Clinton’s Weaknesses With Independents & Young Voters Make Bernie A Better Bet In General Election

Sanders Clinton There Is A Difference

Recent posts have noted criticism of Clinton from the left for her attacks on Bernie Sanders and single payer health plans, along with repeating neoconservative talking points and citing 9/11 to justify both her hawkish foreign policy views and the level of her contributions from Wall Street. At times she  is campaigning as if she already won the nomination. It could be risky for Clinton if she continues to alienate the progressive vote in this era in which elections are often won by motivating the base to turn out. This strategy is made even riskier considering Clinton’s weaknesses with independents and in the battleground states.

Albert Hunt, former executive editor of Bloomberg News, looked at Clinton’s weaknesses in the general election:

To be sure, a number of women, especially middle-aged ones, are energized by the prospect of electing the first female U.S. president. That’s a strong asset.

But Clinton has a striking problem with young voters. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed a solid plurality of young voters has a negative view of Clinton. She did even worse in Bloomberg Politics national poll.

Here’s a result to unnerve her Brooklyn campaign headquarters. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton get a 60 percent favorable rating with 18-to-29-year-olds. She gets 35 percent approval and 57 percent unfavorable.

In the last presidential election, 19 percent of the voters were in that age cohort, which Obama won, 60 percent to 37 percent, providing his overall margin. There was a substantial decline in the number of young voters in the off-year elections, probably costing Democrats a couple Senate seats; a similar drop-off in 2016 might be decisive in a close election.

Clinton also has big problems with independent voters. In the nomination contest, she’s running well ahead of her chief challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But she loses to him among Democratic-leaning independents. Over all, independents are negative about her by a margin of better than 3-to-2.

In 2012, almost three in 10 voters were independents and Obama came close to splitting that vote with Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate.

There is little doubt that Clinton easily would defeat any Republican among blacks and Hispanics. It’s far from certain, however, that these voters would be motivated to turn out in as large numbers as they did for Obama: In 2012, 13 percent of the electorate was black, and went more than 90 percent for Obama; 10 percent was Hispanics, who gave 71 percent of their vote to the president.

While Clinton might benefit politically from fear following the recent terrorist attack in Paris, this generally helps more with those who vote Republican, although a recent poll does show her beating Donald Trump on handling terrorism. (I would hope Clinton could beat a candidate such as Trump, who is relying on fear mongering with talk of resuming waterboarding and  debunked claims of Muslims in New Jersey cheering when the World Trade Center crumbled). I do not think that Clinton can count on beating the Republicans by creating more alarm over terrorism, along with promoting a plan which is not likely work.

It will be even harder for Clinton to win among voters who desire a reform agenda. Her defenses based upon a noun, a verb, a gender reference, and 9/11 will not alter the facts around her Wall Street connections, and view that she is too indebted to Wall Street to push reform. Any claims of supporting campaign finance reform are undermined by the manner in which she not only relies on Super PACS but violates the rules prohibiting campaigns from coordinating with them. She violated the transparency rules established when Obama took office, along with prior rules, in responses to the abuses under George Bush. While she might be preferable to whoever the Republican nominate, Clinton will be too much like the Republicans in supporting a hawkish and bellicose foreign policy,continuation of the drug war, continuation of the surveillance state, and showing a lack of respect for civil liberties and separation of church and state.

The Clinton strategy comes down to hoping to win because the Republicans are worse. It is one thing to get people to tell pollsters they prefer your candidate to the opposition. It is an entirely different matter to get people to turn out in big enough numbers to win by running as the lesser of two evils. We saw in 2014 that voters are less likely to turn out when Democrats are running as Republican-lite.

In the recent past we have seen Sanders embrace the principles of FDR while Clinton has been embracing the foreign policy views of George W. Bush and citing bogus attacks from the Wall Street Journal. This is not how to get Democratic-leaning voters to turn out to vote. A candidate such as Sanders, who excites crowds and is motivating more people to register to vote Democratic, is a far safer bet in the general election.

There is strong evidence that Sanders is electable in a general election. While it might turn out that the Republicans nominate a candidate anyone could beat, there are big question marks when looking at a Clinton candidacy. Plus the same views and history which make Clinton a weak candidate also make her a far less desirable president than Sanders, even if it turns out that either could win.


  1. 1
    Victor Tiffany says:

    First, Bernie needs to secure the nomination. Revolt Against Plutocracy has an innovative strategy to compel Democrats to support Sanders or else lose the general election next year.

  2. 2
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    You are such a partisan, seeing what you want to see.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, the partisans are the Democrats who support Clinton and fail to see how weak she is beyond partisan Democrats.

    As a non-partisan voter, I can objectively look at the facts and see how poorly she does among independents and in the battle ground states.

    Being objective, and looking at the facts, I could revise my initial opinion that Sanders could not win when, after he stated running, the facts showed that he would make a stronger general election candidate than Clinton.

  4. 4
    Heidi Strand says:

    This middle aged woman and her middle aged women friends are BIG Bernie Sanders supporters. I don't think that assumption is accurate. The pundits also said Bernie could not get the southern vote. Did you see the turn out for his rally in Atlanta, Georgia last night?! And the passion these big audiences express. There is a political revolution on! P.S. your welcome to join if you haven't already. Everyone besides billionaires welcome. 

    In solidarity,

    Heidi Strand

  5. 5
    Lesa Wilbert says:

    I truly wanted to vote for a woman. I cannot vote for HRC. She is part of the problem: out of touch wealthy power brokers that flip flop on issues. I am voting for Bernie Sanders. Many of my middle aged friends are as well. Almost every 20 something person I know is excited to vote for him.  

  6. 6
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    I don't support Clinton, but she is still the front runner and will be the nominee. That's just the way it will be.

    And blaming the CIA for the Bay of Pigs to exculpate Kennedy is like blaming the Gulag on the KGB to exculpate Stalin.

    Kennedy from beginning to end was a big time Cold Warrior whose most characteristic speech was that "bear any price" thing that committed us to endless and limitless wars of containment.

  7. 7
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Sorry, "bear any burden, pay any price."

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    She is the front runner for the Democratic nomination, but would make a weaker general election candidate than Sanders.

    Odds favor her winning, but upsets have been quite common in nomination battles. Most people have not even made up their minds yet. We saw Obama win despite being far behind Clinton in the polls in December. Same with Kerry, coming back from 6th place in the polls. Joe Lieberman and Ed Muskey are two other front runners in recent history.

    It is worth speaking out for the better candidate regardless of who is now the frontrunner.

  9. 9
    Chris Mobley says:

    No one here is mentioning Bernie's minority voter weaknesses.  How does he do better with those?  He can't and won't win with just white votes.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Sanders’ support among minorities has been improving, and needs to continue to improve further if he is going to have a shot at winning the nomination. His record is far better for minorities than Clinton’s record, and he needs to get this message out even further.

    This particular post is about the general election. It is a pretty safe bet that if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he will improve his minority support along the way. It is not likely that minorities are going to vote Republican in the general election, but will need to increase outreach to make sure turn out is adequate. Independents and young voters are less likely to turn out for Clinton in the general election.

Leave a comment