by Paul HANDLEY
Tuesday’s primaries set up a battle over the Democratic US presidential nomination between two 70-something white men with little in common politically but their determination to defeat Donald Trump in November.
Here’s how they compare:
– Politics –
Sanders is a democratic socialist who wears his uncompromising positions — government-run health care for all, higher taxes on the wealthy and free university tuition — proudly on his sleeve.
He rose from the mayoralty of Burlington, in the frigid climes of the northeastern state of Vermont, to serve in Congress, first as a representative in 1991 and then in the Senate from 2007.
Elected as an independent, he has consistently aligned himself with the Democrats. While many consider him intransigent, he has been able to push his top issues into the mainstream.
Biden is a centrist who prides himself on his ability to work across the aisle. He served in the Senate for 36 years representing the eastern state of Delaware, before becoming vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
Biden is more middle-of-the-road on key issues like health care, where he favors expanding existing insurance programs and less punitive additional taxes on the wealthy.
While Biden has highlighted his record of getting things done in Washington, critics say he has compromised too far with Republicans.
– Age and health –
Biden and Sanders are both under 80 — young, perhaps, compared to Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned as prime minister this week at age 94.
But at 77 and 78 respectively, they are still the oldest credible candidates for US president in history. The current White House occupant, President Donald Trump is a boyish 73.
A physical assessment released by his doctor in December says Biden takes medicine for an irregular heartbeat. He was treated in 1988 for an aneurysm and a blood clot in his lungs, but has had no serious concerns since.
Sanders had a heart attack in October that required the insertion of two stents in a blocked artery. He has since kept up a strenuous campaign schedule with no obvious after effects.
But Sanders has refused to release his medical records.
Cognitive capacities naturally decline with age and Biden has shown himself more prone to gaffes than Sanders.
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate,” he said as he introduced himself to an audience recently.
“Look me over. If you like what you see, help out. If not, vote for the other Biden.”
But a long history of similar verbal slip-ups suggests that the problem might not be tied to any age-related mental decline.
– Supporters –
Super Tuesday showed Biden building a lead over Sanders based on moderate positions and a better connection with African Americans, a key group in the Democratic Party, as well as women and older people.
He is also expected to attract supporters of three other centrist Democrats who have bowed out of the race for the nomination, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.
Sanders, meanwhile, won stronger support from younger voters, Hispanics, and political independents.
He could well benefit from supporters of Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic candidate on the left who failed to make a mark in Tuesday’s polling.
– Likeability –
Both Sanders and Biden come across as seasoned campaigners — although in markedly different ways.
Sanders expounds on his long-held political positions in a shouty, sometimes hectoring manner but presses issues that speak to many Americans across the political divide.
He can come across as cantankerous and not particularly warm but he speaks with a passion and sharp-as-a-tack urgency that inspires devotion in a following that feels like they are part of something special, a movement.
The more avuncular Biden is warm, easy-going, flexible and empathetic.
In 2014 The Washington Post called him “the thinking woman’s sex symbol.” But the laid back demeanor that makes him likeable has proven a liability on the debate stage, where he has performed unevenly.
– Ability to beat Trump –
RealClearPolitics’ average of polls has Sanders topping Trump in a head-to-head matchup by 4.9 percentage points, while Biden clears Trump by 5.4 points.
Trump’s cheering for Sanders and attacks on Biden suggest his campaign is more worried about Biden as a challenger.
© Agence France-Presse