The Electability of Bernie Sanders



Katherine is a Christian with a particular interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international development, peace, and social justice issues. She has a master's degree in International Affairs and lives in Canada.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I wouldn’t be overly dismissive of the effects of a third party on a Trump/Sanders race. The likely dynamic would be to siphon off enough Obama republicans to make all the purple states break plurality red – and a possible Trump electoral vote victory despite a national Sanders plurality.

    I wouldn’t even be entirely dismissive of the possilbity of Clinton running an independent ticket if Sanders beats the long odds against him for the nomination.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

      A centrist-establishment third party (e.g., Bloomberg) run could definitely hurt Sanders by peeling away moderate and conservatie Democrats. But I don’t think it’s especially likely to happen. No third-party candidate has ever won a US presidential election. The ones who do run typically represent political positions that are outside of the mainstream, and run because they want to draw increased attention to those positions.

      A third-party candidate competing against Trump vs. Sanders would be running in support of the establishment and the conventional wisdom (social liberalism and economic conservatism): those positions don’t need attention drawn to them because they’re already common political positions. Bloomberg couldn’t win, and all the polls support that. All he could is throw the election to either the Democrats or the Republicans, depending on which voters he attracted – so it would be more efficient for him to choose which candidate he liked better, and endorse them, rather than mounting a run himself.Report

  2. Avatar j r says:

    Clinton has much stronger support among people of colour, especially among black people. While this is going to be a major factor in the Democratic primary, it will not matter in the Democratic election. Many people of colour may be disappointed if Sanders wins the primary – but they will turn out in droves to vote against Trump.

    What’s the basis for these claims?

    Yes, Clinton has a historical relatively strong position with black Americans and Sanders had some early stumbles, but he seems to have adjusted well. And he’s been picking up steam and endorsements and almost-endorsements Nothing succeeds like success. The more likely a Sanders win becomes, the more people, including black people, will see him as a viable option. How that plays out, I don’t know. It certainly wrong though, to look at historical levels of support for Clinton and just assume those levels stay the same.

    As for Trump, the claim that people “will turn out in droves to vote against Trump” seems like no small amount of white progressive projection, a belief that, since Trump is signalling everything that progressives dislike, minorities must really hate him. The polls on minority support for Trump are all over the place and his comments about Mexicans are going to make Hispanic support an uphill battle, but I could see Trump doing quite well with blacks (relative to a very low Republican baseline).

    Also, I don’t think that there is a big historical precedent for people showing up in droves to vote against anyone. Voters are much more likely to get to the polls to vote for someone they like than against someone they don’t. Part of Obama’s 2012, and to a lesser extent 2008, victory is that the black vote turned out in much larger numbers than usual. Do people really think that Hillary is going to get that same level of turnout from black voters this year?Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to j r says:

      The polls I’ve looked at – including the linked Quinnipiac one – show Sanders and Clinton doing fairly similarly vs. Trump among African-Americans. And African-Americans poll more strongly for both Clinton and Sanders when they’re running against Trump, compared to when they’re running against another Republican candidate. So there’s support for the “voting against Trump” theory.

      I don’t know if there will be the same level of black turnout for either Democratic candidate as there was for Obama – but his increased turnout wasn’t solely the product of enthusiasm, either. He had a strong and efficient organization working to register black voters – it’s one of the reasons why his support in much of the South was higher in 2012 than in 2008, when it fell in most of the rest of the country ( ) – and the results of that process are still in place. There have got to be more black registered voters now than there were when he was elected, and that will make some difference.

      I think you’re right, regardless, that if Sanders wins the nomination he’ll likely become fairly popular among black voters. The polls now indicate that most black people are quite willing to vote for him against Trump – they just prefer Hillary.

      Also worth noting is that in the latest Quinnipiac poll ( ) Sanders and Clinton do approximatley equally well with Hispanic voters. Both candidates do better when running against Trump compared to running against Cruz or Rubio, but there’s little difference between Clinton’s margins and Sanders’. Which has substantial implications for the southwestern swing states: if Sanders can do as well as Clinton there, and better than her in the Midwest (demographics support the latter), that makes him solidly the stronger candidate.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to KatherineMW says:

        @katherinemw What people are saying about Trump wrt the general election is exactly the same thing that they said about Trump before the primary elections began. Those predictions have not looked very prescient so far.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    That latest Quinnipiac poll is interesting, especially when you take into account the margin of error. The polls are all over the place and maybe that’s because polling this early is always all over the place. Trump has been sharing some poll showing that he his support with black voters is at 25%. I am highly skeptical about that one.

    The fascinating thing about Trump, though, is that he’s been able to say something ridiculous, pick up support because of it, and then turn around and say something completely different later while paying almost no penalty for the change. If he can keep doing that, I don’t think that he has a problem increasing support among blacks or even Hispanics.

    As for turnout for or against, I will only say that answering a pollsters questions and actually showing up on election day are two very different things. Hillary has the organization, but I’m skeptical that her candidacy can create the level of support among black voters that the Obama campaign did. Only time will tell. She is still the odds on favorite, though.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think HRC’s firewall with Black and to a slightly lesser extent Latino voters is real enough to seal her the election. I suspect Sanders will pick up some states here and there though. We shall see in a few weeks though.

    I don’t expect HRC to go third party. She is still a loyalist to her party. Trump on the other hand…..

    Sanders can probably win against most Republicans but would be a wash in office because of gridlock.Report

  5. Katherine,

    Do any of the polls you’ve looked at take into account the math of the electoral college and the fact that one can have most of the demographics on one’s side and yet still lose because they didn’t get Ohio and Florida?

