Why did some Republicans like Bernie Sanders

Background current

The first primaries for the 2020 US presidential election took place in Iowa and New Hampshire in February. While President Donald Trump is very likely to run for the Republicans, nine candidates are fighting for a nomination in the Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden (center) and Bernie Sanders on January 14, 2020 ahead of the final televised debate of the Democratic candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination for the November election. (& copy picture-alliance / AP)

Unofficially, the Democrats and Republicans have long been in the primary campaign for the highest office in their country. Officially it went on February 3rd with the so-called Caucuses in Iowa and on February 11th with the primaries in New Hampshire, where both major parties voted for the first time on delegates who choose the candidate for the presidential election in November at the nomination party conference in the summer. The primaries in the comparatively small states with only 3.15 million people in Iowa and 1.4 million in New Hampshire are considered the first important test of mood.

Five Democrats with a nomination

While the Republicans have so far not had any serious competition against US President Donald Trump, the Democrats are currently running nine candidates. In nationwide surveys in the run-up to the primaries, however, only five of them received average approval ratings of more than five percent.

The most promising candidates until the election in Iowa were two elderly men and one woman: Joe Biden, who was Vice President under President Barack Obama, is considered the most experienced candidate. For decades, the 77-year-old sat for the state of Delaware in the Senate. On his campaign website he advertises for the votes of the middle class and also focuses on foreign policy demands. He wants to normalize relations with the American allies.

The left alternatives to moderate Biden are the nonpartisan Senator from Vermont Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (78) and the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren (70). Senator Sanders represents a very left-wing agenda in the American context, for example he would like to promote general state health insurance and an ecological economic policy ("Green New Deal"). Senator Warren, on the other hand, has one of her campaign focuses on controlling financial corporations and industry. Among other things, it calls for a two percent tax on assets of over 50 million dollars and wants to cancel the majority of Americans from their student loan debts.

Bloomberg does not run for election until "Super Tuesday"

In addition to Joe Biden and the two Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is also at the top of the polls: Pete Buttigieg, 38, wants to invest in state health insurance as well as in schools and education as president. In his campaign, he also puts forward a plan for combating climate change. He managed to prevail in Iowa against favorites Biden and Sanders. Due to a technical glitch, the Iowa Democratic primary count was delayed. Bernie Sanders' election campaign team therefore asked for the results to be checked.

In New Hampshire the result was close: Bernie Sanders emerged victorious, while Pete Buttigieg came second. The performance of Amy Klobuchar, the Senator from Minnesota, caused surprises: While the polls didn't calculate her chances, she received the third highest percentage of votes in New Hampshire. She is also considered a moderate candidate who could unite votes in rural and suburban milieu. Among other things, she calls for public health insurance to be expanded and the minimum wage to be raised.

Following the primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democrats are currently sending 23 delegates to the nomination convention for Pete Buttigieg, 21 for Bernie Sanders, eight for Elizabeth Warren, seven for Amy Klobuchar and six for Joe Biden.

A well-known face was added in November 2019: The former mayor of New York and billionaire Michael Bloomberg (77) promises, among other things, to create jobs and to reduce greenhouse gases in the energy supply or in traffic. For his campaign he chooses an extraordinary strategy: He does not run in the first four primaries, but only enters the race on "Super Tuesday" on March 3rd, when in 14 states as well as in American Samoa and by the "Democrats Abroad "is selected. For the first time this year, the most populous state of California is also there, which provides 495 delegates for the Democratic Party conference in the summer.

Impeachment against Trump in the middle of the US election campaign

Republicans also hold primaries in many states. However, US President Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidential election in 2020 on the day he took office on January 20, 2017. Since then, his campaign has been collecting donations and holding election campaign events - the first took place in mid-February 2017. That gives him a competitive edge over his Republican rivals: businessman Roque De La Fuente, former congressman and radio host Joe Walsh, and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.

In some states, the Republican Party has waived primary elections, for example in Kansas and Nevada. Instead, the party leaders in these states award the votes of their delegates to the incumbent President Trump. They justify this with the high costs that the primaries cause and with their support for the president.

The impeachment proceedings against President Trump marked the beginning of the election year. The Democrats had accused Trump of abuse of office because he is said to have urged the investigation of the Democratic presidential candidate Biden in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi in June 2019. As a leverage, Trump is said to have withheld military aid of almost $ 400 million to Ukraine for weeks. Presidents Trump and Selenskyj deny the allegations. After the House of Representatives, which was dominated by the majority of Democrats (Democrats: 235 seats, Republicans: 199 seats), voted on December 18, 2019 in favor of the indictment of President Trump and the opening of impeachment proceedings, the Senate, which was dominated by the majority of Republicans (Democrats: 45th place), spoke Seats, Republicans: 53 seats) cleared the president of the allegations on February 5.

Donald Trump is campaigning with the slogan "Keep America Great!" for a continuation of his policy, for example in questions of his economic and immigration policy. The Democrats, in turn, are looking for an answer to the question of how they can win back the electorate that was once lost to Trump. This is also reflected in the conflict between a moderate and a more left-wing politics within the party.

Other parties can also nominate candidates for the presidential election. However, due to the relative majority voting rights of the United States, the Democrats or Republicans have so far provided the President of the United States.

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Why are there primaries?

The American primaries are used to nominate the presidential candidates. The procedure is not regulated in the US constitution, but has grown over time and is regulated differently in the states. Some states host Caucuses (Gatherings), others Primaries (Elections). In the primaries, which take place between February and June, those eligible to vote vote on their preferred candidate. The results are mandated by the state delegates to vote on the presidential candidates at the nomination conventions of both major parties.

Votes are usually given on a proportional basis, with the Republican primaries in some states only choosing one winner. Bonus votes are also awarded to the winner in some states. Some states also set a percentage of votes that candidates must achieve in order to receive delegate votes.

The number of voting delegates that each state can send to the nomination convention usually depends on the population. For example, Iowa is only allowed to send 41 delegates and populous California 495. In addition to the delegates who are bound by the election results in the states, the parties also send super-delegates who are free to vote. The Democratic Convention will be held July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Republicans will hold their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 24-27.

How do the primaries work?

The Primariesthat are hosted by the state are similar to a normal election. A distinction is made between open primaries and closed primaries. In Open Primaries, all eligible voters in a state are allowed to vote and do not have to expressly commit to a party beforehand. In closed primaries it is not necessary to be a party member, but participants must explicitly commit to a party when voting or registering.

Traditionally, the Caucuses in Iowa kicked off the primaries. A caucus is like a citizens' meeting with subsequent voting and, in contrast to the primaries, is organized by the parties. Only voters of the respective party can take part in caucuses. In Iowa, registered voters gather in a central location in their constituency. These can be churches or sports halls, but sometimes also living rooms. There they consult and vote openly about which presidential candidate they want to support. The delegates vote at the party congresses according to their voting behavior.

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