Can Biden Still Be Stopped?

After big wins on Super Tuesday, the former Vice President appears to be consolidating moderate and establishment support. Can Sanders regain his momentum?

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images

Subscribe to the Deconstructed podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public, and other platforms. New to podcasting? Click here.


It’s being described as one of the biggest turnarounds in presidential primary history. After disappointing results in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, Joe Biden appeared to be fading in Bernie Sanders’ rearview mirror. Then came his crushing win in South Carolina, after which Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg all dropped out of the race. Klobuchar and Buttigieg, along with former candidate Beto O’Rourke, then endorsed Biden, cementing the growing consensus among establishment Democrats that the former Vice President is the best positioned candidate to stop Bernie. Where does all this leave the Democratic race? Mehdi talks to Intercept DC bureau chief Ryan Grim and to Larry Cohen of Our Revolution about Biden’s big night and about Bernie’s path forward.

Joe Biden: Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits declared the campaign dead. We were told well, when he got to Super Tuesday, it’d be over. Well it may be over for the other guy.

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: It may be over for the other guy. The other guy, of course, being Bernie Sanders, for whom Super Tuesday was not so super.

So, welcome to the always super podcast that is Deconstructed, I’m Mehdi Hasan. What a night it was on Tuesday where Joe Biden took the lead in the Democratic primary race and took back his frontrunner spot from fellow septuagenarian Bernie Sanders.

It’s now a two-horse race.

Larry Cohen: We have to figure out how to build the progressive campaign that can win delegates next week particularly in Michigan and Washington and then going forward in Illinois, Florida and the other key states.

MH: That’s my guest today Larry Cohen, chair of the pro-Sanders group Our Revolution, and a former campaign adviser to Bernie back during the 2016 election. I’m also joined by The Intercept’s DC bureau chief Ryan Grim, to chew the fat and deconstruct all the results.

How bad were they for Bernie? What happens next? And is Joe Biden — Joe Biden! — really the safe option to take on Trump in November?

Newscaster: It was, in a word, shocking.

Newscaster: Former Vice President Joe Biden making a remarkable political come back from the brink.

Brian Williams: Joe-mentum is real tonight. So we’ve established that.

Pundit: This is the most blindingly fast political comeback at the presidential level that I’ve seen in my lifetime.

MH:What a turnaround. Joe Biden, declared politically dead and buried by many of us just last week, is now the frontrunner again in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He won 10 states to Bernie Sanders’ four on Super Tuesday, and now leads in both popular vote and the number of pledged delegates.

On the one hand, an amazing change of fortunes. A comeback, if you will. He won Texas, which many thought Sanders had in the bag. He won blowout victories not just in places like Alabama but also in the swing state of Virginia, where he was outspent by Michael Bloomberg and out-organized by Bernie Sanders.

On the other hand, though, as I often say on this show: context matters: this is the guy who was the front runner for much of the past year, he’s the former vice president of the United States. He was leading in Texas until just a couple of weeks ago. And the only reason he had to pull off a comeback in the first place is because he performed disastrously in the first few contests, coming fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire. But he’s now back in the lead, though it’s a narrow lead in terms of delegates, Bernie Sanders is still in this, and it would be as mad to write him off this week as it was to write off Biden last week.

But here’s a question that may affect things: What will Elizabeth Warren do now? She was humiliated in her home state of Massachusetts, coming third, behind Biden who won it, and Bernie who came second. What’s her plan now? We don’t know. By time you listen to this show, she may have dropped out and endorsed Bernie Sanders. Or, God help us all, Joe Biden. I think if she does endorse Biden, someone she’s been politically opposed to for so long, it will destroy, it will destroy her progressive legacy, it will. This is a moment of truth for her and what she stands for.

But let me say two things about Warren: 1) it’s wrong for some Bernie supporters to blame her for his disappointing results on Tuesday. It’s not Warren’s fault that so many African American voters went for Biden over Bernie, and if you’re going to argue that Bernie was undermined by her presence in the race, then you also have to acknowledge that Biden was undermined by Bloomberg’s presence in the race. And 2) Warren did a major service in this 2020 race by almost single-handedly taking down Michael Bloomberg’s oligarchic attempt to buy the presidency and we should be eternally grateful to her for that.

