Nominating Sanders Provides Opportunity For New Progressive Era

Trump Sanders

A new Quinnipiac poll  (pdf) continues to show Republican front runner Donald Trump having difficulties in a general election. Bernie Sanders beats Trump by thirteen points and Hillary Clinton beats him by seven points. The race is close if Rubio or Cruz is the nominee. It is not surprising that Sanders does significantly better than Clinton in this general election match -up considering how weak Clinton generally polls among independents and in the battle ground states. There is the danger that both parties will nominate their weakest (and, as I discussed yesterday, most dishonest) candidate based upon their current positions in the polls.

Brent Budowsky discussed the significance of this poll at The Hill:

It is noteworthy that in this Quinnipiac poll, Sanders runs so much stronger than Clinton against Trump. It is also noteworthy and important that both Sanders and Clinton run so far ahead of Trump in general election match-up polling. And it is profoundly important and revealing that Sanders would defeat Trump by such a huge margin — 13 points in this poll — that analysts would be talking about a national political realignment and new progressive era in American history if an enlightened candidate such as Sanders would defeat a retrograde race-baiting candidate such as Trump by a potentially epic and historic margin.

It is time for the mainstream media to end their obsession with Trump and their virtual news blackout of the Sanders campaign when discussing presidential campaign polling.

How about, from now on, when any analyst on television discusses how strong Trump allegedly is, that it be emphasized that this strength is only within the GOP, and that in a general election, the real heavyweight champion of presidential polling is Bernie Sanders, not Donald Trump!

Budowsky has an excellent point that if Sanders lead were to hold,  “Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.” I also think that Democrats would do much better in Congressional elections if Sanders were heading the ticket because, with the high degree of distrust for Clinton, a significant number of those voting for Clinton for president would consider voting for Republican Congressional candidates to put a check on her.

As Budowsky said, nominating Sanders provides the hope for political realignment and a new progressive era. Nominating a far more conservative candidate such as Clinton would  lead to a return to the policies of George W. Bush on far too many issues, along with preserving a Republican Congress and continued gridlock.

I hope voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then subsequent primaries, consider how different things will be by nominating Sanders as opposed to Clinton. Democrats who use fear of Republicans as their main argument in favor of Clinton, should also consider that nominating Bernie Sanders is our best shot at getting away from Republican policies.

Poll Suggests Epic Presidential Battle Between The Lesser Of Two Evils–Please Give Us Another Choice

Clinton Trump Sanders

The latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows problems for both major political parties. The bad news begins with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maintaining the lead for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Trump could conceivably win the GOP nomination while being disliked by many in the Republican mainstream while Clinton could win the Democratic nomination with the support of the Democratic mainstream, but not many others.

…there is an almost even divide among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton: 45% say they dislike Clinton more; 42% dislike Trump more.

“Their mantra is ABCT— Anybody But Clinton or Trump,” says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center in Boston. More than one in five of those surveyed fall into this category. “If each is their party’s respective nominees, the poll tells us that the majority of the country does not see either candidate as acceptable, which means that the race for president may come down to which candidate voters view as the lesser of two evils.”

How things have changed from last summer, when the mantra was no more Bushes or Clintons. Now Jeb is hardly a factor, while Ted Cruz is this month’s leader as top challenger to Donald Trump.

The bad news for the Democrats is also that the poll shows that Clinton would have a tough time against the major Republican candidates: ” Clinton leads Trump by 4 percentage points, Cruz by 2 and Ben Carson by 1. Rubio leads Clinton by 3 points.” Battleground state polls, where Clinton has preformed poorly, suggest she would have an even tougher time in the electoral college.

The biggest news out of this poll is that 68 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would vote for Trump if he ran as an independent, while only 18 percent say they would not.  While I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s ego for him to run as an independent, it is hard to see how that actually comes about. Even if his current lead in the polls does not allow him to run away with the nomination, most likely he will be competitive for the next several months, probably dissuading him from going third party for quite a while. By the time the GOP nominee is determined, it could be too late to launch an independent bid.  In the event that Trump performs poorly in the early primaries, he would then be tarnished and look like a loser, making a third party run less likely to obtain support.

