Democracy 2020 Digest: Sanders heavy on electability, light on revolution, on eve of SC primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sen. Bernie Sanders is touting his electability – and is apparently cutting back on his campaign trail use of the word "revolution."

The populist senator from Vermont – who is the current front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination -- touted his electability in his last rally in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s primary.


Sanders – as Fox News’ Andrew Craft highlights -- urged the crowd at a rally at a park in downtown Columbia on Friday afternoon to “take a look at the last 60 national polls that have been done, Bernie beats Trump 56 out of the 60 times. Take a look at some of the polls in the battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Bernie beats Trump.”

Electability had long been former Vice President Joe Biden’s major selling point – that he was the strongest Democratic candidate to take on President Trump in November’s general election.

But as Sanders claimed a raw vote win in Iowa’s caucuses, rolled to an outright victory in New Hampshire’s primary, and routed his rivals in last weekend’s Nevada caucuses, his national poll numbers have soared and more and more Democrats are starting to see the independent senator as the strongest contender to take out Trump.

And Sanders did not say at Friday’s rally that he’s pushing for a political ‘revolution,’ which has long been part of his stump speech.


Sanders also took aim twice on Friday at the president over Trump’s rally Friday evening in Charleston, S.C. It’s the third straight state where the president’s held a rally on the eve of a Democratic primary or caucus – following New Hampshire and Nevada.

Pointing to the worsening global coronavirus, Sanders argued that “one might think that in the midst of a major health care crisis, the president of the United States would be assembling doctors and scientists and researchers. Not Donald Trump. He is here in South Carolina for one reason, to disrupt the democratic primary.”

“He hopes that he can get a little media attention taking away from the Democratic candidates. How petty, how pathetic is that? So I say to Donald Trump, don't worry about the Democratic primary cause we're gonna beat you. Start worrying about the coronavirus and the health care crisis in America. Do your job as president,” Sanders added, taking a shot at the president.

While Democratic presidential candidates and Democratic lawmakers in Washington have criticized the president and his administration for downplaying the scope of the virus, the White House has defended Trump’s response to the global crisis.

Sanders departed South Carolina on Friday late afternoon for Massachusetts – one of the 14 states holding contests next week on Super Tuesday. The Vermont senator is aiming to defeat fellow progressive champion and 2020 Democratic primary rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on her own turn in Tuesday’s primary.

As the polls close in South Carolina on Saturday evening, Sanders will be in Virginia, which has the fifth-largest haul of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday. Overall, one-third of all the Democratic presidential nomination pledged delegates will be in play on Tuesday.

Sanders has been pouring a lot of his time and money the past couple of weeks into the Super Tuesday states. In the runup to last weekend’s Nevada caucuses, Sanders campaigned in California and Texas – the two biggest Super Tuesday prizes. And Thursday he campaigned in North Carolina – the third biggest state to hold a contest next week.

Steyer’s optimistic

After poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Tom Steyer was hoping for a strong finish in Nevada.

The billionaire hedge fund manager turned environmental and progressive advocate spent a lot of money and time in the Silver State, but didn’t get much bang for his buck as he finished in the low single digits in last weekend’s caucuses.

But Steyer – who’s been heavily courting black voters – is optimistic things will be different in South Carolina.

A Real Clear Politics average the seven polls conducted this week of likely Democratic presidential primary voters in the Palmetto State showed him in third place at 13 percent – behind Biden and Sanders.

Steyer told Fox News on Friday that “we have a very good team here. I’ve spent a lot of time on the ground and I’m talking straight forwardly about issues. This is a heavily African-American state. I talk very straight forwardly about race. I’m the only person talking about reparations for slavery. I think I’ve been here the most and looked most people in the eye and talked most straight forwardly and I think that’s why.”

Asked how a solid finish in South Carolina will help him in the Super Tuesday states, Steyer emphasized: “I think that’s a springboard for people to think that I can pull this party together, which is what I want.”

Steyer and Biden are the only two Democratic candidates who will be in South Carolina when the polls close on Saturday night.

Biden’s South Carolina bounce?

For Biden, a win in South Carolina is a necessity – coming after poor fourth and fifth places finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire followed by a distant second place finish to Sanders in Nevada.


But the former vice president feels he’s already getting a boost out of South Carolina heading into Super Tuesday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden delivers delivering a speech about gun reform outside of Toliver’s Mane Event barbershop in Columbia, SC on Feb. 28, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden delivers delivering a speech about gun reform outside of Toliver’s Mane Event barbershop in Columbia, SC on Feb. 28, 2020

Speaking with reporters - including Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera – after delivering a speech about gun reform outside of the Columbia barbershop Toliver’s Mane Event, Biden said he thinks he’s already got enough of boost from his time in South Carolina that will carry over into Tuesday’s coast to coast contests.

On Sunday, Biden will campaign in the Super Tuesday states of Alabama and Virginia. At his stop in Norfolk, Biden will be joined by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. The 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee on Friday endorsed Biden.

Fox News' Madeleine Rivera and Andrew Craft contributed to this report.