Comparing Sanders and Clinton: Primary and general election prospects

It is far too early to predict the outcome of the Democratic Party primary. Personally, I like both of the candidates and will support whichever one is selected to run in the general election. Both candidates have strong reasons to vote for them, and each candidate has their own “electability” issues. I vote on March 1st, and have not yet decided whom to vote for.

Why would I start out an essay, an essay that is meant to be an objective analysis, with that statement? Because the validity of a statement, opinion, or analysis of the current primary process is inevitably evaluated in terms of the leanings of the source. I have found that when I say (or, more likely, post on Facebook) something that favors one candidate, some supporters of the other candidate assume that I have formed an opinion, and they go on the attack. In the extreme, I have been told that I am not being truthful about my uncommitted and undecided status. To that, I say this: when I have decided which candidate to support, there will be no mistaking my position and I will be fierce about it.

With that aside, I have a few thoughts on what may happen over the next few days as the Democratic Nevada caucus (February 20th, Saturday) and the Democratic South Carolina primary (February 27th, Saturday) play out; about the overall race within the Democratic Party; and a few observations on the differences between the candidates. I’ll also point out an analysis by my friend Shawn Otto, who wrote one of those things that when I read it, I think, “Damn, why didn’t I think of and say these smart things, that’s brilliant.”

The Nevada Caucus: who will win and what will it mean?

Polling shows a dramatic recent shift in the standing of the two candidates in Nevada, though there have not been a lot of polls. Last year, Clinton held a strong but variable lead in various polls, ranging from as little as 16% to as much as 45%. I know of no polls from January, but polling conducted in February shows the two candidates nearly neck and neck, with Clinton up by no more than 6% in the poll favoring her the most.

One of those polls, actually reported by Real Clear Politics (which is a handy but not unbiased, and often inaccurate) source for polls, showed the two candidates in a tie, but we have learned since the poll was done that it was probably biased, some claimed a fake. Of this poll, Jim Newell at Slate says:

It was commissioned by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication that exists largely to terrorize Hillary Clinton. The poll was conducted by TargetPoint Consulting, a conservative firm stocked with Republican operatives whose clients in 2012 included Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Mitt Romney’s super PAC, and Karl Rove’s super PAC. This is either a solid poll or it’s a well-conducted effort to stoke the “Clinton in disarray!” narrative swirling around the Clinton campaign following New Hampshire. We will know more soon.

Despite the questionable nature of that poll, other polls such as a recent CNN/ORC poll, show the two candidates in a statistical tie. The CNN/ORC poll indicates that Clinton was ahead late last year by about the share claimed by Biden, suggesting (maybe) that Biden supporters broke for Sanders. This poll also indicates that the percentage of respondents who are undecided has dropped significantly, but 25% are still “trying to decide.”

I’ve written before about the Ethnic Effect, which is important this year for a number of reasons. I’m looking to both Nevada, with a lot of Hispanic voters in the Democratic party, and South Carolina, with a lot of African American voters in the Democratic party, to inform us, at least initially, as to how this is going to play out.

In Nevada, voters concerned with “race relations” favor Clinton by a strong majority. Related, voters who are concerned with immigration strongly favor Clinton. These observations indicate a strong diversity effect favoring Clinton over Sanders, as has been repeatedly suggested by expert commentarians.

According to the CNN/ORC poll, almost everyone in Nevada is “white” and few are “non-White” (suggesting that Hispanic voters are conflated with non-White Hispanic), and thus, this poll provides no information for us to evaluate the Ethnic Effect. I suppose we will learn more after the event, with exit polls. The pattern of men favoring Bernie and women favoring Hillary is extant in Nevada, according to this poll.

There are three answers to the question of who will win in Nevada.

1) Can’t tell, polling is too close.

2) Both, because it will be a statistical tie, though maybe not as close as Iowa, and thus, Nevada will be sending the Iowan message to Democrats: “You have two good candidates here, carry on.”

3) Sanders, because the trend has been for Clinton to slowly leak support while Sanders slowly adds support, and Clinton was way ahead before. So, Sanders will likely squeak past Clinton, and this will be viewed as a big win for the insurgent candidate.

The South Carolina Primary: who will win and what will it mean?