But maybe someone as unpredictable as Trump will run and perhaps even more candidates will get in the act. Jesse Ventura has been making noise about running, and possibly other candidates will arise. While unlikely, maybe 2016 will be the year which ends the dominance of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are showing that there is a significant number of voters who are unhappy with the establishment choices from both parties. Plus there is a large pool of potential voters among those who have not voted in recent elections should a candidate be able to motivate them to vote.

A race between a DLC Democrat such as Hillary Clinton and an establishment Republican would not differ significantly on policy, even if their primary rhetoric is different to attract two different partisan bases. Theoretically a third party candidate could go far if they could convince voters that both Clinton and the Republican establishment not only offer essentially the same thing, but that their policies are the policies which have been screwing up America.

Of course that will never happen. The voters from both parties are a bunch of suckers. Republicans have convinced their base, including the Tea Party, to express their rage against government by voting for the Republicans–the party which has dominated both the federal and most state governments. The Democratic base is looking just as delusional, supporting a candidate who opposes so much of what Democrats claim to support and has spent her career undermining liberal principles.

Perhaps a third party candidate can come along and convince voters of the folly of voting a Republican, or a Republican-lite candidate such as Clinton. Donald Trump might have the showmanship to pull this off, but he is also bat-shit crazy.

Our best hope remains that Clinton can be defeated in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders building a new coalition to change the status quo.

Past History Of Polls Before Iowa Encouraging For Bernie Sanders & Donald Trump’s GOP Rivals

National Polls Before Iowa

I’ve noted many times that polls prior to primaries are of little predictive value. Polls in December 2007 showed that Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton. While Clinton is certainly in a strong position this year, her leads in the national polls do not guarantee victory. Similarly, while Donald Trump seems to have a significant lead in the Republican race, it is premature to assume he will win unless he actually performs well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Alfred J. Tuchfarber has looked at the December polls and has also demonstrated how little predictive value they have. In polls from November 2007, taken two months before voting, Hillary Clinton was leading the Democratic race. Rudy Guiliani was leading the Republican race, with Fred Thompson also ahead of John McCain. In 2011 Herman Cain was leading the Republican race, and had left the race by the time of the Iowa caucuses.

One reason for the poor predictive value of national polls is that whoever wins in Iowa and/or New Hampshire generally gets a huge boost in subsequent states. That doesn’t mean that the polls in Iowa are all that more meaningful as voters there typically don’t make up their minds until the last minute. Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls in Iowa and came in third place in 2008. In late 2007 Mitt Romney was leading the polls in Iowa, and came in second to Mike Huckabee. Herman Cain was leading in Iowa as well as the national polls two months before the Iowa caucus.

Polls also have limited predictive value as the pollsters do not know who will actually turn out to vote. If the Democratic caucus in Iowa is dominated by long time Democratic voters, then the polls are showing the race as very close. If those who haven’t previously voted but are showing enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders turn out to vote, there could be a big victory for Sanders. The much stronger degree of support seen for Sanders in social media is very encouraging, but no guarantee of votes. It might also be helpful for Sanders that the Iowa caucuses are later this year than in the 2008 cycle, when many college students were off on vacation. Even more might turn out for Sanders in this year than had turned out for Obama.

Similarly we will not know whether Donald Trump will easily win the nomination, or if a party regular will challenge him, until we see how the voters act.

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.

Clinton Might Have Won October, But Sanders Is On Track To Win November

Sanders Aggressive vs. Clinton

The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton had an extraordinary month in October, with some pundits going as far to claim she virtually wrapped up the nomination. Yet now we are in November and Bernie Sanders has hardly been knocked out of the race. He is even looking like he is on track to win the month of November.

While polls this long before primaries have limited predictive value, they tend to show Sanders gaining slightly on Clinton with no signs of Clinton opening a wider lead over Sanders. Instead of the Biden supporters all falling in line behind Clinton as the pundits predicted, Biden’s support is dividing fairly equally between the two.

