Revolution forecast: When a tsunami becomes a thunderstorm

Ten days ago, Democrats were ducking for cover, convinced that a Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna MORE (I-Vt.) rebellion was not only insufferable but inevitable, and fearful that this one-person tsunami would create a landslide defeat of epic proportions.

Last night (and continuing into this dawn of a new day), we are discovering Bernie’s tempest could prove to be no more than a thunderstorm, a jarring gust on the route to nominating a well-known centrist over a well-documented socialist.

You could feel the tidal shift over the past few days, when Biden went from nearly vanquished to fully vaunted, when South Carolinians rewarded years of knowing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: 'We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us' MORE (and esteeming Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe battle of two Cubas Obama on the death of George Floyd: 'This shouldn't be "normal" in 2020 America' Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE) with a James Clyburn-led sweep of every county and every major voting bloc.

ADVERTISEMENT

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt MORE did his part — Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLiberal group asks Klobuchar to remove herself from VP consideration because of prosecutorial record Klobuchar on defense as Floyd death puts spotlight on record Officer involved in George Floyd death charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter MORE (D-Minn.) too — by compressing the moderate muddle in the middle from four candidates to two, a reverse passing of the baton from younger to older, from the current generation to the last one.

Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned .7 billion expected to be spent in 2020 campaign despite coronavirus: report MORE has also played a vital role in this return to yesteryear, with a deadly debate performance that even a $600-million ad campaign couldn’t atone for, or explain away.

Discounting the continuation and/or relevance of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (D.Mass.) moving forward (losing may be the only thing for which she hadn’t fleshed out a plan), we are looking at a mano-a-mano, Bernie v. Biden contest, movement versus establishment, visceral versus the venerable.

Ten days ago, that felt like an unfair fight. Now it looks like a war between the populism of the moment and the pragmatism of the morning after.

After California came up big for Sanders to blunt a Biden bonanza further east — this much we know:

ADVERTISEMENT

One — The establishment may be teetering, but it’s not finished. Not yet. Biden may be lacking youth and lightning round acuity, but he now stands as the last great hope of a generation of political leaders built from character and motivated to serve others.

Two — The insurgency is far from done. Sanders may or may not become the nominee of the party whose poohbahs dislike him, but to see a 78-year-old pol perform like a 28-year-old crusader is something to behold. His overflow rallies confirm it, and his share of the popular vote validates it. Win or lose, like him or not, every American for four years has had a turn feeling the Bern.

Three — Wither goeth Elizabeth Warren? Does she remain in the race with a reed-thin rationale that she is the only viable woman left, play attack dog against brother Biden in the debate to come, or does she endorse her ideological soulmate Sanders, despite bruised feelings from an emotional primary?

Four — Can Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan, roll out of Florida a week later with an even bigger win, and pull ahead of Bernie in the pre-Convention delegate and popular vote count? If so, Biden cements a legitimate claim to the throne. If not, watch out.

The Sanders team knows what it feels like to be taken out of play by rules they didn’t make, created by people they’ve never liked. If he survives the primary season, even by one delegate over Biden, Bernie won’t just ride off into the sunset — he’ll command the bully pulpit with a moral bullhorn, cheered on by equally bullish believers.

As Super Tuesday gives way to the still-counting Wednesday, the prime combatants — like the stakes — have never been clearer. And the weather forecast? You called it: strong chance of rain.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist who has advised Rudy GiulianiJohn McCain and Jeb Bush. He is the first Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3