Clinton has been ahead in the under-polled state of South Carolina all along. Recently, Sanders has shown some increased support there, and Clinton has lost some support there, but this change is well within the range of what we expect to see as campaigns evolve and background effects such as name recognition come into play. There is no apparent Sanders Surge happening in South Carolina. This means two things.

1) Clinton will win this primary, affirming her hold on the African American constituency.

2) Sanders needs to do better than expected to a certain degree in order to make South Carolina a bellwether of his future success.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll (Clinton: 60%, Sanders 32%) released today (Feburary 19th) looks at ethnicity. As summarized by NBC News,

In the current poll, Sanders leads Clinton among white Democrats, 51 percent to 46 percent. But Clinton crushes him among African Americans in the state, 68 percent to 21 percent.

Even among African Americans under the age of 45, Clinton is ahead of Sanders by 17 points, 52 percent to 35 percent.

I’m not sure what percentage of the South Carolina vote Sanders has to get to show that he is eating some of Clinton’s lead. Clinton is up by an average of about 24%. But the most recent polls show her closer to 24%. Taking out the uncommitted, Sanders is expected to get about 35% of the vote between the two candidates. It seems to me that if he gets 40% or more, that is big.

What does all this mean?

The Democratic race is evolving in two ways. First, Sanders is simply picking up support among his base. Those new voters, millennials, as well as a lot of regular Democrats, but more men than women, and mostly white, are joining up. At the same time, Clinton is holding her position, and possibly expanding a bit, among African Americans, women, and traditional Democrats.

The “electability” argument is most often used these days against Sanders, but has traditionally been used against Clinton. I’m reminded of the joke of how fast you have to be to out run a lion on the African Savanna. (I take this personally having been in that situation a number of times.) The answer is, of course, faster than the one you are with. The common culture seems to assign more unelectability to Sanders than to Clinton, but this culture forgets that Clinton has always borne this burden. In any event, I think the electability argument is starting to fade as we are told by the primary voters that we have two good candidates, move on to the next state. I suspect this will continue to happen over the next eight days.

Who will win the nomination, and how will they win the presidency?

Both campaigns require a surge of support in order to win the general election.

As Bernie Sanders himself noted the other day in Saint Paul, when voter turnout is low, the right wing wins. When voter turnout is high, progressives and liberals win.

But each candidate may have a different subset of voters who will turn out. Sanders has the young, the millennials, the doods. This subset of voters is among the most unreliable when it comes to showing up at the polls. Can they be counted on?

Clinton has women, who are good at showing up at polls, and African Americans, who are traditionally thought of as a weak voting block, but who have in fact been strong over the last couple of election cycles. So for Clinton, the question is, were African American voters so involved only, or mainly, because they were supporting the first African American candidate, and if so, do they not constitute an important part of Clinton’s path to the White House?

The details of the South Carolina primary, and the collection of primaries and caucuses on March 1st, Super Tuesday, may answer that question.

There is a reason to say that Sanders will win the nomination.

This is the first time I’ve said anything like this, on behalf of either candidate, but I have reason to say this now, provisionally, as a working hypothesis and nothing more. As I noted at the start of this essay, we simply don’t know at this time, and it is way too early to say. But there are a couple of reasons for the Clinton campaign to worry.

First, look at these two graphs from Real Clear Politics. The top graph shows the march of polling results during the entire 2008 primary. The second graph shows the current polling results to date. See the pattern? Is is possible that the Clinton-Sanders race is mirroring the Obama-Sanders race of 2008?

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.23.09 AM

A second, related (not independent) reason supporting this pattern recognition exercise is the simple fact that Sanders seems to exceed expectations and Clinton seems to not meet expectations. Again, this is too early to say, but if that pattern continues in both Nevada and South Carolina, then there might be something to this.

The third reason, which is more fundamental and explanatory and less reliant on seeing patterns in the data, is that proposed by Shawn Otto in a recent essay at Huffington Post, called “What the Clinton Campaign is Missing.”

In this essay, Otto, who is an astute political observer (and author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America), notes that the effectiveness of a campaign is partly tied to the effectiveness of that campaign’s story.