Take the latest New York Times/CBS News survey. The spin favors Clinton, but look at the actual numbers. Seeing Sanders close the gap, even if slightly, is a plus for him after all favorable publicity for Clinton in October. The key line, however, is, “Half of Democratic primary voters said it was still too early to say for sure who they would support.” As I have discussed previously, polls before the primaries have little predictive value, largely because so many people do not make up their mind until the last minute. Plus should Sanders hold on to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, polls in subsequent states, as well as the national polls, will change dramatically.

The Clinton camp claims that Sanders cannot win a general election, as they claimed with Obama eight years ago, but the polls certainly contradict them there. Sanders does as well as Clinton or better in head to head match-ups against Republicans, while Clinton struggles to get the support of independents and voters in battle ground states. The latest McClatchy-Marist poll has Sanders beating Trump and Bush by a landslide. The poll also shows that 68 percent believe that what Clinton did related to her private email server was wrong.

While Clinton would have people believe that her success at the Benghazi hearing somehow provides protection against the email scandals, these are two separate issues. It certainly helps her should she ever be prosecuted that the government has backed away from claims that two emails were top secret, but we recently learned that the FBI investigation not only is still going on, but there are news reports that the FBI is stepping up the investigation.

Plus the investigation of alleged mishandling of classified information is only one small part of the scandal. The more important issues are Clinton violating the stricter rules for government transparency which Obama initiated in 2009 in response to the abuses of the Bush administration, and her making decisions on matters as Secretary of State involving parties which were making huge payments to her Foundation and to her husband. It also does not help matters that the fact checkers have demonstrated that Clinton has repeatedly lied about the matter.

The recent charges that Ben Carson has been dishonest about his biography has led to others pointing out that Hillary Clinton has additional honesty issues of her own. Clinton’s claims that she once tried to join the marines is being questioned. It doesn’t help her case that the Washington Post Fact Checker, while noting some ambiguity, has given Clinton Two Pinocchios on this story, along with reminding readers of past problems in her biography such as  “landing under sniper fire in Bosnia or getting the date wrong for hearing a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.”

As the establishment candidate, it is no surprise that Clinton has received more endorsements, although Al Gore has declined to offer his support. Sanders has been receiving some key endorsements, including the American Postal Workers’ Union.

Sanders did well in the Democratic Forum last week, and has another chance to advance his campaign in the second Democratic debate–even if scheduled on a Saturday to minimize viewership. He has been more aggressive in showing the many differences of opinion he has with Clinton on the issues and will probably do the same in the debate (as I have argued he must), as opposed to allowing Clinton to get away with false statements in the first debate and even giving her a lifeline on her email.

Sanders Wins Mock Election In Landslide But Can We Believe This, Or Even The Conventional Polls?

Sanders Mock Election

The above electoral map prediction from Western Illinois University has received a lot of attention, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders, for showing Sanders winning in a landslide. Some argue that we should take this seriously because the mock election model has been right in every election it was used in since 1975. The catch is that it was only used three times since 1975. They deserve some credit for correctly predicting victories for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford before many people had heard of Carter, and for predicting the election of Obama when many were (as with Sanders now) claiming he was unelectable.

While I would love for this to be true, it is also very hard to accept the results in specific states, such as Sanders winning Mississippi and Georgia but losing in Hawaii and Maryland. Of course the claims of being right are limited to the final results and not accuracy of state by state predictions. A victory for Sanders, even if closer and involving a different set of states, would still be welcome.

It is easy to dismiss this prediction, and I could not blame either Clinton or the Republicans for denying any meaning to it beyond the enthusiasm of college students for Sanders. The bigger question this year is whether we can believe the conventional polls, especially when they are being used to determine who qualifies for the debates, which can potentially influence the outcome. Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie have been eliminated from Tuesday’s main debate, along with George Pataki and Lindsay Graham being excluded from the undercard debate. Even some pollsters have argued that the polls should not be used in this manner.