Elizabeth Warren: I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.

MH: A quick word on Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg and I and Bloomberg and all of you have something in common: none of us won a state on Super Tuesday. The difference is that you and I didn’t spend 500 million dollars trying and failing to win a state on Super Tuesday. To be fair to the billionaire from New York, he did pick up five delegates in the tiny US territory of American Samoa, which means he spent around 100 million dollars per delegate. As Axios put it, never has a candidate spent so much for so little in return. 500 million dollars is only a little bit less than the entire GDP of American Samoa, which apparently is based around tuna canning, FYI.

Seriously, though, what a criminal waste of money. As I said to his fellow failed billionaire candidate Tom Steyer on this show a few weeks ago, he might as well have just piled up his cash in his backyard and set it all on fire. Imagine how many kids with cancer in the US he could have helped with that money? Or kids with malaria in sub-saharan Africa? How many schools he could have built? He could have single handedly fixed the water problem in Flint with that money. Or invested it in key Senate races that the Democrats need to win in November. 500 million dollars!

Anyways, rant over — back to Biden vs Bernie.

Personally, I do not get why it is so many Democrats have bought into this idea that Biden is the electable one, Biden is the safe pair of hands, Biden is the guy we can rely on to beat Trump in November. Are they just watching a different guy on the debate stage? To the guy I’ve been watching? To the guy we’ve been discussing on this show the last few months? Have they forgotten the 2016 race, where the Democrats nominated a pro-Iraq war, pro-big business, centrist candidate, with a long history of dodgy dealings and dodgy claims, and who yes, won the black vote in the primaries but then got destroyed over their support for mass incarceration during the general election and saw depressed levels of black turnout in the election against Trump? Are they really repeating 2016? I mean, isn’t the definition of madness doing the same thing over again and expecting different results?

I’m not saying Bernie Sanders doesn’t have problems going into an election, he does. But even if you hate Bernie Sanders, why would you think Biden is your savior? The former vice president has a problem, not just with gaffes:

Joe Biden: We hold these truths to be self evident. All men and women are created

by oh, you know the, you know the thing.

MH: But also with straight up lies.

JB: I came back from South Africa trying to see Nelson Mandela and getting arrested for trying to see him on Robben’s Island. He was in prison.

MH: He didn’t get arrested in South Africa, for the record, and he’s had to walk that back.

People say to me, well, the Bernie Bros hurt Hillary in 2016 and now they’ll hurt Biden. Which is ridiculous. You know who hurt Hillary, apart from Hillary herself who ran an awful campaign? A ruthless Republican Party machine, Fox News too, which attacked her from the left on Iraq and on mass incarceration which hurt her with African Americans, and they’ll do all of that again this time with Biden, a candidate who has all of Hillary’s weaknesses and very few of her strengths. You’re gonna hear a lot more about Hunter Biden and Burisma and Ukraine in next few months. Ukraine, Burisma will be Biden’s emails. I mean, Republicans in the Senate have already got going:

Lindsey Graham: If you’re gonna run for president, and you were in charge of the Ukrainian anti-corruption campaign as vice president and your son is sitting on the most corrupt company in the country while you’re trying to clean up the country, yeah, that’d come up.

MH: But look, if Bernie Sanders wants to beat Joe Biden and get the nomination for himself, he’s gonna have to up his game. The entire Bernie strategy was based on upping turnout, especially youth turnout. On Super Tuesday, in most of the states he won and lost, youth turnout wasn’t up on 2016, it was down. The youth surge outside of parts of California perhaps didn’t happen and in places like Virginia, the increase in turnout benefited Biden not Bernie. That’s a huge problem for the Sanders campaign which they’re going to have to try and fix before the next crucial primary in Michigan next week.

