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Down to Joe and Bernie

Now there are only two, Bernie and Joe — Sanders and Biden.

Only Bernie and Joe can now win the Democratic nomination to run for the presidency against the incumbent, Donald J. Trump.

Just a week ago, the crowded race looked confusing and perhaps long-lasting, with primaries allowing several candidates to continue to battle toward the nomination.

But Biden’s amazing victory in South Carolina last Saturday preceded his win of ten of the 14 states in Super Tuesday and gave him, for now, at least, a delegate lead over Sanders.

Super Tuesday also caused most of the other candidates, except for Tulsi Gabbard, to withdraw from the process.

Ahead of Biden and Sanders are an additional debate next week, and primaries throughout the spring. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the candidate will be determined before the end of March, with large primaries in Michigan, Ohio and Florida this month.

Democrats will have the opportunity to watch a level playing field now as the two seek the support of a majority of primary voters leading to the nomination.

We need to ask and hope only that both candidates remember that their chief opponent is not each other, but Donald Trump, and that their single goal is the capture the presidency and the Senate and to hold the House majority.

It is important that, in the upcoming debate, and in their rallies of supporters, that both candidates, while contrasting their plans and policies with each other, remember that a brutal attack on one who may end up as the party’s nominee would hurt all Democrats and the chances for victory in November.

This is then a plea for civility by Biden and Sanders; not a peace treaty, for they must demonstrate their differences to each other to the voters, but an honorable representation of differences that informs and allows voters to make smart choices for president.

We all need to understand some of the background surrounding the weeks of campaigning ahead. First, U.S. intel agencies have told the Sanders campaign that the Russians are attempting to help the Sanders campaign. Obviously, Sanders does not need or want such help and Bernie’s supporters should be on guard to ignore social media attacks on Biden.

Both candidates have served in public office for lengthy careers, which, for the benefit of voters, means that they have each made votes that, in hindsight, they regret.

Sanders voted with the NRA too many times and passed fewer bills then many other members of Congress, and, has a lower attendance record than most to congressional sessions.

Biden badly mishandled the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearing at the expense of Anita Hill and voted for the falsely-justified the Iraqi war.

Voters need to forgive both for these and other mistakes from the past, remembering that the perfect candidate has never been found and the incumbent president has more character flaws and ethical lapses than almost any other living human.

Democratic voters should also be aware that the Trump campaign will do its best to turn the candidates against each other, hoping a brutal battle for the nomination will damage the eventual winner. It is always good advice to distrust words spoken by Trump, a president challenged to find the truth in any situation.

Finally, one of the two campaigns will, ultimately, lose. May we all be gracious in defeat and triumphant in awarding the winner of this race for the presidency, for it will take incredible unity to defeat the sitting president.

Yet defeating this president is more important for the republic than anything else, certainly more important than hurt feelings for your candidate when defeat has been determined.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.