Is Bernie Sanders An Unstoppable Juggernaut? Not So Fast!

Senator Bernie Sanders’ impressive win in Nevada is a warning sign to many mainstream Democrats that he is unstoppable.

Not so fast, as one cannot judge the battle for the Democratic Presidential nomination based on three small states.

Super Tuesday will be the decisive moment, if any candidate can win the vast number of delegates from the 14 states having primaries on that date, including California, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts.

After Nevada, however, the candidates that still have a chance to stop Bernie are likely Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden, with the bet being that Pete is more likely.

The debate on CBS this coming Tuesday, followed by the South Carolina Primary on Saturday, will be the stepping stone for Tuesday, March 3!

14 comments on “Is Bernie Sanders An Unstoppable Juggernaut? Not So Fast!

  1. D February 23, 2020 6:21 pm

    ‘Is Bernie Sanders Unstoppable After Dominating the Nevada Caucuses?’

    The Democratic Socialist is assembling a broad-based coalition that looks tough to beat

    By Tim Dickinson and Ryan Bort (02.22.2020 @ 07:46 p.m. ET)

    Nevada is feeling the Bern. Fresh off popular-vote wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders has again racked up an early-state victory, this time in the Silver State. On the strength of support from younger voters and Hispanics, Sanders took Nevada in what appears to be a rout, likely besting the 13 point margin predicted by pre-caucus polling.

    Sanders declared victory to an excited crowd in San Antonio, Texas. “I’m delighted to bring you some pretty good news,” Sanders said. “All of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa, we won the New Hampshire primary, and according to three networks and the AP, we have now won the Nevada caucus. In Nevada, we have just put together a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition which is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country.”

    For Sanders, the caucus victory adds momentum to what’s beginning to feel like a runaway train. Barring a severe derailment in South Carolina [on Saturday, February 29, 2020], Sanders has unique advantages, as the early-state contests transition into a nationwide race. His locked-in base of support, grassroots infrastructure, prodigious low-dollar fundraising, and increasing resonance with voters of color make Sanders the best bet to clean up on Super Tuesday [March 3, 2020].

    The youth vote was utterly lopsided: Sanders was the runaway favorite claiming 66 percent support from voters under 30, according to an entrance poll of caucus goers. Nevada is the first state with any true diversity to vote in the 2020 cycle. Sanders’ Latino backing was robust; he claimed 53 percent support. Sanders also registered 27 percent of support from black caucus goers, second only to Joe Biden, who received 36 percent. Underscoring why he may be tough for Trump to beat, Sanders also emerged as the wide favorite among white men without college degrees, at 42 percent.

    Some of the entrance poll results upended pundit assumptions. For all the talk about moderates consolidating around a Sanders alternative, Sanders in fact received the most support from self-identified moderates and conservatives, 25 percent, beating out Biden (21 percent), Buttigieg (19 percent) and Klobuchar (13 percent). The candidate who bashes the “Democratic establishment” was also a hit among self-identified Democrats, 31 percent, and particularly with independents, winning 49 percent. (Only Buttigieg also registered in double digits with this demographic.)

    Healthcare was the top concern among caucus goers. And as in New Hampshire, nearly 60 percent of Nevada voters said they support doing away with private insurance to institute universal healthcare like Medicare for All.

    The Nevada contest was a gut-check for the non-Sanders candidates in the race.

    Joe Biden, who is putting all of his eggs in the South Carolina basket, was less visible in Nevada than some competitors, but appears to have done better in Nevada than either Iowa or New Hampshire. His campaign is claiming a second place showing and vowing that “the Biden comeback” has begun in Nevada.

    Elizabeth Warren, fresh off her televised evisceration of billionaire Mike Bloomberg, does not appear to have won a huge late surge in Nevada. In fact more late-deciding voters backing Sanders and Buttigieg, according to the entrance poll.

    Pete Buttigieg scored 2 percent support among black voters in Nevada, according to the entrance poll. His campaign is short of cash, likely to perform poorly in South Carolina — where black participation will be significant — and may have its best days behind it.

    Amy Klobuchar’s burning hatred for “perfect Pete” Buttigieg may be a new renewable energy resource, but that did not fuel a good result for the Minnesota senator, who failed to generate excitement with either black voters (3 percent) or Hispanics (4 percent) and came in third among the candidates vying for moderate attention.

    Tom Steyer, who let’s face it you forgot was still running, appears to have had his best showing so far in Nevada. Steyer has invested more than $20 million in TV ads in South Carolina, where he is currently polling third behind Biden and Sanders, and the fate of his campaign will likely depend upon pulling off an upset victory there next Saturday.

