Sanders drops out, but Arizona supporters say they are still in the fight

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders welcomes the roar from supporters at a Phoenix campaign rally in March. Sanders suspended his presidential campaign Wednesday, but some of his supporters in Arizona said they plan to keep pushing for policies in his campaign. (Photo by Michael Hannan/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his 2020 Democratic presidential bid Wednesday, but his Arizona supporters said they will still push his message of Medicare for all, eliminating student debt and raising the minimum wage.

“He’s changed the paradigm in American politics and we’re never going to go back,” said Dan O’Neal. He said Sanders’ campaign was “something that inspires people, you know, for what’s possible in the future. So I’m optimistic, not pessimistic.”

In an online address to supporters Wednesday, Sanders said that whileÿ “the path toward victory is virtually impossible,” he plans to stay on the ballot in the remaining states and continue to gather delegates.

Sanders’ decision clears the way for former Vice President Joe Biden, the only major Democrat remaining in the races. Sanders called the end of his bid a “very difficult and painful decision,” but said he will be working with Biden to “move our progressive ideas forward.”

Arizona was one of three states that was swept on March 17 by Biden, whom Sanders welcomed as the party’s presumptive nominee in his address Wednesday.

That sweep was seen as a likely fatal blow to Sanders’ chances by analysts, who said Wednesday they were surprised he was dropping out – only that it took him this long.

Mike Noble, chief of research at OH Predictive Insights, called Sanders pulling out of the race an “inevitability.” The bigger surprise was “why he was staying in because his odds of winning were incredibly low.”

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But Noble said the withdrawal of Sanders, an independent who identifies as Democratic Socialist, is “good news for Democrats.”

“The takeaway Is that a moderate, or a proceeding moderate, is going to be far better than a liberal for Democrats’ chances down-ticket in Arizona,” Noble said.

Noble said with the latest poll by OH Predictive of 600 likely Arizona voters, from early March, showed Biden beating Trump by 6% in Arizona. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Noble said he still thinks Biden has a pretty good chance of winning overall, but that could change as the two candidates get into debates, and with the uncertain impact COVID-19 could have on the election.

While Sanders said he plans to work with Biden, not all of his supporters in Arizona were sure they could vote for the former vice president in November.

Fraser Cartwright said he would “absolutely not” be supporting Biden because he thinks Trump and Biden are “different sides of the same coin.” He also said he is concerned he will even be able to vote in November, depending on how the coronavirus plays out.

“They’ve made no effort that I know of other than some kind of early voting where you could actually do some type of ballot voting from home, but we’re not going to see that in any decent way,” Cartwright said.

But other supporters, like O’Neal, focused on what they see of the positives of the Sanders’ campaign and its effect on the party.

O’Neal, an Arizona coordinator for Progressive Democrats in America, said he was disappointed and frustrated with Wednesday’s announcement, but that “it’s important to understand and be really grateful and thankful for Bernie Sanders and all of the issues he brought up.”

O’Neal said that while he and other progressive Democrats will vote for Biden to defeat Trump, they will still push Sanders’ agenda.

After faltering in a crowded Democratic field in early primary states, former Vice President Joe Biden – shown here in Iowa in July – surged to front-runner status before Super Tuesday and is now the likely nominee. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

O’Neal said that while he and other progressive Democrats will vote for Biden to defeat Trump, they will still push Sanders’ agenda.

“Most of us will be continuing to push the issues like Medicare for all and, and student debt, fight for $15 an hour and in all of the important issues that Bernie brought up,” O’Neal said. “Particularly Medicare for all now in the midst of his pandemic and healthcare crisis that we’re in.”

That enthusiasm was acknowledged by Biden, who said Sanders had “created a movement” as he invited those supporters to back his campaign now.

Eric Cardenas, a Sanders supporter in Arizona, called Wednesday “deeply disappointing,” even though it “was looking more and more likely that the announcement was coming soon.” But he still has hope for the future.

“If you look at the generational split in the Democratic Party right now, you’ll see what I mean – the overwhelming majority of people under 50 voted for Bernie, in huge numbers all across the country,” Cardenas said. “It goes to show that Bernie and his ideas and his movement are definitely winning the future generations.”

Cardenas said he will “reluctantly” cast his vote for Biden in November, but does not plan to volunteer like he did for the Sanders campaign.

O’Neal said he expects the fight to continue.

“This is still a long battle for the future and all real change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep that in perspective.”

Politics Reporter, Washington, D.C.