    On your analysis, it seems reasonable enough. A half year ago I would’ve said Trump would’ve flamed out by now. If Sanders wins enough in the next couple weeks, he’ll also have proved stronger than I had thought he would. Even so, I’m not certain Trump will get the nomination. So…..I guess we’ll see.Report

    • Looking at the electoral college, Sanders is much stronger than Hillary in the Midwest. Against Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, in Wisconsin he’s polling at +18, +12, and +11, compared to Clinton’s +9, +1, and +1. In Minnesota, he’s likewise polling at +16 against Trump compared to Clinton’s +5. And those polls are all from January, before he started winning primaries. There aren’t any 2016 polls of Ohio, but given the similar demographics of the Midwestern states I expect you would see a similar trend.

      The Midwest (not including Indiana), combined with the traditional strong Democratic territory of the northeast and the west coast, is enough to win Bernie the presidency even if he didn’t win any of the Southwest. And if he runs against Trump, he’s going to win at least some of the southwest. Virginia is also polling as solidly Democratic regardless of who the candidate is. So Bernie’s got pretty good margins. Clinton is less likely to win Ohio, and more likely to face a tougher fight in other midwestern states (e.g., Minnesota) based on current polls.

      There’s a lack of recent polling in the Southwest, but given the Bernie has closed a 20-point gap with Hillary in the Nevada primary and is now polling at anything from ‘virtually tied’ to ‘a few points behind’, I’d conclude that he’s significantly improved his support in the southwest.

      In Florida, against Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, Sanders is -5, even, and -5, compared to Clinton’s -3, +5, and even. So Florida’s not looking overly strong for the Democrats, and banking on it rather than on the midwest and southwest looks like risky business.

      Interestingly (and surprisingly, given Clinton’s lead among black voters), Sanders is also at +2, even, and -4 against Trump, Cruz, and Rubio in North Carolina, compared to Clinton’s -1, -3, and -9.

      So on the whole, 2016 seem to show Sanders performing better in some important swing states than Clinton does.

      The poll numbers are from here:

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    “This anger, this hostility to the ‘establishment’ is the central force driving both of the political primaries, and is responsible for the popularity of both Trump and Sanders”

    But as we’ve seen so many times, especially with members of congress who ran on similar platforms, the probability that these guys will be co opted by “the system” or marginalized is high, or they’ll be ignored by the deep state and it won’t matter anyway.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    I remain unconvinced that Trump will win the GOP nod. He appears to have a relatively solid ceiling around 35%. That’s a good chunk of the GOP base but it’s far from enough to simply take him to the delegates he’ll need to win the nomination outright. The only reason he’s been winning has been that the field against him is fractured. Jeb! appears to be on his last legs; Carson is wobbling. Really at this point it’s Cruz, Rubio and Trump. I am uncertain how exactly it’ll shake out but I am still highly confident that Trump won’t be the GOP nominee, and I say that in sorrow rather than glee since I think Trump would be an excreable general election candidate.Report

  8. Avatar Morat20 says:

    On a side note, I’m a little leery of general election head-to-head matchups at this point in the primary. Scratch that, a lot leery. I wouldn’t use them to say Clinton, Sanders, Trump, or the Ghost of Reagan was more or less electable.

    I also wouldn’t use primary voting turnout patterns as patterns for the general election — for example, all those people voting for Bernie in the Democratic primary are gonna vote for Clinton in the general, and vice versa. (Less so, perhaps, in open primary states, but in the end — people motivated enough to show up to primary will show up to a general election, and the way political identity and voting patterns actually work, they’ll pull the lever for the candidate of the party whose primary they showed up to). Maybe less on the GOP side, but not a whole lot — and that’s only because the GOP is struggling with some fundamental and defining party issues, and the Democrats are…really not.

    Polling is good to tell you who might win the SC or Nevada primaries coming up — but pretty useless to tell you who would win in a Cruz versus Clinton matchup six months from now. There’s a lot of things that have to happen between now and then, including the usual “everyone gathering around the party candidate love-fest” and the ever-fun “Introducing the candidate to the public at large, not the bit watching primaries, including the savage shark feeding frenzy of bored journalists and real oppo research”.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Morat20 says:

      Yeah, one thing about HRC: she’s pretty firmly defined in the minds of the electorate for good and ill. A new wave of GOP advertising about her is going to move the needle very little. Uncle Bernie is, in contrast, virgin territory; if he were the nominee what the GOP would do to him in defining would be hair raising.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

        Post-Bernie, do you see Hillary being blindsided by a Bradley Effect?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

          Honestly, no. To be frank a vote for Hillary isn’t really something a ton of people feel like bragging about. I think anyone who’s not inclined to vote for her will say so to pollsters without even a modicum of embaressment. If anything there might be a reverse Bradley Effect where people who say they won’t vote for HRC say “fish it” in the booth and pull the lever for her. It’ll depend on her opponent of course.Report

  9. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    The thing that matters is not any national poll but who wins in Florida, Ohio and Colorado. I think Sanders might do well in Colorado versus Trump, but I’m not at all sure about Florida and Ohio.

    Trump has a weird sort of charismatic appeal to a lot of people. He was the star of a TV show for 10 years, he has to.

    And for many, many voters, the word “socialist” is very, very scary. Bernie won’t overcome that in 6 months time.Report

  10. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    There are people – adherents of neither political party, and sceptics of both – who just want someone, anyone, who isn’t in the pay of banks and hedge funds and lobbyists.

    The funny/sad/scary thing is, Trump is simultaneously so in love with money, and so incompetent at managing it, that he would probably jump at the chance to take their bribes and still somehow manage to lose money to them.Report