    Michael Bloomberg, whose net favorability ratings dropped 20 percent in some surveys after the Las Vegas debate on Wednesday [February 19, 2020], was not on the ballot in Nevada. That didn’t keep him from advertising heavily in the state ahead of the caucuses, a publicity push that included several high-profile billboards trolling President Trump.

    But the story of Saturday’s results is Sanders, who now appears to be running away with the Democratic primary. If he can sneak out a victory in next Saturday’s South Carolina primary — where the gap between him and longtime frontrunner Joe Biden is shrinking by the day — it would be hard to imagine any other candidate marshaling the momentum necessary to overtake him. This may already be true after his dominating performance in Nevada.

  2. Princess Leia February 24, 2020 12:18 pm

    Agreed. He needs to explain about that. That’s the kind of thing that will scare away voters in the general election.

  3. Former Republican February 24, 2020 12:22 pm

    The Real Hidden Weakness of Sanders’s Campaign
    His winning the election wouldn’t necessarily help the Democrats running for Congress.

    Last week, Jim Geraghty of National Review Online identified four overlooked weaknesses of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. These can be condensed down to:

    1. He’d never be able to weather a second major health scare
    2. He has no emotional range and struggles with empathy
    3. His consistent worldview is a liability when he has to address things that don’t neatly fit within it
    4. His support for the working man is selective (see, e.g. fracking industry)

    In a subsequent NRO post, Ramesh Ponnuru added a fifth overlooked weakness, that Bernie is soft on crime because he wants to vastly reduce the number of people who are incarcerated.

    I’m not very impressed with this list. Even if I grant that Sanders’ health is a potential land mine, that isn’t something too many people are overlooking. Having a heart attack on the campaign trail tends to drive the point home for the American people. As for items two through four, consider how President Trump stacks up. If these are weaknesses for Sanders, the problem is not unique to him. Finally, if he’s soft on crime, at least he hasn’t been pardoning a slew of famous crooks and scoundrels.

    These are not the weaknesses that cause many Democratic officeholders to panic at the prospect of Sanders leading their ticket. Whether they believe Sanders will certainly lose to Trump or not, they think he will do poorly in many of the districts the Democrats used in 2018 to win back control of the House of Representatives. Likewise, they think he will be a liability in many of states holding critical Senate races, like Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona. They don’t think this risk is related to some personality quirk or lack of empathy for energy sector workers. It has to do with how they believe his economic and social policies will play in the suburbs.

    I’ve been talking about this subject since a couple of days after the 2016 election and I feel like a broken record. But there is a weakness that is still overlooked that I need to emphasize.

    Although Elizabeth Warren might create some of the same vulnerabilities, Sanders is fairly unique among the Democratic candidates in the approach he’s taking to winning an Electoral College majority. Hillary Clinton pursued a suburban strategy and won a sizable popular vote victory. She succeeded in driving up her suburban performance, just not by enough to offset her rural losses. The 2018 midterm strategy for the Dems did not reverse Clinton’s strategy but instead doubled down on it. And it worked largely because President Trump was diligently alienating suburbanites and making the task easy.

    What this means is that a lot of newly elected Democrats are dependent on the party keeping to a similar strategy in 2020. A candidate who is happy to trade suburban votes for rural votes could conceivably do better than one who seeks to consolidate and grow the suburban advantage, but that won’t necessarily be good enough to get vulnerable officeholders reelected or for committee chairmen to keep their gavels.

    So, the somewhat hidden vulnerability for Sanders is that the party doesn’t feel safe or comfortable with his strategy. When people talk about this, they usually refer to the word “socialism,” but that’s really shorthand for something else. What’s important is that many Democrats will spend the 2020 campaign trying to distance themselves from Sanders in a way they would find unnecessary with the other candidates.

    The question isn’t so much whether or not their fears are justified. Since they have these fears, the question is whether or not this lack of unity and message discipline up and down the ticket is going to create an insurmountable weakness for Sanders’ general election campaign.

    This is where the difference between Democrats and Republicans really shows up. The GOP establishment was hardly unified behind Trump but they bit their lips and eventually got in line after he was elected. They don’t like to get on the wrong side of their leaders or their base, and will sometimes march into electoral oblivion (see 2006 midterms) rather than seek to distance or distinguish themselves from an unpopular president. Democrats show comparatively little reluctance to fashion themselves as critics of their president. And, unlike Senator Susan Collins of Maine, they tend to follow through. This is why President Bill Clinton couldn’t even get a committee vote on his health care plan when his own party was in control of Congress.

    For Sanders, a misshapen coalition that doesn’t jibe with the shape of the Dem’s House Majority will be an obstacle to winning the general election, but it’s not necessarily insurmountable. It will make it harder to win because a divided Democratic Party is weaker than a united one, but there is more than one path to Electoral College victory.