And then there’s his overall approach to the Democratic Party. Bernie, the insurgent, went after the Democratic establishment by name. And guess what, the Democratic establishment got together and finally hit back hard – with all those big names coming out and endorsing Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday. You can’t be surprised that happened. That was always going to happen. So Bernie has to expand his support inside of the party, with ordinary Democrats, with people who aren’t his natural supporters, or he can’t win. It’s that simple. As Ezra Klein of Vox wrote on Wednesday morning: “To win the Democratic primary and govern as a Democratic president, you need to win over Democrats who aren’t your natural allies, who didn’t start out in your corner. Biden knows that and acts accordingly. The Sanders campaign is going to have to learn the same lesson, and fast.”

Yep, really fast.

[Music interlude.]

MH: Later in the show, I’ll be speaking to Larry Cohen, a former Bernie Sanders campaign advisor, who now is chair of the Our Revolution group. But first Joining me to discuss the fallout from Super Tuesday and what Bernie and Biden do now and what happened with Elizabeth Warren is the intercept’s DC bureau chief Ryan Grim, a friend of and regular guest on the show. Ryan, thanks for coming back on Deconstructed.

Ryan Grim: Good to be here, friend.

MH: You caught up on sleep?

RG: I slept this morning, after taking my kids to school.

MH: And when you went to sleep, what were you thinking in your head? What was your kind of final thoughts about the night that just went on? How amazed were you by the “Biden comeback?”

RG: So, I was trying to think back to whether there’s been a historical period where a swing has happened that quickly and that far. I hesitate to call it organic, you know, the, the party leadership and the media, you know, kind of push people, but it was not the result of some on the ground organizing effort by Joe Biden or television ads that were being run by Biden’s super PAC or by him. So in that sense, it was organic. And I was thinking back to 1988. There have been so many parallels with the 1988 Democratic primary where Jesse Jackson —

MH: Was the insurgent.

RG: — Was the insurgent and won this caucus in Michigan to become the delegate kind of leader along with Michael Dukakis. And he was polling well ahead in Wisconsin, which was supposed to vote 10 days later. And there was an absolute meltdown in Washington over that 10 days. And we saw that same meltdown happened in the 10 days from Nevada to Super Tuesday.

MH: It was really the 72 hours between South Carolina voting and Super Tuesday. The momentum after his big win in South Carolina and then you have this one after another people pulling out and endorsing him Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and then good old Beto and he won Texas.

RG: It was but I think it’s a mistake to overlook the Democratic Party freakout that happened from Saturday to Saturday, from Nevada to South Carolina, because I think that that seeded the ground like that paved the way or that created the ability for things to move so quickly.

MH: To give credit to Biden, it didn’t have to move to him. There was also Bloomberg, I mean, it was only a few days ago on the show we were talking about Bloomberg. And the two things that destroyed Bloomberg were one, Elizabeth Warren in that debate and two, the fact that Biden one South Carolina big and reminded everyone, I still got African American support. I still got old people support.

RG: Right yes, there’s because electability is such a prime if perhaps unique driver in this primary, that winning begets winning. So losing begets losing.

MH: Indeed and it’s funny you mentioned good old electability, which we discussed so much on the show, in almost all of the states that Biden won on Tuesday, majorities or pluralities of Democratic voters in the state said they support a Medicare for All system in which all private insurance is abolished. A complete hardline, left-wing Bernie Sanders position, but they didn’t vote for Bernie Sanders, because they put “beating Trump” up higher than having a kind of ideological ally in the White House. My problem with that argument is you can hate Bernie Sanders or you can love him and love his positions, I just don’t get what calculation people are making in thinking Joe Biden is the electable candidate? I just don’t see it. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I don’t see it. How is he the safe option?

RG: You know, I think the media has done a similar thing with him that they’ve done with Donald Trump, which is that they squeeze coherence out of incoherence. If you read the lead of any Washington Post or New York Times story about something that Trump has said about foreign policy or even domestic policy, for that matter, it will be written in the classic article format, you know, the Trump admin, you know, President Trump on Mondays — It will sound coherent. You won’t necessarily agree with his positions and then you go back and look at the tweet and the video from which they’re drawing this article. Like no, this is just complete and utter nonsense and the media papers that over with Biden, and so it becomes —

MH: I think hours before Super Tuesday, he was unable to complete a basic sentence from the Declaration of Independence. People say oh, he’s got a stammer. Okay, but how does the stammer explain the fact that he spent much of February lying about being arrested in South Africa trying to meet with Nelson Mandela? Things that would disqualify normal candidates in normal election years. But we don’t live in a normal political era anymore on either side of the political divide, and therefore he gets this pass from Democratic voters because they’re told, and they’ve come to believe that he’s the electable person. I just see 2016 happening all over again, sorry.

