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caption: Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greet one another before they participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greet one another before they participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate.
Credit: AP

Bernie Sanders is out. What does that mean for Washington state?

Washington has been a gimme for Democrats in presidential elections, but are there lessons this state can still teach former Vice President Joe Biden?

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lost the presidential primary last month in Washington – a state he had won four years ago --- even though Biden didn’t have a campaign network here.

Now Sanders has left the race, paving the way to the Democratic nomination for Biden.

Joni Balter, host of Civic Cocktail on the Seattle Channel, and C.R. Douglas, political analyst for Q 13 News, joined KUOW’s Angela King to parse what Sanders’ decision means for Washington state and the country.

C.R. Douglas: Sanders getting into the race was a huge help to Biden. Sanders was a front runner when the primary started and he really cleared the field. He denied Pete Buttigieg a clear victory in Iowa. He kept Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobucharwar from getting any traction in New Hampshire. And those were the three biggest threats to Biden, for sure.

Angela King: So we've looked back, now let's look forward. What's next?

Joni Balter: Biden's team would be smart to look at the voting in some of Washington's less populated counties. Twelve of them and elsewhere around the country where Bernie Sanders won not by much and figure out what would make those voters support Joe Biden. There's surely an economic and a health care message in that kind of voting. One thing to watch in the weeks ahead, how Bernie speaks of Biden. It becomes code to Bernie voters that it's OK to support Joe Biden.

King: What does Biden's smooth path now mean for down ballot elections in the state? How is this going to affect races like Democrat Kim Schrier’s reelection bid in the 8th Congressional District, or Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler’s in the 3rd?

Douglas: Well, Biden at the top of the ticket definitely will help him down ballot races, especially in in moderate districts where Sanders would have been much more controversial. I mean, take that moderate swing district – Kim Schrier in the 8th. I certainly think she's in better shape in a ballot with Biden than if the whole Democratic ticket had veered far to the left with Sanders.

King: And the big question hovering over the campaign season, of course, the coronavirus. How do you see that affecting politics here in our state?

Balter: One of the biggest effects politically will be on the governor's race. Inslee is leading the coronavirus response in the state. That's his job. And he's up for reelection. And I just think a lot of the race is going to be a referendum on how well he and the state did when this all passes and the dust settled.

Coronavirus is going to traumatize a lot of people for a long time. People have never felt so vulnerable as they do today. So I think broadly, the politicians who promise and deliver on protecting folks who are not afraid of a little government assistance will do the best. This is no time for government timidity.