As a touchstone to the deeper concept, Otto reviews and critiques the various campaign slogans.

On the Republican side…

Bush: Jeb!

Carson: Heal + Inspire + Revive

Christie: Telling it Like it Is

Cruz: Reigniting the Promise of America

Fiorina: New Possibilities. Real Leadership.

Kasich: K for US

Rubio: A New American Century

Trump: Make America Great Again!

Bush’s slogan says nothing beyond emphatically asserting his first name, suggesting a lack of purpose in his campaign beyond entitlement that is completely at odds with an otherwise thoughtful man. Carson’s is obtuse and intellectual… Christie’s and Fiorina’s were both full of corporate-style bravado but said little beyond bluster, while Kasich’s is opaque and too cute for prime time. The only candidates who are telling voters stories about why they should be elected are Cruz, Rubio, and Trump…Trump has the stronger and more emotional narrative…

On the Democratic side we see the following:

Clinton: Hillary for America

Sanders: A Future to Believe In

Here, Clinton’s static, self-referential message isn’t telling a story that connects with voters’ lives in a meaningful way, and much of Sanders’ rise can be attributed to the fact that he is. … Voters will connect deeply and passionately even with a grumpy old socialist if he tells them a story that intersects with their lives…

Read that essay for a much more detailed analysis.

Finally, I’m going to make an observation about the difference in style between Clinton and Sanders. I’ve seen Clinton speak (in person) twice, and Sanders once, but I suspect these observations are accurate.

When Sanders speaks, he speaks in bullet points, each internally well worked out, and each delivered with roughly equal levels of rhetorical energy. When Clinton is at the podium, the entire speech as a whole has a larger pattern. She begins by making personal connections to her audience, and to others who have been on the stage before her. She moves from this introduction to historical context and backstory about her own experiences, and then eventually moves on to the key issues of the day. As this happens, the rhetorical crescendos start off small and infrequent, then strengthen, and eventually merge into a short but powerful set of rallying cries that gets everyone on their feet.

It is not the case that either of these approaches is newer or more traditional. Bernie sounds like the old timey liberal activists that I remember getting to know back when I was a teenager working on my first campaigns. Indeed, he sounds like an old fashioned socialist. Hillary sounds like a traditional fire-and-brimstone orator, reminding me of Ted Kennedy and, actually, his brothers. Both methods are good.

There may, however, be an unintended consequence of these two rhetorical styles. Clinton is a great novel or an engaging TV series with the cliffhanger in the last episode of the season. Sanders is a series of eye-catching facebook posts or compelling tweets. Even in the debate context, Sanders hits the points again and again with each arm-waving opportunity to speak, while Clinton weaves a narrative across her speaking opportunities. Sanders jabs and jabs and Clinton plays rope-a-tope and eventually lands the uppercut. Sanders is a football team driving down the field, making third down conversion after third down conversion, while Clinton is a baseball team wearing down the other pitcher and stacking up men on base for the grand slam. Sanders is the insurgent rebel force hitting target after target, Clinton is the big army strategically moving all the troops into place and then closing down the enemy’s options. If someone does not stop me now, I’ll probably think of metaphors in the areas of evolution, education, and housecleaning.

If Shawn Otto is right about story, this difference between Sanders and Clinton may be a difference in the structure of the story, how it is delivered to the reader. If so, this may be a factor in the difference between the two candidates in who supports them, as categorized by age and maybe sex.

More like this

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I recently developed a model of how the primary race will play out between Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. That model made certain assumptions, and allowed me to produce two projections (well, many, but I picked two) depending on how each candidate actually…
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An economic report concluding that Sanders's policies would result in a growth rate of 5.3% has been criticized by some influential economists who support Clinton.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/opinion/varieties-of-voodoo.html?ref=…

Unfortunately, instead of responding to the criticism, the Sanders campaign has suggested that the criticism is invalid because the critics are biased.

I don't know if the Clinton campaign has made any claims about the growth that would result from her policies, but I find the 5.3% claim ridiculous. Furthermore, one might ask what effect a yearly growth rate of that size would have on resource consumption and on efforts to mitigate climate change.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 19 Feb 2016 #permalink

Greg,

A reasonable analysis but for the way you gloss over electability.