RG: Right, and ’88 happening all over again. Dukakis was said to be the electable person.

MH: And John Kerry 2004.

RG: Right, and so everything bottomed out for Jesse Jackson, Dukakis won Wisconsin, and he kind of stumbled into the convention with less than majority and was given the nomination on the first ballot which — And I think Bernie Sanders needs to recognize that that there’s no scenario in which Sanders kind of walks into the convention with 40% and then walks out with the nomination, unless that scenario involves other candidates handing him delegates that they’ve earned but I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren for instance has even earned enough to make that possible.

MH: Just you mentioned Warren, I was gonna come to her later but since you brought her up, by the time people at home hear this chat of ours Ryan, she may have pulled out of the race. She’s having discussions with her team as we speak. Is it fair to say that for Elizabeth Warren, the question now is does she want to be an insider or an outsider?

RG: I mean, I suppose that she could kind of shed her image of the last 10-15 years and just go whole hog and endorse the Democratic Party establishment and try to become treasury secretary or something under a Biden administration but a, I think she is —

MH: Joe Biden is not gonna make her treasury secretary. That won’t work for him and his Wall Street friends.

RG: That’s A. B, I don’t think she thinks that Joe Biden would win the election. So it’s, you know, that’s fool’s gold that you’re being offered at that point. But yeah, more importantly, is that like she — The party establishment had every opportunity to anoint her as the alternative to Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden completely bottomed out through January and February. The party establishment chose not to do that. And so you know, it must be very clear to her that whether she wants to be an insider or not, insiders don’t want her to be one.

MH: Yeah, so you’ve followed her for years. You’ve interviewed her many times. You’ve followed her career. You know her pretty well. Gun to your head if you had to decide and, and this might all be resolved by the people at home hear Deconstructed this week. Do you think she’ll come out and endorse Bernie Sanders?

RG: You know, I’m in a place where I really don’t know.

MH: Yeah, same. I have no clue.

RG: I could go either way. And I would —

MH: If she does endorse Biden, I think she basically destroys any progressive legacy record that she’s built up because I just —

RG: I can’t imagine that happening. She came into public life and we reported this on Monday — The Working Families Party did an on the record interview with us pointing out she came into public life to battle Joe Biden over bankruptcy.

MH: And yet she and Bernie Sanders have not battled Joe Biden over bankruptcy over the last year. Regular listeners of the show know, I’ve been tearing my hair out that in these debates, he gets a pass partly because there are so many people on the damn stage, but partly because people just won’t touch him on obvious weaknesses like the bankruptcy bill, like his relationships with Wall Street, like his relationship with Big Pharma, like his support for mass incarceration. I mean, it gets touched on occasionally. I don’t believe the bankruptcy bill was even touched on. And then there’s this argument, well, you know, we shouldn’t attack each other. What do you think the Republicans and Donald Trump are gonna do? They’re gonna come after him on the bankruptcy bill. They’re gonna come after him on Iraq. They’re gonna come after him on mass incarceration. Trump attacked Hillary from the left on super predators in 2016. He attacked Hillary on the left on Goldman Sachs and on the Iraq war. Why would he not do the same thing again? It’s the same candidate. Why wouldn’t he operate the same playbook?

RG: Of course he will.

MH: And God forbid the same damn result.