    If Sanders were to actually win and become president, he’d discover that this weakness did not go away. While some doubters would get in line, many would not. It’d be different if he brought in dozens of new congressmembers from small town/rural America, but that is almost definitely not going to happen. The Democrats don’t have a lot strong and well-funded people running for those districts, and even if Sanders performs well enough there to carry the states he needs, he’ll probably still be a drag on the ticket in those areas, just as any other Democrat would be.

    Of course, Sanders is strong enough that there will be a schism in the party if he is not the nominee, Someone like Elizabeth Warren might be able to minimize this schism but, regardless, the schism would be less likely to persist into an actual administration for the other candidates.

    Few people believed that Trump could win traditionally blue Rust Belt states, but he silenced the doubters. Bernie Sanders might silence his doubters, too. I think his platform would do better than people predict in many areas where the Democrats are currently weak. But I also think he’d underperform in the suburbs, and it’s a tradeoff that is never going to win the consent of the party as it is currently constituted.

    So, the overlooked weakness for Sanders is that he has no realistic prospect of uniting the party either during or after the election. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, and for people who want to remake the party, it’s not a problem that he’d disrupt it and cause it to change shape.

  4. Ronald February 24, 2020 1:27 pm

    Precisely my fear and thoughts, Rustbelt Democrat and Princess Leia!

  5. Southern Liberal February 24, 2020 5:17 pm

    Sanders base is primarily 18-29 year olds. His struggle is with older voters, especially 65 and older.

  6. Rational Lefty February 24, 2020 8:42 pm

    Going to be 7 people on the debate this time. Tom Steyer has qualified for the debate tomorrow night.

  7. D February 25, 2020 5:34 am

    Southern Liberal writes, “[Bernie Sanders’s] base is primarily 18-29 year olds. His struggle is with older voters, especially 65 and older.”

    When it comes to entrance and exit polls’s commonly recorded voting-age groups of 18–29, 30–44, 45–64, and 65+, the Democrats’ “base” is 18–29. The Republicans’ “base” is 65+.

    Democrats like to brag—very understandably so—about the fact they won the U.S. Popular Vote in six of the last seven presidential elections of 1992 to 2016.

    The exception was 2004. Losing Democratic nominee John Kerry had a popular-vote margin of –2.46 percentage points. It would have been worse—on the electoral map—had he not nationally carried voters 18–29. His margin with that age group was +9. So, the “base” of 18–29 voters gave Kerry an additional +11 to +12 above his national support.

    On the Republican side, a great example of how 65+ voters are their “base” is with 2008’s losing nominee John McCain. After two terms of 43rd U.S. president George W. Bush, the presidency flipped Democratic to 44th U.S. president Barack Obama. Obama flipped the 30–44 and 45–64 age groups nationwide while having solidified his margin with 18–29. So, that left McCain to nationally hold the 65+ voters in the Republican column. While McCain had a popular-vote margin of –7.26 percentage points, he nationally carried 65+ voters by +8. So, the “base” of 65+ voters gave McCain an additional +15 to +16 above his national support.

    In the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton was the choice of 65+ voters while Bernie Sanders was the choice of 17–29 voters. They were polar opposites. From what I recall, there was around 70 percent from each group for their preferred candidate. (Note: One can be 17 as long as one becomes 18 in time for Election Day in November.)

    Here in 2020, with the Democratic presidential primaries in progress, Bernie Sanders is again the choice of those 17–29. The choice of those 65+ appears to be Joe Biden (Iowa and Nevada) with a win from that group by Amy Klobuchar (New Hampshire).

    Sanders, en route to the nomination, is doing something that he did not achieve in 2016: He is receiving stronger percentage support from Non-White vs. White voters. This is very important because, in general elections, “White” voters are the racial demographic “base” for Republicans; “Non-White” voters are the racial demographic “base” for Democrats.

    That happened in all three contests, thus far played out, in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Sanders is winning Hispanics, well ahead of his opponents, and he is inching closer with Blacks who, thanks to 65+, are with Biden—for the time being—but likely with lower margins than experienced in 2016 by Hillary Clinton. (Look to South Carolina. Its primary is this coming Saturday, February 29, 2020. Hillary won there, in 2016, by +47.42 percentage points in a two-person race over Sanders. To perform on that level, a four-person race means a 2020 Biden would have to carry by +23. An eight-person race means Biden has to win by +11 or +12. Recent polling reports have Biden winning the Palmetto State with a single-digit margin.)

  8. Princess Leia February 25, 2020 12:17 pm

    I second what Buttigieg said in his town hall last night: “As a Democrat, I don’t want to be explaining why our nominee is encouraging people to look on the bright side of the Castro regime going into the election of our lives.”

  9. Rustbelt Democrat February 25, 2020 12:25 pm

    Some of the polling I’ve heard from South Carolina is showing that Steyer is chipping off Biden’s black firewall as well.

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