During the 2008 primary battles, Hillary Clinton argued that she should be the Democratic nominee because Barack Obama was not electable and she was. We saw how that turned out. This year Clinton supporters are trying the same strategy, claiming Bernie Sanders is not electable. As Matt Taibbi discussed in Rolling Stone, the media has also been complicit in spreading this false narrative, often failing to take Sanders seriously as a candidate.
Polling data has consistently shown that the argument that Sanders is unelectable is false, and further data this week also demonstrates that he is electable.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton and Ben Carson tied, with Clinton beating the other Republican candidates she was matched with.The tie with Carson was largely due to greater support for Carson among independents. They did not poll a head to head race between Carson and Sanders but did find that when polled Sanders did slightly better than Clinton against other Republicans:
Sanders leads Trump by nine points, 50 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s eight-point advantage), and he’s ahead of Rubio by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s three-point lead).
Another poll this week, a Quinnipiac University survey, also showed Sanders and Clinton do comparable against Republicans.
National polls such as this long before an election have limited meaning, but seeing Sanders consistently doing as well as or better than Clinton against Republicans does suggest that there is no truth to the argument that Clinton is more electable.
There are additional reasons to speculate that Sanders can do better than Clinton a year from now. Sanders is much less well known and on an upward trajectory while Clinton is already well known and has far less upside potential.Clinton had been on a downward trajectory until some fortuitous events for her in October. She came out of the first Democratic debate looking strong, but this was largely because she was more skillful at dodging questions and her opponents barely confronted her for poor answers. Republicans will not let her off the hook so easily, and hopefully Sanders and O’Malley will confront her more in subsequent debates.
Clinton does poorly in the battleground state polls and among independents, while Sanders has shown greater potential among these voters.Clinton has stronger support among partisan Democrats, giving her the edge for the nomination, but it will not help her to run up large margins of victory in deep blue states if she cannot win the battleground states in a general election.
Sanders is not involved in a major scandal, but there is danger for a further drop in support for Clinton as more voters become aware of the specifics of the scandals. While Democrats do not seem to be dissuaded by the scandals, polling has shown that independent voters are concerned, and have an unfavorable view of Clinton. Republicans will probably make considerable use out of the scandals in a general election campaign.
Elections often come down to turn out, and Sanders is showing far greater ability to get people to turn out to his events. Hopefully this enthusiasm for him will extend to turning out to vote. On the other hand, many voters are likely to stay home instead of turning out for a candidate which a majority considers to be dishonest and they have an unfavorable view of.
[Due to technical glitches involving links to the post, it was necessary to post this twice]