Putting aside recent way-too-early polls on the general election, there just isn't any good argument that Bernie is not a high-risk candidate compared to Hillary. I'm a one-issue voter here (SCOTUS), and I doubt the sincerity of anyone who claims there's a good reason to take the risk of Bernie being the candidate.

First let me say that I was confident about President Obama early on, and supported him for the same reason-- I'm not a "fan" or follower of anyone. But I think both campaigns are "fighting the last war" in a sense.

Hillary was roundly criticized for not being more personal and personable against Barack, and for not playing the female card enough. So we see the shift in that direction now.

Bernie's camp thinks they are going to get lots of enthusiasm and turnout, particularly among young people, like Barack did.

But here's where I think you should evaluate those approaches differently-- not how they work against the other primary candidate, but match up the individuals against potential Republican candidates individually. As candidates/people/potential Presidents, not concepts.

Anyone care to begin?

Obama-Clinton in '08
interesting piece

By John Salmond (not verified) on 21 Feb 2016 #permalink

In the lead right now we have a weak outsider Republican vs a weak establishment Democrat. I say weak because I think both have unfavorables that limit the number of voters that will hold their noses and punch the card for them. Nate Silver cites polling data to establish Trump's ceiling at about 35%, but while I think that there are a lot of people that will stay home or vote third party rather than vote Trump, his ceiling could very well rise if his opponent is Clinton. She has a lot of baggage, and I think that a lot of Republicans will never vote for her no matter how much they hate Trump. I also think the outsider voters will either vote for an outsider candidate or stay home.

Nate Silver has a good analysis of how Sanders could get nominated. A lot of it involves just keeping the losses in South Carolina (to name one) in the low double or single digits and winning a few other states.

My prediction: Sanders will do well on Super Tuesday in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont (duh) and likely Colorado and Alaska. He has a pretty good shot at Oklahoma because of the makeup of the Democratic electorate there.

He is getting drubbed in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee. Those are the states with the big delegate totals, and that's why he's going to bring a narrow loss to the DNC.

In the next round of states Sanders could take Maine and maybe Idaho or Wyoming. I can't see him taking Michigan but call it 50-50. Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi? Fuggedaboutit.

He'll do ok and even win in North Dakota. He'll do well enough in Connecticut and Rhode Island. And he'll do really well in Wisconsin I bet. Pennsylvania and New York? In the latter I expect Clinton will take the area around NYC and Sanders will pick up delegates from upstate.

As to electability: that's always a dumb argument IMO. People are electable if they get votes. It's that simple.

Trump's ceiling comes from the fact that while 35% or so like him, as many or more hate him and that drives up his net negatives. Clinton has the same problem but her negatives -- the people who actively dislike her -- is smaller among the general electorate, so she would win the overall popular vote and what that means in terms of the electoral vote is another question. That is, Trump makes New York and New Jersey competitive for the GOP if enough Democrats stay home. That hasn't happened since 1988, especially in the case of New Jersey.

Yes, Clinton has baggage, but Democratic voters went for her anyway (even in 2008, it wasn't like nobody wanted her). The same would be true if she gets the 2016 nod. And the people who hate her are mostly Republicans anyway and not going to vote for her, period. Trump has a similar issue, but it's more pressing because a lot more independents have unfavorable views of him.

Donal and Jesse,

I always hear about people hating or disliking Hillary. I don't quite get it. Are they the same people who "hate" President Obama?

Why wouldn't they end up "hating" Bernie Sanders as well?

I think everyone agrees that there is a core group that "hates" whomever Fox and Talk Radio tells them to hate. But how about a sensible Republican woman-- would she choose Trump over Hillary?

I approach this as considering individual matchups, and in the end I don't think Trump will be allowed to be the nominee-- Rubio, with Kasich or some other such mature figure as VP is the most likely at this point.

That's where I think Bernie is a real liability. He will not motivate minority voters and women like Hillary will.

Again, you can't look at the primary to parse those breakdowns-- what matters is "Hillary's support among women" in the general, not when she's running against Bernie.

