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Evidence shows Sanders likes Biden more than Clinton and Trump

As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders exited the race last week, speculation was rampant about the impact of this decision on the 2020 election.

Would it be a replay of 2016, where Sanders would take his time, and reluctantly support Clinton? Evidence indicates that this is not the case, and Sanders is far more enthusiastic about backing Joe Biden, who is expected to be the nominee.

Exhibit A is the timing of the endorsement. Bernie Sanders dropped out on April 8, 2020. Five days later, he endorsed Biden. In 2016, Bernie Sanders stayed in the race until the June 14 D.C. Primary. He gave a speech on June 16 making it official that he was not running, but did not endorse Clinton until July 12, or 26 days later.

Exhibit B is the primary calendar. In 2016, Sanders waited until all primaries were done before he took leave of the race (the District of Columbia was the last one). There are 19 states and 5 territories who still haven’t held primaries (and not all were rescheduled because of COVID-19).

Exhibit C is the manner in which Sanders withdrew. There was little positive in his words toward Clinton in June of 2016, and would not be forthcoming until the following month. That was in direct contrast to 2020, when Sanders said in his withdrawal “I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”

Many missed that detail because CNN’s John King and Dana Bash incorrectly stated that Sanders said nothing nice about Biden, just minutes after airing that clip. Both apologized for getting it wrong, citing audio issues. At least the facts are now out there.

Exhibit D are the ideologies of both candidates. Though both candidates were treated as different as night and day by a few in campaigns and the media, the two are not so different. A fact checker I saw on social touted to highlight differences between the two found a lot more similarities between Sanders and Biden, even on trade, with some differences (like Biden’s support of an assault weapons ban and Sanders’ opposition to it) to be closer to the views of Sanders’ supporters. Using the American Conservative Union Voting Scores, I found Biden and Sanders to be within six percentage points of each other over their legislative careers.

And Biden is far closer to Sanders in views than Trump ever has been. In taking the “isidewith” online study (with the expanded options for every question), I found Biden and Sanders to be ten percentage points different from each other. With Trump and Sanders, it was closer to 25 percentage points different.

But there’s the most important factor, Exhibit E, which is how candidates treat each other. As David Catanese writes for McClatchy noted “Sanders, in fact, ignored some advisers’ appeals to attack Biden in earlier debates because Biden was nice to him in the Senate,” before it was cool to befriend Bernie. Biden returned the favor during the campaign, according to Catanese.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, desperate to divide the Democratic Party base, immediately dropped the insulting moniker “Crazy Bernie Sanders,” that he’s used for a long time and began a belated wooing of Sanders supporters, claiming they are alike on racial justice and trade, which assumes Sanders supporters never heard of the Central Park 5 and that Trump really pushes for stronger labor and environmental standards in trade deals. If Trump really cared about Sanders and what he stood for, he might have started that charm offensive earlier.