I just can’t understand why people believe this after 2016. I understand Carville’s skepticism about Bernie’s theory of the case, that he’ll expand the electorate by galvanizing unprecedented numbers of young adults who haven’t voted before to turn out.
But if Sanders is overrating his chances of pulling that off, we’re all probably underrating his chances of winning the old-fashioned way, flipping enough voters from red to blue in battlegrounds to get to 270.
Liam Donovan looked at the data from Bernie’s blowout win on Saturday and helpfully reminded everyone that he’s already broadly acceptable to Democratic voters. It’s fun to blog scenarios in which all the moderates save one drop out, leaving a unified center to confront Sanders on Super Tuesday, but the evidence that centrists would coalesce to try to beat him is thin. Some of them would peel off to join him — and already did, per Nevada’s results:
The other way to look at this–check out the movement between first and final alignment:
Rough night to talk about ceilings https://t.co/athcmNLkcg
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) February 23, 2020
If a strong “Anyone but Bernie” impulse exists among the Democratic center, he shouldn’t have been the candidate who gained the most between the first and second ballot in Nevada on Saturday. There should have been a stampede towards Biden, since he was the moderate who finished second on the first ballot. Likewise, says Donovan, Bernie not only has the highest favorable rating of any candidate among national Democratic voters, he has the highest rating of any Democratic candidate among all voters. Higher even than Mr. Electability, Joe Biden:
The number that should worry stop-Bernie Ds coming out of NV, and it has nothing to do with the caucus results. pic.twitter.com/ivPW48lPfz
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) February 22, 2020
He took 22 percent of “moderate” Dems on Saturday, 53 percent of Latinos, and 27 percent of black voters, a group with whom he struggled in 2016. He’s hot on Biden’s heels in the latest polling from South Carolina, a state where the majority of the Democratic electorate is black. He’s just not the sort of niche candidate that he was four years ago. That’s not to say he doesn’t have special vulnerabilities: He’s going to give suburbanites sticker shock, risking the Democrats’ advantage in House elections, and he’s, uh, probably not going to win Florida. But he also has special strengths, notes Luke Thompson:
By contrast, Trump has some low hanging fruit on the electoral map. MN, NH and ME-AL are all reachable, esp given the high third party voting rate in MN. But that’s 16 electoral votes combined.
— Luke Thompson (@ltthompso) February 23, 2020
So Sanders, much more than other Dems, checks Trump’s ability to grow. He probably grows Trump’s margins in NC, FL, AZ, and GA, and shrinks his own margins in, say, VA. But he would likely hold set there plus in NV, CO, and NM which are blue and getting bluer.
— Luke Thompson (@ltthompso) February 23, 2020
He may be the Democrats’ most appealing option among rural voters, which puts the Rust Belt in play. He’d need a clean sweep there — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, especially if Thompson is right about him underperforming in other swing states. And he’ll probably have to rethink his support for a national ban on fracking if he wants to win PA. But if he took all three and held serve in Hillary’s 2016 states, he’d win with 278 electoral votes.
Is that a likely outcome? Nah. I’d bet on Trump. Nominating Sanders could even backfire catastrophically on Democrats by scaring suburbanites into flipping the House back to red, notes Thompson, engineering a Trump second term with no one in Congress willing to check him. (House Democrats are going to run away from him.) But it’s not “political suicide.”
It’s just a very, very, very high-stakes gamble that probably won’t pay off for Democrats with major legislative gains even if he wins.
One more data point for you. Where are these results from?
Answer: Those are the last four polls (all since New Year’s) taken in the great state of Wisconsin. In Michigan, Bernie leads Trump by an average of five points. In Pennsylvania, Bernie leads by an average of three. And nationally, Bernie leads by an average of 4.4 points, the biggest advantage of any Democrat running. Biden is a tick behind at 4.3.
Right, right, Trump and the GOP haven’t gone to work on him yet — wait until they start hammering him on the fracking ban — but bear in mind that everything’s going well for Trump at the moment too. Booming economy, no coronavirus epidemic (yet), no major foreign troubles, some of the best job approval numbers he’s ever seen. It’s possible that his fortunes will turn even brighter in the next nine months but it’s also possible that we’re seeing him right now at peak strength — and he’s still in a toss-up with Sanders in states he needs to win. This isn’t “political suicide” by Democrats. It’s more like Russian roulette. Which I guess is fitting in Bernie’s case.