There are Repubs who hate Obama, Hillary and anything with a D after it. If you believe the polls, there are also many, many other people that don't trust Hillary, though they may like other things about her, but do trust Bernie. Sanders supporters just want someone less establishment than Hillary. See this link:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/mac-isn-t-buying-it

Any sensible Republican woman would have switched parties a long time ago ...

Donal,

"many other people that don't trust Hillary"

Yawn. Whenever people bring out the tired Republican talking points-- "Hillary will say anything to get elected."-- I say "That's exactly the person I want representing me in the general election." And in dealing with the Senate, and Putin, and most other things.

As I said, I'm a one-issue voter on this.

Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

appointed by Bill Clinton

Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan

appointed by Barack Obama

Both "Republican-lite', triangulators, compromisers, yadda yadda.

So, I think there is more than enough confidence on the part of women, gay people, disenfranchised voters, and so on, that they will turn out for Hillary, in the full expectation that she will not appoint someone who will take away their rights.

There was an interesting piece but I can't remember where I read it, that said African Americans had very low expectations that politicians would deliver on grand promises to make their lives better. They are not impressed by Bernie, for that and other reasons. It's about being able to relate, and they can relate to Hillary.

"Yawn" I'll keep that in mind next time you ask a question.

@zebra-- I might have used the term "hate" too colloquially, but the more scientific way of stating it might be:

In a poll people are asked who they have a strong positive reaction / support for, weak support, neutral, and strong and weak negative. So they ask who views a candidate favorably or not.

So for example in a general electorate poll you might get Trump getting 25% strongly favorable, 10% favorable, 10% neutral, 10% unfavorable and 45% strongly unfavorable (I am making this up for the sake of the example). Clinton might have 25% strongly favorable, 10% favorable, 20% neutral, 10% unfavorable and 35% strongly unfavorable. So her net negatives are smaller than Trumps, and if the general vote maps perfectly she has more room to get to a majority (or at least a plurality).

If you were to break this down by party affiliation, say Dems, GOP and independents, then you could get a reasonable idea of how many people dislike Hillary and will never vote for her anyway (probably a lot of folks in the strongly unfavorable camp) and the ones in the neutral zone who might be convinced. For instance a lot of Democrats might not like Clinton from a policy perspective but will vote for her anyway. I suspect most Democrats are like that, and the same for the GOP. That doesn't mean an uninspiring candidate can't hurt you by having people stay home -- that's certainly happened. (Mondale didn't exactly fire people up, nor did Carter).

Anyhow the point is there are lots of people out there (usually Republicans) who think Hillary murdered Vince Foster and that something something Benghazi and whatever. They aren't likely to vote for her anyway. As long as the number of people who are in that category are outnumbered by those who want to vote for her and those that might or might not vote for her, then she can win.

A similar calculation applies to primaries, though as I noted party loyalty can kick in sometimes. There aren't many places where ticket-splitting is common anymore for national-level office.

Both Democratic candidates are flawed. Clinton facilitated the coup in Honduras that has had disastrous consequences:

"Many here say the outcome of the coup is what pushed Honduras to where it is today: the world's most violent nation, according to the U.N."
http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/146758628/who-rules-in-honduras-a-coups-l…

Her ties to Wall Street are for many a liability, as are her speaking fees and her reluctance to release the transcripts.

Sanders says he'll raise middle class taxes, calls himself a democratic socialist, knows little about foreign-policy, and promotes policies whose success depends on "a political revolution."
http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/2/22/11086292/bernie-sander…

My belief is that Clinton will be the nominee, and one of the reasons is that she has worked on behalf of other Democratic candidates whereas Sanders hasn't. She has goodwill that Sanders can't draw on.

On the Republican side the choice is between two candidates that many – including Republicans – find repulsive, and a cute and cuddly automaton who's no less extreme, but more presentable, and therefore, more dangerous. Krugman believes that Cruz is no longer a factor:

“The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.

The other man, of course, has very peculiar hair.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/opinion/cranks-on-top.html?ref=opinion

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

Jesse,

Yes. I'm interested, though, in that primary v general election question. It's very confusing to me why(how) people have these reactions, beyond being partisanship expressed in emotional terms-- the Fox news Talk Radio effect.

