Looking toward November, our choice is becoming clearer. Democrats can pick Bernie to run against Trump, or we can pick Hillary. Each candidate has shown differing areas of strength in the Democratic contests so far. The numbers vary from state to state, but overall Bernie has done better with male voters, with white voters, with young voters, with working class voters, with Independents, with strong progressives, and with voters outside of the South. Hillary has done better with minorities (African Americans in particular – Latinos somewhat less so), with older voters, with moderately liberal voters, with women, and with Southern voters.
Bernie always does better with voters under 30, but often he triumphs with all voters below 50. Plus he’s held his own with women in some contests. The Southern blow outs for Hillary tend to skew the overall results somewhat when looking at general demographics – for example her overall strength among women is buttressed by massive support for her by African American women who voted for Clinton in southern states.
When it comes time to run against Trump, what are the implications for the trends that we’ve seen so far? It’s simple: Sanders is the candidate best able to win demographic groups that Democrats need but can’t reliably count on. And he does so in the states that we must carry to win the electoral college, without losing the votes of typically reliable Democrats in the process.
With the voter groups where Hillary has an advantage so far, her support tends to be genuine and heartfelt – they are pro Clinton voters, and that reflects well on her. But there are few anti Sanders voters in those ranks. Sanders isn’t overtly being rejected by Clinton voters, it is much more a matter of them just preferring Hillary. This is in stark contrast to what we find on the Republican side, where strong ideological disagreements and personal animosities divide them. By and large, outside of feverish activist enclaves, registered Democrats feel positively toward both of our candidates, and simply are more strongly drawn to one or the other as the case may be. Notably both Hillary and Bernie have strong platforms and voting records that resonate with minorities and women.
So let’s look at the swing factors that will determine whether Donald Trump wins or loses to a Democrat come November. No matter who we run we can count on African Americans, and especially Latinos, tuning out in force to defeat Donald Trump. The same is true for women who understand that reproductive rights, to name just one major concern, are at stake in the fall election.
Young voters have a lot to lose if Republican win in the fall, and a case can easily be made that they should turn out in force regardless of which candidate Democrats run, except that history says otherwise. Repeatedly voters below 30 have been under represented in the electorate, often dramatically so. That was less true in 2008 than usual, when Barack Obama inspired a whole new generation of voters to participate. That type wave of enthusiasm is evident again during this election cycle, but only for one candidate; Bernie Sanders.
Progressives too should be counted on in force to vote Democratic against Donald Trump and I believe they will no matter who we nominate. But progressives traditionally have been among the most fervent grass roots activists and volunteers working in the trenches to elect Democrats during the heat of a campaign – in that sense we fight above our weight class. Progressives will vote Democratic in November regardless, but how much blood sweat and tears they invest in the struggle is partially a by product of enthusiasm. And the progressive base, as evidenced by Move On and Democracy for America endorsements among others, tends to be far more enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders.
When it comes to other demographics however, an overall Democratic advantage is far less assured in the coming fall campaign. Independents are a much larger voting block than either registered Democrats or Republicans. Two candidates have so far shown a consistent ability to attract excitement and interest from that critical mass of voters: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. If nothing else is clear this year one thing should be; establishment candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton have not been wining the Independent vote.
Donald Trump has already articulated his game plan for a victory in November, he will be going after (white) working class voters in the Mid West and North East. He will be trying to flip some blue states red while pulling purple ones like Ohio into his column also. He will specifically be appealing to male so called Reagan Democrats who have swung both ways in recent decades. Trump will campaign against Free Trade. Trump will campaign against adventurist wars. He counts on winning the Deep South no matter how impressive Hillary Clinton’s primary wins were there.
Hillary Clinton is vulnerable to Trump’s strategy in ways that Bernie Sanders is not. That truth has been bubbling up for weeks, and with her loss in Michigan now it can no longer be ignored.