One problem is that the Republican candidates are too close together to use the polls to separate them. Then there is the question of whether the polls are all that accurate in predicting a primary election well before the vote. I’ve followed the Democratic primaries far more closely, and have noted many times how little predictive value the polls have. This polling report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Among the problems with these polls, many voters in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire do not decide until the last minute. People are far more likely to switch between relatively similar members of their own party than they are to switch from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican in a general election. Pollsters also adjust the raw results based upon projections as to who will actually vote, but that is difficult to predict. Some polls this year are basing their prediction upon whether someone voted in previous Democratic primaries, but this excludes the people are who, at least from discussions on line, are saying they have just recently registered to vote Democratic in order to vote for Sanders. There is no good way to determine how many of these people, or how many who are turning out in huge numbers for Sanders events, will really vote. The results out of Iowa and New Hampshire could radically alter the results in subsequent states when the media covers the winners more favorably and voters see them in a new light.

Pollsters are having an even more difficult time. An article at The New Yorker described how much fewer people are even responding to polls:

The participation rate—the number of people who take a survey as a percentage of the population—is far lower. Election pollsters sample only a minuscule portion of the electorate, not uncommonly something on the order of a couple of thousand people out of the more than two hundred million Americans who are eligible to vote. The promise of this work is that the sample is exquisitely representative. But the lower the response rate the harder and more expensive it becomes to realize that promise, which requires both calling many more people and trying to correct for “non-response bias” by giving greater weight to the answers of people from demographic groups that are less likely to respond. Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal has recalled how, in the nineteen-eighties, when the response rate at the firm where he was working had fallen to about sixty per cent, people in his office said, “What will happen when it’s only twenty? We won’t be able to be in business!” A typical response rate is now in the single digits.

Another problem is that fewer people have landlines:

Even if more people could be persuaded to answer the phone, polling would still be teetering on the edge of disaster. More than forty per cent of America’s adults no longer have landlines, and the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans autodialling to cell phones. (The law applies both to public-opinion polling, a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and to market research, a twenty-billion-dollar-a-year industry.) This summer, Gallup Inc agreed to pay twelve million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of everyone in the United States who, between 2009 and 2013, received an unbidden cell-phone call from the company seeking an opinion about politics. (Gallup denies any wrongdoing.) In June, the F.C.C. issued a ruling reaffirming and strengthening the prohibition on random autodialling to cell phones. During congressional hearings, Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, who is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asked F.C.C. chairman Tom Wheeler if the ruling meant that pollsters would go “the way of blacksmiths.” “Well,” he said, “they have been, right?”

Difficulties in polling people over a cell phone will also bias the poll toward older voters, as opposed to younger voters who do not have a landline.

With the accuracy of polls in question, perhaps it should not come as a surprise that so few candidates have dropped out. Any conventional Republican candidate can have hopes that outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson will lose in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that their chances are as good as any other candidate’s of being at or near the top.

Both Sanders or Clinton have reasonable hopes for winning the first two states. There is also the possibility that the Democratic electorate might turn more towards Sanders as he gets his message out due to a desire, as Greg Sargent has written in describing the research of Stan Greeenberg, “a reform agenda geared to reducing the influence of the wealthy, the lobbyists, and the special interests.” While Hillary Clinton can sound more liberal by copying ideas from Sanders and O’Malley during the nomination battle, voters should wonder about what happens if she is elected. Where will she get ideas from, how will she know how to respond to new issues, and what will keep her from expressing her naturally conservative inclinations?

While currently far behind in the polls, even Martin O’Malley, who has spent a lot of time in Iowa, might have a chance of doing far better that he currently polls in a state where organization is often what counts and upsets are common.

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Bernie Sanders

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]

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Sander Clinton v Republicans

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]

Bernie Sanders Again Shows That The Pundits Are Wrong–Improving In The Polls After First Debate

CNN Debate Sanders Clinton

The pundits who have been downplaying Bernie Sanders’ campaign form the start declared that Hillary Clinton was the winner of the first Democratic debate, despite the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. As usually occurs, polls showed that after the fact the majority went with the pundits as to the winner (with many probably not having seen the debate). However the pundits did not predict what has actually happened. Voters are telling pollsters that Clinton won, but an increasing number want Sanders to win the nomination.