As you can tell from my comments, I am a pragmatist-- I thought Bill Clinton was incredibly irresponsible and did a great deal of damage because his little head overrode his big head with Monica. But I don't have overwhelming negative feelings about him. And remarkably, he would easily have won a third term if that were possible, so I am not alone.

I don't even have overwhelmingly negative feelings about Dick Cheney-- although, given the opportunity, I would have locked him up where he could do no harm, just like any super-predator criminal.

So, what we have now is people who "hate" Hillary in both the Dem and Republican parties. But she has never done anything to earn that visceral response, as far as I can tell.

So I think the calculation is that she would have a good chance, again, with how much *depending on the Republican ticket*.

@Coscmicomics- I don't think Sanders needs to be as revolutionary as all that. In any election the aspirations often outpace the actual accomplishments but that is what gets you room to do anything at all. And recall stuff like the Voting Rights Act which got passed even though lots of white people in the South and North both would love for black people to disappear entirely and another sizable chunk still don't think they are people.

In any case, remember that any Democrat who gets elected is bringing a lot of Senators with them. There are a number of Republican senators -- 24 of them are up for re-election by the way, with 16 that are in not so safe seats and 6 that look really vulnerable right now. (Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire). Dems running the table with those 6 isn't inconceivable, A less drastic shift in the House is also a good possibility.

Reinstating Glass Steagall shouldn't be so hard, actually. Big companies have been broken up before -- just ask AT&T (which was *bigger* relative to the economy). Even Wall Streeters could be convinced if you remind them that Glass Steagall saved their bacon -- twice.

I mean, nobody said that Obama would need a revolution to accomplish anything -- note that his coattails in 2008 were pretty long. (The fact that the DNC made sure that a supermajority was squandered -- and you can't tell me that pulling Kerry out of the Senate wasn't a calculated move -- had nothing to do with what the electorate wanted).

Jesse,

Pulling Kerry out of the Senate??

With respect to supermajority-- this is one of those myths that never dies. With ACA for example, Public Option was defeated by nominal Democrats, not Republicans. That was a de jure but not a de facto "super" majority.

You didn't show us any polls about how sanders does against Trump. I believe they show him beating trump easily , Hillary less so. This is a different election and clinton's wall at connections are a real weakness. Don't believe me? Look
At the people who support trump who aren't racists. They like him because he's not "bought".
I could be wrong of course I'm totally open right now to information.

I'd certainly rather see either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in charge of the United States of America than the likes of Trump Rubio or for pity's sake Ted Cruz.

I'm an Aussie who has been following US politics a bit for a while.

I'm not sure how much trust I'd put in any polls seeing they are all brief and sometimes dodgy snapshots of particular moments with particular people - and in politics famously a week is along time let alone the over six months we still have to the US election.

I like both Sanders and Hillary - but I gotta say I think the latter is ultimately going to be the Democratic nominee and hopefully, I expect winner of the race to be POTUS. Which costs so much and takes so long and is so painful and horrible at times.

Please Americans. Choose wisely.

My nightmare (because, y'know, your nation has kinda a pretty big influence on ours and the rest of the world at large too) is a Republican presidency - above all else that's what I want to see avoided. But if it has to be a Repub than I'd rather Rubio than either Trump or last preference Cruz. All three men would be nightmares though. So, again, Americans. Please choose wisely.

#13
“I don’t think Sanders needs to be as revolutionary as all that.”

As all what? In case you haven't understood, in #11 I'm pointing to some of Sanders's electoral vulnerabilities, not to what he might be able to accomplish as president.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

#15

Up to now the Republican attacks have been concentrated on Clinton. Sanders has been ignored; in some Republican circles he has even been promoted. The polls you're citing are meaningless. What you have to ask yourself is, how vulnerable would Sanders be to concerted Republican attacks? How capable would Sanders be of defending himself against them?

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

Ted Cruz is in big trouble.

“Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign erupted in turmoil on Monday as Mr. Cruz fired his chief spokesman for spreading a misleading video of Senator Marco Rubio — an ill-timed shake-up for a campaign already under duress on the eve of the Republican caucuses in Nevada.
For Mr. Cruz, who has vigorously defended himself in recent weeks as rivals accused him of running an underhanded race, the episode cuts at the premise of his bid. He has cast himself as the candidate of honesty and integrity, with a faith-based pitch and a backdrop that reads “TrusTed” during speeches.
http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/02/22/ted-cruz-fires-t…

Not only is his fervent sleaze catching up with him, but it now turns out that his campaign is supported by God. So were Michele Bachmann's and Mitt Romney's. TrussTed?
Ted Cruz's Dad: My Son Ran for President After God Sent His Wife a Sign
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/02/rafael-cruz-ted-cruz-campai…

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

cosmicomics,

You are doing a reality-based analysis; the only thing I would critique is from my original point-- what matters is the matchup in the general elections. What is a "weakness" in one case may be a "strength" in another.

Hillary is not weakened by being hawkish/interventionist on foreign policy.

I think the Republican ticket is resolving as Rubio/Kasich, which is the model Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden. Hillary can counter that, but Bernie can't-- that is the lesson from most of our recent elections, if you look at the characteristics of the competitors.

@zebra -- The Democrats had enough votes to stop a filibuster, and yes it was within the party that public option was killed, but Kerry's absence (in favor of a person everyone *knew* was a weak candidate, which gives you plausible deniability "Hey we couldn't prevent a filibuster because the other guys had someone in place..."

That meant the ACA could be chipped away yet further. It wasn't just Kerry either: Clinton and Salazar were both yanked too. That's two seats that got pulled the day after he took office and replaced a senior Senator on the Health Education and Pensions Committee with a junior person (Bennett).

So yeah, the 60 seats were pissed away, quite deliberately. While many Democrats were probably not thrilled with major changes in the health system, there's room to work with them there, whereas with the GOP there just isn't.

@cosmiccomics - you mentioned the link where they were talking about a political revolution for Sanders to get anything done, which is what I was thinking of. Sorry if I misunderstood. But yes he has electoral vulnerabilities -- security issues probably aren't one of them though, since it isn't something he hangs his hat on and he hasn't really challenged orthodox security policy. If the GOP is going to go after him it will be on stuff like taxes and reviving the "health care rationing" meme. And while I am upset with Hillary's consigliere visit to Egypt (effectively backing the generals) and her actions in Honduras I don't think most Americans care --especially about Honduras. I wish it were different but there it is.

Sanders is really vulnerable on nonwhite voters, who haven't flocked to him and haven't had a really compelling reason to (not that Clinton has offered great reasons either but she has the pre-existing packing of the back establishment pols). Basically black folks have to show up to vote. A relatively small decrease from the 66% who came to the polls last time, say to 56% -- would put many states in the electoral college back in the GOP column (Florida is one where if you cut down turnout by 5% or so it makes a difference). Latino voters matter less because of where they are concentrated, and only half of them (48%) showed up to vote last time around. If Sanders were the nominee he'd have to hope that lots of them were angry enough at Trump to show up and vote against him, rather than for Sanders but in that situation people are more likely to stay home. Hillary hasn't got as big of a problem there.

Either way the state that moves is NC, believe it or not. That's not a place that has been all that competitive for Democrats until recently. Maybe they'll push some GOTV efforts there. It also will depend on how successful Univision's GOTV drive is.

But for Latino voters to make a huge difference (moving NC, again) they'd have to come out at rates of 65%+ and go 72%+ for Democrats. I don't see that happening with Sanders (or Hillary for that matter).

(For Texas or Arizona to move they'd have to come out at rates of ~80% and vote Dem at ~90% rates, not likely).

Jesse,

I think you need to review your history-- still don't know what your are referring to WRT Kerry, and Salazar was a conservative replaced by someone more liberal, and I don't know that Hillary's replacement had any influence at all on the ACA(?).

Too much conspiratorial thinking. The truth is, popular support for a major change in health insurance just wasn't there, and it still isn't. Most people already have taxpayer-subsidized health insurance through their employers or Medicare and Medicaid. That's why President Obama said the thing about "keeping what you have"; it was puffery but pretty much accurate for the vast, vast, majority. And that's why he got ACA through.

If he had had a progressive supermajority, he might well have gotten Public Option, which is the bridge to some kind of real single payer system. But let's stick to reality, which has a liberal bias, but recognizes that our political system favors the right wing.

