Bernie bows out: Democratic candidate Joe Biden could pose a tough challenge to President Donald Trump

In a big development for US politics, Bernie Sanders has withdrawn from the Democratic primary race, leaving former vice-president Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee for US presidential elections later this year. Sanders, who had galvanised young, college going Americans over his two successive attempts at securing the Democratic nomination, really did not have a shot at overcoming Biden’s lead after a string of primary losses in late February and March. Add to this the current freeze in the election cycle given the coronavirus pandemic, and Sanders decided to concede.

From the Democratic point of view, Sanders has conceded at the right moment with half a year still to go for presidential elections. This will give Biden sufficient room to concentrate his fire on President Donald Trump, rather than having to engage in divisive intra-party battles. And despite Americans’ tendency to vote for incumbent presidents, Trump’s bungled handling of the coronavirus which has led to spiralling American deaths makes him a target of opportunity for Biden, if the latter can play his cards right.

Biden can bank on his record as Barack Obama’s deputy and galvanise key pillars of the Democratic Party, like black voters. And given his overall centrist position, he can potentially attract floating, independent voters. In fact, a host of recent polls shows Biden leading Trump in a head-to-head by at least 6.3 points. If Biden chooses a woman running mate – there are options galore from Kamala Harris to Elizabeth Warren – it could bolster his support base further. From India’s point of view Biden is a known figure with whom it can do business should he become the next US president, while Sanders’s left-wing stance made him a big unknown. Biden versus Trump will be an interesting contest in which no outcome can be taken for granted.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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