Let’s face it: Bernie Sanders could be the next president – Washington Examiner
As outlandish as it might sound that an elderly socialist could win a national election, we should all wake up to the fact that it’s now perfectly plausible that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., could be the next president.
Though the campaign will take a lot and twists and turns over the next year and a half, ultimately it boils down to two questions: Could there be a scenario in which Sanders captures the Democratic nomination? And if he does, could there be a scenario in which he beats President Trump head-to-head? Breaking those questions down independently, one would have to answer yes to both.
Before going any further, it’s worth dispensing with the plausibility issue — the idea that Sanders simply can’t win because it would be too absurd. Given that nearly every professional analyst said the same thing about the possibility of Trump winning, it’s worth shelving such assumptions about what’s “realistic” in modern politics and just look at the possibility on its merits.
The argument for how Sanders could win the primary is pretty straightforward. At this point in the 2016 cycle, Sanders was 55 points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton and surged enough to make what was supposed to be a coronation into an actual race. One might be tempted to dismiss his performance as a matter of him emerging from a weak field as the main choice of those who wanted to fight the Clinton machine. And yet, four years later, in a much more crowded field of younger and more diverse candidates, Sanders is still one of the top two candidates.
Right now, in the RealClearPolitics average, he’s in second place, at 22.8%, trailing only Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading with an average of 28.8%. The next closest candidate is Sen. Kamala Harris, who doesn’t even break into double digits. He’s been nearly tied with Biden in Iowa and has led in several polls of New Hampshire. Given that Biden has already been forced to apologize several times for various aspects of his record as well as pushed to answer accusations of inappropriate contact with women, he has to at the minimum be seen as a very vulnerable front-runner.
Even as many rivals have come around to Sanders’ positions on issues such as healthcare, and there is more competition for the far Left, he’s still maintained a loyal following. His strong fundraising operation from last time has spilled into this campaign, as he’s announced having raised $18 million in the first quarter. He will have plenty of money to play with, and unlike last time, he won’t have to expend it trying to build up his name recognition.
Sanders’ biggest vulnerability last time was with older (generally more centrist) Democratic voters and minority groups. If he loses the nomination again, these voters will most likely be his undoing. That said, there will also be more candidates competing for minority voters this time, when the race ultimately boiled down to a binary choice. That could work to the advantage of Sanders. In the 2016 primaries, Trump showed how beneficial it could be in a crowded field to have a passionate group of core supporters to propel a candidacy, even if the rest of the party is slow to warm up to somebody posing a challenge to the establishment.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to say, in a large field where anything could happen, that it would be impossible for one of the leading candidates to capture the nomination.
Were Sanders to make it to the general election, it’s even harder to assume he’d be toast. As much as Republicans would be salivating at the prospect of running against an avowed socialist, the bottom line is that the U.S. is still a two-party system, and a nominee of one of the major parties always has a shot of winning. In a general election, people tend to fall mostly into party lines, and so it’s hard to imagine that minority voters who may have preferred other candidates during the Democratic primary would sit at home if Sanders were the nominee. This is especially true in the case of the historically unpopular Trump. In hypothetical general election matchups, Sanders has been beating Trump by an average of nearly nine points.
If I had to place money on Sanders being the next president, would I do it? Probably not. But I wouldn’t be comfortable waging a large sum of money against him, either.