CNN reports Hillary Clinton wins debate, but Bernie Sanders rises:

With the first Democratic debate in the books, a new CNN/ORC poll finds most who watched think Hillary Clinton had the best performance of the night, but her strong showing hasn’t boosted her standing in the race for the party’s nomination…

Compared with pre-debate polling, Sanders’ support is up five points since mid-September, but no other candidate showed significant change.

Gravis Marketing similarly found that a majority thought Clinton won the debate, but also that Sanders pulled within eight points of Clinton nationally–overall a favorable outcome for Sanders. Clinton is welcome to accumulate debate points if Sanders is picking up voters.

One item of concern was that the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll did show Clinton pulling even with Sanders in New Hampshire, but now the Franklin Pierce-Herald poll shows Sanders maintaining his lead:

Sanders holds a 38-30 percent lead over Clinton in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Biden draws 19 percent in the poll of 403 likely Democratic primary voters conducted immediately after last week’s debate.

Sanders’ 8-point lead is essentially unchanged from the 44-37 percent advantage the Vermont senator held in a stunning Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August — the first to show the former Secretary of State behind in New Hampshire.

The new poll also has Sanders holding an even bigger 10-point lead over Clinton if Biden isn’t in the presidential field.

The results suggest Clinton will have a tough time overcoming the deficit, as more than half of notoriously finicky Granite State voters now say they have made up their minds.

Seven in 10 Sanders supporters say they’ve made a “firm choice” to vote for him, a 26 percent increase from the last Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August. And 62 percent of Clinton backers now report they’re firmly in her column, compared to just 40 percent in August.

This does show that the pundits who claimed that Clinton was once again unbeatable after the first debate got it wrong. Beyond that, I wouldn’t believe any predictions that the polls today will accurately predict what will happen when people turn out to vote. If you need an example of that, check out this report  from December 2007 describing how Clinton has a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Polls in a primary battle mean very little, and a single debate will not decide the nomination. Nothing is even close to getting settled until people start to vote, and ignore those pundits who tell you otherwise. A lead in the national polls is especially meaningless as these often change dramatically afte the results of the first contests are known. Strong performances by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire can totally redefine the race.

The pundits also said after the debate that Clinton’s performance meant that Joe Biden was not going to enter the race. That argument never made much sense. Biden had said his decision was based upon personal matters. Even if he was watching the debate to decide, a strong debate performance by Hillary Clinton would not suddenly erase Clinton’s major flaws and weaknesses. If she could beat the other candidates in the debate, that might even be seen by Biden as meaning there is room in the race for him to challenge her.

Despite all the predicti0ns from pundits that the debate would keep Joe Biden out, the headlines on Monday were full of predictions that Biden might be announcing that he is running imminently. Whether or not he runs, the debate did not settle the matter.

The pundits are probably right about one thing–Jim Webb has no chance at winning the Democratic nomination. Now there is speculation that he might be planning to run as an independent. If he does, I’m not sure if he will take more votes from Democrats or Republicans, and if he can pick up enough votes to matter. Maybe he has a shot at receiving some votes, however few, if he is seen as a rational Republican, in contrast to those who are currently running.

What Bernie Sanders Needs To Learn From The First Democratic Debate

democratic-debate-sanders-clinton

The media continues to declare Clinton was the winner of the Democratic debate, ignoring all those in the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. This underestimates the benefits Sanders received from the debate in gaining greater exposure, increased fund raising, and probably new supporters. However this is how the debates work and Sanders has to play the game. Essentially we have the same pundits who downplayed Sanders campaign from the start declaring Clinton to be the winner.

Unfortunately we cannot just write this off as media bias. Many people base their views of a debate on post-debate media coverage, and Sanders needs to keep this in mind when formulating debate strategy. The debate might have exacerbated Sanders’ long-standing problem. He is far better on the issues than Clinton,and would make a far stronger general election candidate based upon independents and the battle ground states. However Hillary is stronger among partisan Democrats–and unless Sanders brings in far more new voters than expected, they will determine the nomination. We run a great risk of Clinton winning the nomination, and winding up with a Republican president.

