primaries and in general elections at least since 2000.

Rubio and Cruz both took aim in their speeches Tuesday night at Trump’s professions of neutrality when it comes to Israel, and they are unlikely to drop this chew toy any time soon.

“Donald Trump pledged to be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians. As president I will not be neutral. I will stand unapologetically with the State of Israel,” Cruz said.

Rubio said, “When Trump was asked about whether he would side with Israel, he said he’s not taking sides — he wants to be impartial. When I’m president of the United States, we are taking sides — we are on Israel’s side.

Is the David Duke thing going away?

Trump is unsurprisingly ready to move on, asking in his speech at his Palm Beach, Florida resort, “How many times are you supposed to disavow” white supremacist and anti-Semitic former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who endorsed Trump. The candidate equivocated on Sunday about whether he was ready to disavow Duke, although later in the day he did so.

Clinton, confident after her Super Tuesday wins, devoted much of her speech to taking on Trump, and led with an allusion to the Duke controversy, saying: “We’re going to work for every vote, and we will need all of you to keep volunteering, contributing, doing everything you can, talking to your friends and neighbors because this country belongs to all of us not just those at the top. Not just the people who look one way, worship one way or even think one way.”

Sanders too said, “What the political revolution is about is bringing our people together. Black and white, Latino, Asian-Americans. Gay and straight. People born in America, people who have immigrated to America. When we bring our people together, when we do not allow the Donald Trumps of the world to divide us up.”

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