RG: Of course he will. And that was Warren’s key mistake when Bernie Sanders was down in the polls and in the hospital in Las Vegas recovering from his heart attack. You know, she was in the catbird seat. If she had that moment had taken on Joe Biden directly, gone after him over bankruptcy over Wall Street, over corruption, etc, all the things that she’s been going after him for 20 years on, you could see big elements of the left saying, okay, now there’s a fight between the Wall Street wing of the party and progressives —

MH: Now Sanders is putting out anti-Biden ads on Social Security might be too little, too late. And just before we wrap up, let me ask you about that. You know, what Bernie does now going forward. I’m about to speak to Larry Cohen from Our Revolution, former Sanders 2016 advisor. What do they do the Sanders campaign about the fact that their entire strategy was built around mobilizing young people, people of color, people who don’t normally vote, they did amazingly well with Latinos, especially in California, no doubt about that. But Biden cleaned up with African Americans again, especially in the southern states on Tuesday, and in South Carolina on the weekend and the youth turnout in places like North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, they were actually down on 2016. How does that fit with the vote for Bernie Sanders, he’ll get the young people to come out and start a revolution?

RG: It doesn’t and you know, he has one of those theories of the case that can actually be tested, which is nice. Like you don’t have to just take his word for whether or not it’s going to work. Now, he still has a chance to make it work, you know, Michigan surprised in 2016. It could surprise again this time. They’re going to Washington State which will have a lot of delegates. Also has coronavirus ripping through it which raises the question of how you continue to have elections in the midst of a pandemic. But you’re right —

MH: And how do you support a candidate who doesn’t guarantee health care for everyone in a country with a pandemic.

RG: Right, so Bernie Sanders either needed to convince suburbanite Democrats that he was the most electable candidate and that whether or not they wanted political revolution, he was the best shot of beating Trump.

MH: He clearly hasn’t.

RG: Which he hasn’t done or he had to transform the demographics of the party which he hasn’t done yet, either.

MH: And he’s running out of time.

RG: He’s running out of time. He’s got a couple weeks left to do it.

MH: Ryan, on that note, thank you for joining me after a very long night.

RG: My pleasure.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s DC bureau chief. And I’m joined now to talk more about the Bernie Sanders campaign specifically and where it goes next after Super Tuesday by Larry Cohen, chair of the pro-Sanders group, Our Revolution and a former campaign adviser to Bernie during the 2016 race. Larry Cohen, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

Larry Cohen: Pleasure.

MH: How disappointed are you the morning after not so Super Tuesday for Bernie Sanders?

LC: Well, actually Bernie hit his marks. The key difference meaning the percentage of the popular vote that he got in virtually all of those states particularly the biggest one California. The number of delegates elected around 600. The difference is, you know, no one expected two of the other major candidates to drop out, endorse Biden and create the sense of, you know, we’re uniting against Bernie which is what I would accuse them of even if no one else says it that way.

MH: Clearly they are uniting against Bernie. But isn’t that part of politics? Shouldn’t the Sanders campaign have expected this would happen? Also, what does it say about your campaign? What does it say about the campaign of Bernie Sanders that they need other candidates in the race to kind of blunt Joe Biden? And once those other candidates go, Biden suddenly pulls off this pretty impressive victory, 10 states to Bernie’s four states, including Texas, which a lot of us thought this was going to be Sander’s turn take Texas this time around.

LC: Yeah, well, as we go from Bernie 2016, you know, one candidate edging out another is not really what’s important here. What’s important is the popular vote because that shows the mandate. Secondly, the number of delegates elected. So you know, again, Texas, if we went back three or four months ago, no one would have expected Bernie to win Texas. And he almost did. So I think, you know, going forward which is I think where you’re leading me is that, you know, yes, we have to figure out how to build the progressive campaign that can win delegates next week, particularly in Michigan and Washington and then going forward, or Illinois, Florida and you know, the other key states.

MH: I’ve had Bernie surrogates on the show before. I’ve had Bernie Sanders himself, was on the show a few months ago. And of course, the argument always is that we are going to build this coalition to change politics. We’re going to get the enthusiasm, the energy, we’re going to turn people out, youth turnout is going to be a huge boost for our campaign. That was the argument and yet on Super Tuesday, and in the first four states, young people didn’t turn out in the numbers that they were supposed to turn out. In fact, in a lot of states Bernie won and in the ones he lost, there was lower levels of youth turnout on Tuesday than there were in 2016. That’s bad, isn’t it?