I was concerned about Sanders’ unconventional debate strategy prior to the debate. Unfortunately we knew going into the debate that the mainstream media would call it for Clinton based upon matters of being a more polished debater and having the more establishment ideas, and the media would continue to downplay Sanders as they have from the start. They don’t seem to care about how evasive or dishonest Clinton was ,even if some reporters and the fact checkers have pointed this out.

Debate winners have always been based upon how the media represents the debate. Bernie won the focus groups among those actually watching, but unfortunately that is now how it works. A candidate has to win the press coverage, and this does influence the polls. This was only one event, and not too much attention should be placed upon it, but the polls are showing that Clinton did get a bounce from the debate, at least among the Democratic base. NBC News, for example, reports Clinton Wins Debate, Re-energizes Core Backers.

It was not all bad news for Sanders:

Bernie Sanders has picked up considerable steam among young voters, capturing the support of 54% of those under the age of 30 compared to Clinton’s 26%. Among Hispanics, Sanders has more than doubled his level of support, to 33%. He also continues to gain traction among those with a high school degree or less, although Clinton is still outperforming him by 18 points. Fortunately for Clinton, these groups do not tend to turn out in primary elections as strongly as the groups from where she draws her strength.

I think that whether Sanders can win the nomination will come down to whether the big crowds he is attracting turn into actual voters who come out to vote for him. This also makes interpretation of polls more difficult as there is no way to predict how turnout will be among his supporters. Sanders can win if he brings in enough people who are fed up with the system to vote.

Regardless of whether the first debate helped Clinton more, fortunately there are more debates (even if far too few). Sanders is a smart man. I bet he has figured out how the game is played with debates. Hopefully he goes into the next debate prepared with sound bites, prepared to more directly take on Clinton, and better prepared to talk about other issues (where he is right and Clinton is wrong) beyond economics.

Democrats are making a big mistake if they think that a polished performance by Clinton in the debate has done anything to turn around her problems in a general election campaign. While many Democrats mistakingly think the party has a lock on the electoral college, winning the presidency for a third consecutive term will not be easy. I don’t think anyone can really predict what will happen, but in the past week an analysis from Ipsos/Reuters predicts a Republican victory.

Clinton’s weakness among independents and in the battle ground states will make it very difficult for her to win the general election. Sanders received some momentary praise for defending her, but he was wrong. As Philip Bump pointed out after the debate, only Democrats are sick and tired about hearing about Clinton’s email. Independents do care, and this will hurt her in a general election. As The Washington Post also noted, this is not a problem which is going to go away.

While it received applause before a partisan Democratic crowd invited by the DNC, Sanders would have been much smarter to have both denounced the Republicans for playing politics with their Benghazi witch hunt, and criticizing Hillary Clinton for her violation of the rules and unethical behavior as Secretary of State. It shouldn’t have been necessary to wait for the fact check articles to point out how Clinton was repeating the same lies she has been telling for months about the email.

If Sanders had his way, he would talk only about income inequality and economic policy. It is possible he might not even be aware of the facts related to the Clinton scandals. This is not  how to win a campaign. Sanders needs to be prepared to defend transparency in government and criticize Clinton for her abuses. He also needed to be even better prepared to criticize her for her support for greater military intervention in Libya and Syria. He needs to oppose her more strongly on civil liberties and social issues. He must defend his position on guns, both supporting rational gun control and respecting the rights of hunters, as part of an overall difference between Sanders and Clinton on civil liberties issues.  He must make more out of his support, and Clinton’s opposition, to expanding Social Security. He needs to continue to discuss climate change, along with pointing out the weakness of Clinton’s environmental record. 

While the economy is important, Sanders cannot look like a single-issue candidate. Even when talking about the economy, he needs to be better prepared to explain during a debate just how much can be done by increasing taxes on the top one percent. He needs to discuss the socialist ideas which many Americans take for granted, while stressing reforming but not eliminating what is good about our capitalist system.

An updated version of this post appears at The Moderate Voice