It seems there’s a new story like this published once or twice a week now. They are all slightly different but reflect the same general concern emanating from moderate Democrats, i.e. Bernie Sanders is going to lead Democrats to disaster. Today’s edition of this story was published by the LA Times under the headline “Sanders’ rise fueling internal fight as some Democrats fear a November wipeout.”
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., stokes anxiety about a Sanders victory in a plea for donations. Former Vice President Joe Biden throws shade in a new Iowa ad saying, “This isn’t the election to take a risk.” Third Way, a centrist Democratic group, sent a panicky memo to hundreds of Iowa Democrats warning against a Sanders nomination.
In one of the most assertive moves, a Democratic political action committee is airing a statewide TV spot questioning Sanders’ ability to beat Trump and raising the issue of his health by reminding viewers of the 78-year-old candidate’s heart attack in October.
“Iowa is a vital choke point,” said Mark Mellman, a veteran Democratic strategist who produced the ad but is not allied with any 2020 candidate. “If he wins Iowa, he wins New Hampshire, then very likely wins Nevada,” Mellman added, naming the first three states to vote. “He’d be very hard to stop at that point.”
Here’s the ad which a pro-Israel Democratic super PAC is now running in Iowa. Sample quote: “Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa—they’re just not going to vote for a socialist.”
There’s some evidence the gist of the ad is correct, i.e. the rust belt is not going to be fond of some of Sanders’ policy positions. Today Sanders introduced a bill designed to create a national ban on fracking. Elected Democrats have already warned that position is likely to be a loser in the state.
But an even bigger problem for Bernie is his support for Medicare for All. Today Third Way, the center-left group which has been raising the alarm about a Sanders nomination, published poll results showing M4A is underwater in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Here’s a chart the group produced showing the results:
Biden’s position (building on the ACA) polls the best. As you can see, voters are no more enthusiastic about Trump’s repeal and replace plan than Sanders Medicare for All. That would seem to blunt any advantage in a head to head matchup. However, Trump could moderate or downplay his plan at any point while everyone knows Sanders will not give an inch.
And these results are before you look at the bottom line. Today, a new analysis of Sanders’ M4A plan concluded it could shrink the economy by 24 percent between now and 2060. That’s assuming the plan is financed by deficit spending. The alternative is to raise income taxes and/or payroll taxes substantially to cover the cost of the plan. I guarantee that once you include the tax increases in the question about M4A, support for it will drop even further.
As Third Way notes, it’s not just Sanders who is at risk if he wins the nomination. “Imagine Iowa Democratic candidates having to run this year on an agenda that includes tens of trillions in new spending, more than doubling the size of the federal government. They would also have to defend the largest tax increase since WWII on the middle class and small business.” Is Sanders going to campaign on behalf of struggling centrists? You can bet his favorite surrogate AOC won’t. Instead they will be left to struggle on their own.
Jonathan Chait called nominating Sanders an “act of insanity” and I think that’s pretty accurate if you look at the numbers. But it appears many Democrats aren’t really listening to any of these warnings. They are convinced that America’s Corbyn can somehow win back states Trump won in 2016 on a socialist platform. Good luck with all of that, I guess.