LC: Well, again, you may know those numbers now from yesterday better than I do, but I certainly know from our folks in Austin, you know, people waited in line for hours in LA, the young people in LA, they waited in line for hours. So and they’re almost all young people in both those cases.

MH: I mean, there’s a USA Today piece out that goes through to the state of South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, the youth share of the electorate was lower in almost all of those states on Super Tuesday 2020 than in Super Tuesday 2016. And I just don’t see how that works. If the Sanders campaign is all about juicing turnout especially young people turnout, that’s just not happening. And that’s got to be a worry going forward to Michigan and other states.

lC: Absolutely. I mean, a key element in this campaign, and for groups like ours, Our Revolution is, you know, building with young leaders and young members and so I think that is a fair benchmark to look at. But I also think it’s important to look at the percentage of those young voters that vote for Bernie Sanders compared to Joe Biden, and no matter what happens in these next three months, how is the party going to reconstruct itself, so that it isn’t just well unite to beat Trump but we united a party that now represents these kinds of views and issues, whether it’s Bernie, or Biden, frankly, that there’s got to be a transformational aspect of this not just a binary, you know, who won the foot race?

MH: Yep, I mean, aside from the turnout discussion, one of the other criticisms that Senator Sanders is facing is, you know, he went after the “Democratic establishment” and you know, the establishment got together and hit back hard in the form of the Monday night endorsements, etc. Does he need to be more of a team player? Does he need to reach out to other Democrats and be nicer to them if he wants to lead them? You advised him in 2016. Can someone with his nature, someone of his age and his background, is he really going to change his style and demeanor now? Does he have to?

LC: Well, I think but so first of all, it’s very important to reach out to Elizabeth Warren. You know, I have total respect for her and her candidacy and her campaign and, more importantly, her life. And yeah, I think it’s really important to reach out to her for Bernie, but also for all of us to reach across to our counterparts and to broaden this. So that it doesn’t look like the, you know, the foot race of Bernie versus everybody else. And secondly, to your bigger point. I do think those debates were horrible, the recent ones. And some of that is because of Bloomberg showing up. But the frame that we’re in, right, it’s got to be, this is the Democratic progressive vision of America, that will enable us to beat Trump and transform our lives.

MH: There was this argument that if it’s a two-person race which it now seems to be, and if there’s only two people on the debate stage next time round, it’ll be a much clearer choice between two competing visions of the future, two candidates and their effectiveness and their ability. I mean, for me, I find it bizarre Joe Biden can’t string a sentence together and he gets away with it. In a two-person debate, he might struggle a bit more, but of course, that two-person debate is still a couple of weeks away. It’s not going to be before Michigan.

LC: Correct, it’s March 15th. It’s two days before a bunch of other key states, including Illinois, Ohio, Florida. But it’s not before Michigan, Michigan is absolutely important, not only number of delegates but to look and see, you know, can we get a glimpse here of how we build turnout in Detroit, and beat Donald Trump? So I agree with you that I also agree with you that the debate needs to be sort of a different tone and on both candidates’ parts, and Senator Warren, if he’s still in and be much more constructive, rather than destructive, really debate healthcare, really debate climate crisis and not throw out ridiculous numbers like Bernie, you want to spend $60 million, that’s three times the GDP. Yeah, well, first of all, they’re talking about 10 years. They know those numbers are BS and they do it anyway. So we’ve got to get this to be an objective discussion of what we’re going to do in this nation.

MH: But others would also, I mean, there’s one school of thought that says Bernie needs to reach out to other Democrats, you know, do addition, not subtraction as the cliche goes. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of us, including me, who would say, go after Biden. He hasn’t been vetted. I’m amazed that we’ve got nearly a year into this race, no discussion of the bankruptcy bill, and what he did to kind of screw over working class and middle class Americans. And that’s partly because Bernie Sanders actually does kind of pull his punches on the debate stage when it comes to Joe Biden, he always prefaces it with “He’s my friend. Oh, yes, we disagreed on Iraq.” Some would argue now, actually, he needs to get much tougher on Joe Biden in order to hold him to account not just for himself, but for the sake of the party because if Biden’s not vetted now, you know, Donald Trump and the Republicans are definitely going to bring up all of his greatest hits.