#20
“What is a “weakness” in one case may be a “strength” in another.
Hillary is not weakened by being hawkish/interventionist on foreign policy.”
You're right about that, at least regarding the general election. Rubio would perhaps criticize her for not being hawkish enough, but I don't think he'd win votes by doing that. One thing Trump's criticisms of the war in Iraq show is that much of the Republican base isn't as hawkish as the elite. Trump would probably criticize her, but it's hard to say how – his attacks are opportunistic, not ideological – and a strong response would probably lead to another episode of “I never said that,” followed by a new form of criticism.
I am surprised though that Sanders doesn't invoke questionable aspects of Clinton's foreign-policy, but instead always rubiots back to her vote in 2003.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

#22
“But yes he has electoral vulnerabilities — security issues probably aren’t one of them though, since it isn’t something he hangs his hat on and he hasn’t really challenged orthodox security policy.”

In a previous comment about one of the debates I described Sanders as having a Ben Carson moment. His ignorance is a vulnerability. When asked to name his foreign-policy advisers, he/his campaign couldn't name any. His foreign-policy is limited to having voted against the war in Iraq 13 years ago.

Up to now his great strength has been the rectitude, simplicity, and consistency of his message. And his basic message is one that I think many Americans agree with. Money controls politics. The economy is rigged. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any signs of learning or growth or flexibility. He increasingly reminds me of rubiot stuck on repeat. (I don't know how sincere she is, but Clinton has absorbed Sanders's fundamental complaints into her campaign. She's learned from him, and he's made her a stronger candidate.)

Finally, I think the concerns I've raised in #18 are valid.

I am not passionate about either candidate, but I am a not-a-Republican zealot. I am delighted that Sanders's message has sounded and has caught on, but I'm not convinced that he's the one that can best prevent a Republican catastrophe.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

#26

Your link is worth reading, but it's propagandistic rather than analytic. It's a nuance-free example of motivated reasoning.

Summary: Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Against Clinton, Trump will be invincible. Against Sanders, Trump will be helpless.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

cosmicomics,

Thanks for your synopsis at 27-- I didn't bother reading the link, but apparently I am psychic and it is as I expected.

To more serious matters: I would rate Kasich/Rubio as the most dangerous ticket, with Rubio/Kasich as the second, and at this point the most likely. I would still bet against Trump being the nominee. And who would be his VP? Think about that one, and your head will spin.

The most interesting thing WRT Hillary is the fact that she is a woman-- which is her actual greatest strength as well as her greatest weakness. We managed to elect an African-American of sorts, and I think the same dynamic will prevail, but there are clearly lots of men-- young men, in fact, as well as some women-- for whom her gender is a problem.

#27
Robinson is analytical enough. It does look like Trump will be the Rep candidate. He attacks well, and Clinton has vulnerabilities wrt the identity politics at which Trump excels, and which his followers eat up. I do think he can also attack Sanders as a socialist/communist/egghead what have you. The real question is whether liberals and millenials will turn out in greater numbers than Trump's nativists for an establishment candidate.

#29
“He [Trump] attacks well”

Bullshit. His attacks have been effective because they haven't met any resistance. The other Republican candidates have attacked each other, not Trump. They have largely ignored him and have used few resources against him. They didn't take him seriously enough to engage in preemptive attacks, they haven't counterattacked, and, to a great extent, they haven't even bothered to defend themselves.

Part of the problem for the other Republican candidates is the increasing gap between a large segment of the Republican base and the economic interests of the Republican oligarchy. A Republican candidate can't attack Trump without exposing the party's class interest and alienating many of the voters it depends on. Where Trump represents a revolt against party orthodoxy, the orthodox candidates are at a loss.

Trump has already shown his hand, and he has nothing. He'll make America great again, but he's never been forced to explain how. What policies he has are largely based on scapegoats. He's a serial liar. He's suggested punching protesters in the face or roughing them up. His tax “reform” is a giveaway to the rich that would inflate the national deficit. All of this is easily documented. Most of it is on video. Any Democratic campaign should be able to tear him to shreds.

One of the holes in Trump's populism is named Carl Icahn. Maybe you should read a little about him. Find out how he made TWA great again.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink