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VICTOR JOECKS: Crowded Nevada caucus field favors Sanders

Culinary Local 226’s equivocation is emblematic of why Sen. Bernie Sanders is the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

On Thursday, the union sent a tremor through the political world, announcing it would hold a press conference regarding a 2020 endorsement. Given the union’s ability to organize, its endorsement could boost a struggling candidate to a much-needed victory.

The only certainty was that it wouldn’t be endorsing Sanders. The union correctly believes his “Medicare for All” plan would destroy the Culinary Health Fund.

Sanders won in New Hampshire and claimed victory in Iowa by garnering around 26 percent of the vote in each state. That’s far from a majority, but with so many candidates running, it was enough for success. The Culinary could have played kingmaker, elevating one candidate as the anointed non-Bernie alternative in Nevada. The union punted. Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said, “We’re going to endorse our goals,” not a candidate.

Congratulations to Sanders. Aside from an endorsement, the union couldn’t have done him a bigger favor. The best path to stopping Sanders is for the field to winnow quickly so the anti-Sanders vote isn’t so fragmented. But most of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates have plausible reasons to stay in the race. Now that the Culinary isn’t endorsing, it’s unlikely Nevada’s results will change that dynamic.

Despite losing the popular vote in New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg (who also claimed victory in Iowa) has the most delegates of any candidate. And here you thought Democrats opposed the Electoral College. He has a lot of money, too. Thank you, wine caves.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar surged into third place in New Hampshire with almost 20 percent of the vote. For anyone looking for a moderate alternative to Sanders’ socialism, she’s right out of central casting. She’s an experienced senator who, at 59 years of age, isn’t ancient. In the identity-obsessed Democratic Party, being a female doesn’t hurt, either.

Joe Biden is the person most hurt by the Culinary’s refusal to endorse. Despite leading in national polls for most of the race, dismal showings in the first two states have left his campaign in a tailspin. A strong showing in Nevada would provide an invaluable boost. Biden has been counting on strong support from the African American community to bolster his campaign, so he’ll hang on until South Carolina.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a 1 in 1,024 chance of winning the nomination. She’s toast.

Billionaire Tom Steyer hasn’t attracted a lot of support yet, but polls of Nevada and South Carolina have shown him doing well in both states. With Biden’s support among African American voters collapsing, they could turn to Steyer. Whatever happens in Nevada, he’ll stay in the race.

Michael Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in Nevada, but his massive ad spending has him polling well nationally. He’ll be yet another candidate splitting up the anti-Sanders vote when he’s on Super Tuesday ballots.

Early caucus voting starts Saturday. With the Culinary union taking a pass on the race, Nevada — and the nomination — are Sanders’ to lose.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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