LC: Yeah, absolutely. So I think it’s a difference between, you know, trying to get people on that debate platform to stick to the facts and the issues and say, okay, we disagreed on Iraq. We disagreed on almost every trade bill. We disagree now that, you know, we believe strongly that Medicare for All works. Economically, it’s a slam dunk, and we can’t distort that as Donald Trump would do if he was up on the stage. And similarly, you know, Joe Biden is going to give his arguments that, you know, you’re talking about a revolution, people want evolution. And Bernie comes back and says, we’re talking about a political revolution. We have the worst voting rights of any democracy. We have money polluting our system. That’s the revolution I’m talking about, Joe. So, I think it does have to sound more like that. Not walk away from the differences, but at the same time, try to make the differences objective.

MH: And if you were advising him again, now, as you did in 2016, he went into Super Tuesday as the front runner, he’s come out not as the front runner, what one thing would you say he needs to do differently? Or does he not need to do anything differently going forward?

LC: That’s a very good question. For an off the top of my head answer, I would probably say that in that debate on March 15th, and in his rallies between now and then, to really focus in on “I can lead this party. We can do both things. We can beat Donald Trump and we can create a much happier life for working people in this country.”

MH: And if he loses Michigan which is before the debate, which is the state he won in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. It’s where a lot of white working class voters are which he says he’s strongest with although, Joe Biden claims he has those connections too. He loses Michigan. Is that over? Is it done, finished?

LC: No, I think it’s again, similar to the comment I made about Texas. It’s a question of how many delegates if they basically split it, it’s very different than —

MH: It’s not winner take all indeed.

LC: Yeah, we don’t have a winner take all. Republicans do. And so I think it’s much more about that. The key to Michigan is going to be Wayne County. Can we boost the turnout there? And can we get young people as you said, you know to in fact turnout in much bigger numbers black, brown and white, can show that a different America is really possible and Michigan is going to help lead the way.

MH: As someone who was involved back in 2016 in terms of the rules on the convention and how a candidate gets nominated you were intimately involved in that Democratic Party commission, in changing the rules, putting the Bernie Sanders’ team’s view forward in terms of caucuses and primaries and pledged delegates and second rounds and super delegates. We had a big discussion over the last few weeks about Bernie Sanders being the only candidate who said actually the candidate who turns up at the convention in Milwaukee with the most number of pledged delegates, even if it’s only a plurality, not a majority should be the candidate. Do you think he’ll regret making that pledge, given he may not be the candidate who turns up with the most pledged delegates? At the moment, it looks like it’d be Joe Biden.

LC: I think that, but I am on the Rules Committee convention as well, whether that’s a blessing or a curse. But I think that you will see a candidate nominated on one ballot, it’s especially clear now, and candidates can drop out and their delegates are then free to do what they want. That candidate endorses somebody, most of those delegates will go in that direction. So 1,991 is the magic number. You know, Biden, or Bernie have to hit it. There’s not going to be another —

MH: But Bernie won’t switch positions you don’t think and do what he did in 2016 where he started telling super delegates actually, doesn’t matter if Hillary has a lead vote for me. I’m the better guy to beat Donald Trump. He will stick to his pledge on the debate stage which says whoever turns up at the convention with the most delegates is the candidate.

LC: Well, the reason I’m saying this is you only need 1,991 on the first ballot. There’s not going to be a second ballot. I would tell you the chances of a second, so the non-elected delegates as I call myself and the other 750, we will not be voting on that nomination. So making a pitch to them, it’s not going to make any difference. It’s going to only be the elected delegates, and my opinion is you will see 1,991 or more of them vote for one candidate on the first ballot. And I’m going to do everything I can in these hundred days to make sure that’s Bernie Sanders.

MH: Larry Cohen, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

LC: Great show, thank you.

MH: That was Larry Cohen, chair of the pro-Sanders group, Our Revolution and a former campaign advisor to Bernie Sanders, making a very strong case for his candidate saying why he wants Bernie Sanders to win. You may or may not agree with him but this is a fascinating race to watch nevertheless.

That’s our show! Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Thanks so much! See you next week.

Join The Conversation