The silent Democratic majority is finally crying out for moderation

“Sometimes a good man beats a lot of money and a lot of followers on Twitter. And sometimes that evidence is right in front of you if you bother to look.”

That’s how Democrat Steve McMahon sums up the Super Tuesday primary result in his home state of Virginia, which enthusiastically went for Joe Biden even after polls predicted Bernie Sanders would emerge the winner.

In fact, out of 14 states, former Vice President Biden won 10 — including upsets in Texas, Minnesota and even Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, despite having almost no TV or radio ad presence there. It was a resounding romp that proved social-media posts are no replacement for plain-old talking to real people if you want to know what’s actually going on.

After weeks of pundits declaring Biden’s presidential campaign dead, he is now the frontrunner with 664 delegates to Sanders’ 573.

Just one week earlier, the media had anointed Sanders the presumptive nominee after he scored a tie in Iowa, a marginal win in New Hampshire and a single big victory in Nevada. Never mind that African-American voters, a significant and moderating voting bloc within the Democratic electorate, had barely been represented in any of those early contests. Bernie was deemed unstoppable. And if you were just looking at Twitter, it was easy to see why.

“In the Twitter primary, there’s no question that Joe Biden was finishing third or fourth,” said McMahon, a longtime Democratic strategist based in Northern Virginia. “But we don’t have a Twitter primary, we have real primaries, where real people with real families and real issues go and cast real votes.

“Journalists often confuse the Democrats on Twitter with Democrats generally, and they’re very different,” he added.

In fact, a Pew Research Survey showed that Democrats on Twitter are 11 points less likely to name Biden as their first choice for the nomination than Democrats not on Twitter. But just 22 percent of US adults use Twitter at all. That leaves a huge majority of Democrats out there who have voices that aren’t being heard — and votes that really matter.

“The most impressive aspect of Biden’s performance was its breadth; He won urban voters, upscale and middle-class suburban voters and rural/Appalachian voters. Just about the only places he didn’t win were heavily Latino or progressive hotbeds like college towns,” wrote The Cook Report’s Dave Wasserman in a tweet analyzing the Super Tuesday results.

Over the last year, Democrats have increasingly lurched left, embracing expensive ideas like universal health care and free college for all, driven by a fervent progressive wing on social media. But these candidates have been ignoring what Democrats actually want. A January 2019 Pew Research Center survey showed that Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters say they want their party to move in a direction that’s more moderate (53 percent) than more liberal (40 percent). And they proved it with their Super Tuesday endorsement of Biden — possibly the most moderate candidate in the race.

Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a legendary Democratic strategist in Virginia, said he finds it “ironic” that Southern voters are often criticized by the national party for being too moderate, but they’re the ones who could save the party from a left-wing candidate like Sanders, who can’t bring together a broad enough coalition of voters to defeat President Trump.

“What voters saw in Biden is that he is a good man and maybe he can beat Donald Trump,” Saunders said.

McMahon agrees. “Democrats really, really wanted to beat Trump and they were looking for the right vessel and that’s what this thing has been about. Over the past year they took out Pete [Buttigieg] for a test drive, then Warren, because she’s got a plan for everything, and then [Mike] Bloomberg. And Sanders was always over there in this different category. None of them ultimately passed the electability test with voters except Biden.

“It was really as simple as that.”

Salena Zito is the author of “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics,” out now in paperback.

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