Whoa: Gabbard exits -- but flips from Bernie to Biden

What took her so long? The 2020 Democratic primary has been done for months — at least for Tulsi Gabbard’s purposes. Earlier today, Gabbard officially made the presidential contest a two-man race, endorsing Joe Biden as the man to take on our “new enemy.”

By which she means the coronavirus, not Donald Trump, of course, but it’s her endorsement of Biden that might raise a few eyebrows:

Gabbard never even mentions Bernie Sanders, even though she endorsed him four years ago against Hillary Clinton:

With only two delegates from Democratic primary contests so far, Tulsi Gabbard is suspending her campaign and endorsing Joe Biden. The representative from Hawaii made the announcement in a video posted to Twitter and in an email to supporters.

“Today, I’m suspending my presidential campaign, and offering my full support to Vice President Joe Biden in his quest to bring our country together,” Gabbard said.

Gabbard said she believes Biden will clearly be the candidate to face President Trump in November. In 2016, Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, endorsed Sanders.

The lack of a courtesy mention of Sanders is curious, to say the least. There isn’t even an explanation of why Sanders was good enough in 2016 but Biden is better now. Hmmm. Even more curious, Bernie’s a closer fit to her worldview on her key issues — the progressive agenda and the opposition to US interventionism abroad. Biden’s offering progressives some sops on domestic policy, but Biden’s the exact same kind of liberal world order interventionist that Gabbard thought so unacceptable with Hillary Clinton. That’s a mighty big change of direction.

Gabbard never seriously contended for the nomination, in either polling or in contributors. The biggest impact she had on the race was to rescue Biden from an attack by Kamala Harris in the first debate by lambasting the California Senator in the second, effectively ending Harris’ bid. When Gabbard attempted to go after Pete Buttigieg in a similar manner, she discovered that Buttigieg was tougher and more prepared than Harris. Gabbard managed to do well enough to win two delegates, but that’s still 1,989 delegates short of a first-ballot majority at the convention.

So why drop out now? The coronavirus crisis demands her full attention as a House member, Gabbard says, and perhaps even as a National Guard member:

Gabbard closely tied the reasons for her withdrawal from the race to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying that “the best way that I can be of service at this time is to continue to work for the health and well-being of the people of Hawaii and our country in Congress, and to stand ready to serve in uniform should the Hawaii National Guard be activated.”

Gabbard previously served two tours in the Middle East with the Hawaii Army National Guard — in Iraq from 2004-2005 and in Kuwait from 2008-2009 — and stepped away from her campaign in August to report for active duty, participating in a two-week joint training exercise in Indonesia.

Even that might be a tweak in Sanders’ direction. Earlier this week, Sanders blew up at Manu Raju for asking when he might withdraw, exclaiming that he was “dealing with a f***ing global crisis,” for which a presidential candidate has zero authority. The only authority Sanders has to deal with the global crisis is to get back to the Senate, and Gabbard’s explanation might be a not-so-subtle hint to Bernie to get back to his day job. Now.

Last night, the Washington Post picked up on signals that Sanders might be ready to do just that:

Bernie Sanders signaled Wednesday that he was open to ending his presidential run after another round of landslide losses to Joe Biden, and new signs emerged of communication between the two camps as some Democrats hoped for a swift end to a bruising primary.

Sanders campaign officials said the senator from Vermont planned to leave Washington and return home, where he and his wife, Jane, would talk to supporters and determine the future of his presidential run. The campaign also suspended its Facebook ads and, uncharacteristically, made no request for donations in an email to backers updating them on the situation.

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said that aides to the two candidates have been in touch regularly to discuss the public health crisis that has gripped the country, disclosing talks that could form the basis of a broader agreement on policies and might make Sanders more comfortable leaving the race. …

Biden campaign officials have also adopted an internal policy of no longer attacking Sanders, according to one of them, even as some surrogates for the former vice president increased public pressure on the senator to step aside. This person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Gabbard didn’t want to be the last person out of the race, especially not with only two delegates. Sanders didn’t want to be anyone except the last to leave if Biden wins it. This looks like a nudge aimed at Sanders that it’s over, and it’s time to quit extending the race in the middle of an epidemic. Doing that on behalf of the candidate who most embodied what Gabbard ran against is … really something.

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