Robert Kraig, a member of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 platform committee, talks about what Joe Biden will need to do to win over Wisconsin progressives.
The end of independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and his presumptive loss in Wisconsin’s Democratic primary, raises an obvious question of how former Vice President Joe Biden can beat President Trump in a state that narrowly swung Trump’s way after Hillary Clinton became the party’s 2016 nominee.
In the eyes of Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and a member of Sanders’ 2016 national platform committee and 2020 leadership slate, the answer is simple: Biden must become more like Sanders to win over progressives in a state that could end up deciding the election. And he must focus on young black voters, who had poor turnout in 2016, especially in Milwaukee.
“When you’re talking about young people of color, Biden can’t just say, ‘I have a lot of African American supporters,’” Kraig said. “You’ve got to say, ‘What am I going to do about racial equality and be credible about it?’ Which means adopting some of Bernie’s platform, and there are parts of Elizabeth Warren’s platform as well.”
He added, “We know he won’t go as far as Sanders or Warren, but he needs to go further.”
Trump won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes; Sanders defeated Clinton in the Wisconsin primary by 13 percent. But the most recent Marquette Law School Poll had Biden up nearly 30 points on Sanders for the primary, and Trump was in a statistical tie with both candidates.
Biden, unlike Clinton, was able to dominate Sanders in the most recent Wisconsin polling because of his meteoric resurgence after Super Tuesday, Kraig said. Many, including other candidates, had written Biden off after devastatingly bad showings in the initial primaries. In 2016, Sanders was essentially running an opposition campaign against Clinton, who was the presumptive nominee for much of the campaign, Kraig said.
“It was almost like running against an incumbent, whereas Biden had such a poor campaign for a lot of the election,” Kraig said. “His sudden emergence doesn’t make him as good a rival or target.”
Biden should also stock his team with progressives, Kraig said.
“One of the biggest weaknesses of the Obama administration was, there weren’t any progressives there,” he said.
Thoughtful, progressive cabinet picks and administration staffing could help get voters, such as those in Milwaukee’s inner city who felt left out in the Obama years, off the fence, Kraig said.