1. Sanders is much more electable than Clinton.
Sanders supporters are so enthusiastic they donate millions of dollars every time a Clinton surrogate smears him as well as after the ultra-close Iowa caucuses and his 22 point win in New Hampshire. When Clinton needs cash, she has to glad hand investment bankers and hedge fund managers thereby forfeiting precious time on the stump and re-enforcing in voters’ minds her close ties to Wall Street rather than Main Street. Another big benefit Bernie gains from his legions of young and not-so-young volunteers, including yours truly, is he doesn’t have to pay as many staffers to knock on doors and get out the vote.
Sanders appeals to a much broader range of the population than Clinton. The exit polls from New Hampshire showed that the only demographic groups that supported Clinton were seniors and those with incomes over $200,000. More particularly, undeclared/independent voters broke for Sanders 72% to 27%. The major reason many voters gave for supporting him is they find him honest and trustworthy. Those are traits that poll extremely well across the electorate.
By contrast, Clinton’s voters cited her experience as the primary reason they were voting for her. The frontrunners in the Republican field are almost completely inexperienced. Voters have shown that they are not looking for a particularly seasoned veteran with a resumé that includes stints in various government offices. In fact, given the anger voters harbor towards establishment politicians whom they blame for their current woes, Clinton’s experience is at best a double-edged sword. Likewise, Clinton is not likely to trumpet her popularity among New Hampshire’s wealthy.
Sanders basically tied Clinton in Iowa and thumped her in New Hampshire – two purple states that Democrats will need in the general election. A recent Wisconsin poll showed a two point gap between Clinton and Sanders. Wisconsin is another critical state for Democrats. Clinton polls strongest by far in deep south states that Democrats have no chance of winning. Florida is admittedly a possible exception to this rule. Bottom line, Sanders is more likely to win the states that Democrats must win to remain in control of the Executive Branch.
Finally, nearly all the polls conducted of hypothetical matchups between the two Democrats and the various Republican frontrunners show Sanders doing relatively better than Clinton.
Sanders has more fervent support. He has significant crossover appeal. He is relatively stronger in purple states. Polls show he would do better than Clinton against possible Republican opponents. For all these reasons, he is more electable than Clinton.
2. Clinton’s firewall may not be unbreakable.
In this election cycle, the first black President’s first lady has enjoyed remarkably solid support from African-Americans. Unless Sanders can shake this pillar, he will not be able to win the vote this July in Philadelphia. There is some reason to hope Sanders can make inroads into this demographic. After all Clinton’s original firewall was woman and they broke for Sanders 55-44 in New Hampshire. But it won’t be easy.
A number of influential and respected African-Americans have endorsed Sanders or indicated they will vote for him including Congressman Keith Ellison, several Black Lives Matter activists, Dr. Cornel West, and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. In the aftermath of Sanders historic New Hampshire victory, noted author Ta-Nehisi Coates announced he will vote for Sanders despite misgivings about his position against reparations. Activist rapper Killer Mike from Atlanta and Ohio State Senator Nina Turner have been indefatigable in their efforts to introduce Bernie to their communities as by far the best Presidential candidate.
Radical scholar Michelle Alexander is less supportive. In an article in the Nation, she blames the Clintons for “decimat[ing]” black communities. But Alexander does not exempt Sanders from responsibility for her people’s plight. Calling him the “lesser evil”, she does not say whether she’ll vote for him or anybody else.
According to ABC News, the very small non-white community in New Hampshire broke evenly between the two Democrats. This represents a significant improvement for Sanders over the 58 to 34 split in Iowa favoring Clinton. Sanders does not need to win the African-American and Latino vote to defeat Clinton. Thus, the push in New Hampshire may be a good sign for him . . . or not. Non-white voters include Asians and the entrance poll does not break racial categories down beyond white and non-white.
Post-New Hampshire, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) officially came out in support of Clinton, although not every member has endorsed her. Concurrently White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that while President Obama will not endorse either Democrat, he privately hopes Clinton wins. So much for staying neutral.
Sanders won big in New Hampshire despite the near-universal disapprobation of the Democratic establishment there and in his home state. It remains to be seen whether African-American voters will likewise reject the call of black Congressmen and women to circle the wagons around Hillary.
3. To Win Clinton May Need to Tear her Party Asunder.
Clinton started out running a relatively clean campaign. Unfortunately, during the last few days before the New Hampshire primary the fangs came out. Surrogates Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright tried to shame younger Democratic women into voting for Hillary. President Bill Clinton harshly criticized Sanders saying his unrealistic policy prescriptions show he lives in a “hermetically sealed box”.
Clinton’s designated “hit man” David Brock ominously warned Monday that Sanders “is trying to live in the purity bubble, and it needs to be burst.” The Clintons may succeed in turning potential Bernie voters off. It’s even possible that early Clinton attacks tamped down turnout slightly in both Democratic primaries.
If the former President and First Lady successfully pursue a scorched earth policy, the cost to the Democratic party will be tremendous. The Clintons played both the race and gender cards in 2008 amping up the tension between the candidates and their supporters. The resulting fissures were only smoothed over in the weeks after Barack Obama won the nomination. It is unclear whether Obama’s supporters would have fallen in line if Hillary had prevailed given the freshness of the wounds her campaign inflicted. Likewise young voters in this election cycle may not forgive the Democratic establishment for taking down their champion who has made clean campaigning a centerpiece of his bid for the White House.
Sanders is the better option for Democrats if they want to retain control of the White House. Clinton’s support within the African-American community is very significant but may not be insurmountable. If Sanders continues to compete successfully, the Clintons will have to decide whether winning the nomination is more important to them than maintaining the Democratic Party’s integrity and a fair degree of unity among its various demographic groups.