Which candidate stands a better chance to beat Trump? The data says it is Bernie, by a slight edge. And why not use this opportunity for Democrats to return to their roots while also adopting the future?

Is Hillary A Stronger Candidate than Bernie?

   By James A. Kidney  clinton-v-sanders-1

Let’s agree that a Donald Trump presidency is a very scary prospect and that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be a much better choice. Right now, Trump looks like easy pickins’ for either Democrat.

But now is not November.  One cannot rule out that as Trump collects campaign experts who might corral some of his worst traits, Republicans surrender all principles in favor of party loyalty, and Americans exercise their constitutional right to short term memory loss, the GOP “standard bearer” will become more palatable to larger numbers of voters.  Politico this week published a sardonic assessment of “The 12 Signs that Trump Will Win the White House” that, while improbable, recognizes the fluid process of an American presidential election.

Clintonistas are not containing their anger at Bernie Sanders and his supporters for continuing what they call a fruitless campaign for the Democratic nomination.  Although expressing confidence that Sec. Clinton will wipe out Republican Donald Trump in November (“like with a cloth,” as Clinton said when asked if she had wiped her home server clean), they also hate seeing any competition for the crown.  Their asserted confidence of victory is easily undermined by the least criticism of their candidate.

Hey, it’s a democracy folks.  People who want change are entitled to cast a vote for one who at least campaigns on the notion of bringing it.  Don’t demonize them for exercising the franchise.  (Clinton herself is careful not to demand that Sanders stop campaigning; that is left to surrogates.)

So Sanders is right to campaign to the end.  If he loses the nomination, as is likely but not certain, he will throw his support to Clinton, perhaps gaining a little more leftish Clinton on some issues in the process.  He knows Trump would be terrible.

One of the major contentions in support of Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee is that she is more likely to beat Trump in November than is Sanders.  “America will never elect a Democratic Socialist,” we are told time and again.  We have been told this not only by Hillary loyalists, but also by the Establishment media and its many pundits.  Since these pundits and editorialists have called every development in the presidential campaign accurately so far, what’s to worry?

Plenty, it turns out.  Bernie may be the better candidate to beat Trump.generational gap clinton-sanders

Before we get all wonky, let’s look at the big picture.  The Republicans will almost certainly nominate the weakest candidate in many decades, perhaps ever.  Does the Democratic establishment see this as an opportunity to effect real change, at least in direction, through the presidency by nominating a change agent?  No.  Instead, it plans to go with the predictable same-old.  What better opportunity to become a loudly vocal champion of the “flyover country” working American — of all colors, offering the American dream to all?  A missed chance, for sure, all because the comfortable are fearful of the mean spirited billionaire they claim has no chance to win.

For the last time (maybe):  Go with the Social Democrat Jewish guy who is neither crazy nor racist.  He can win.  He might be better able to do so than Clinton.  And he is much more likely to inspire Americans than is Sec. Clinton, who offers only the status quo.

Let’s look at some numbers.  We have compiled a table of primary election results for both parties, based on numbers provided by Politico’s website.  For the moment, let’s ignore the caucus states — strongholds of Bernie supporters, but also mostly conservative Republican redoubts — and focus on election primaries.  Hillary Clinton has won 57 percent of the vote in the 30 states that have held primaries through May 2 (12.355 million votes).  Sanders won 41 percent (9.056 million votes).  Hillary was awarded 1,901 delegates in these states; Bernie 1,144.  (Had the delegates been awarded proportionate to the vote, Hillary would have only 1,742 delegates to Bernie’s 1,303, ignoring what other candidates such as O’Malley received).

That’s a pretty handsome margin and suggests Clinton would be the stronger candidate in November.

But let’s break it down a little more realistically, again ignoring the 11 caucus states that have voted thus far.

Nearly all of Clinton’s margin over Sanders has come from states that almost certainly will vote Republican in the fall, even if Trump is the nominee.  It is not racist to discount these states even though Clinton’s victories were due to her popularity among African-Americans.  African-Americans have not delivered these states in general elections to date.  (There is a case to rank North Carolina as a swing state because it narrowly voted for Obama in 2008, but looking at more recent history, it has had a blood red temper tantrum.)

160503 red states primary results

But Sanders and Clinton are in a virtual electoral tie, by percentage, in the blue states which are likely to vote Democratic in the fall, with some important caveats favoring Sanders (Clinton does better in raw vote totals, thanks mostly to Maryland and New York, both certifiably blue,):

160503 blue states primary results

Now lets factor in that Clinton has high negatives — nearly as high as Trump’s.  In a CBS News poll in March, only 31 percent of those surveyed said they viewed Secretary Clinton favorably, versus 52 percent who viewed her unfavorably.  For Trump, the numbers were 24 percent favorable, versus 57 percent unfavorable.  Real Clear Politics shows an average Clinton unfavorability rating of nearly 55 percent among 10 available polls taken in March and April.  This is up from about 45 percent last July. An April Gallup tracking poll showed Clinton viewed favorably by only 36 percent of “Democrats/Leaners” while Sanders was favorably viewed by 52 percent in that same group.  On April 14, Gallup wrote:

“Bottom line on the Democrats at this point:  Sanders clearly is the better liked of the two candidates among Democrats, as Clinton’s image has suffered a significant decline in recent days.”

The news keeps getting worse for Clinton.  The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 4 that Clinton’s favorability rating among independent voters dropped 15 percentage points between January and April in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll.  By April, only 20 percent of independents viewed her candidacy positively, compared to 62 percent who saw it negatively.  That compared to a positive rating of 35 percent in January and a negative rating of 54 percent.

By contrast, Bernie Sanders is polled as having favorable ratings of about 47 percent, five points better than the number who rate him unfavorably.  He runs even more strongly among independents.  He is polling ahead of Clinton in West Virginia, likely leads in Oregon (no polls) but trails Clinton in California by 10 points or more.  The West Virginia lead is partly due to independents in West Virginia’s open primary.

This suggests that Sanders may well be the stronger candidate in a general election for those states traditionally Democratic as independents weigh whether to go with the Democrat or the Republican.

Well, you Clintonistas say, so what.  The blue states won’t turn red in this election with Trump as the GOP standard bearer.  Even if that is so, it is important to remember that Sanders should not do worse than Clinton in those states.  He could do substantially better in those blue states, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, which have suffered rust belt economic dislocation.  It is not just “angry white men” who are upset about the economy, as Sanders’ popularity among the young shows.  Clinton is the status quo candidate.  Angry Democrats and independents might rather risk Trump, either by voting for him or sitting on their hands, if only to force some major changes in electoral politics.  This is not a sensible idea, but a bit understandable.  It is reasonable enough to scare the hell out of the Clinton folks. And the prospect puts risk in narrowly blue states such as Pennsylvania.

Will women and minorities sit on their hands if Sanders is the nominee?  Not if, as expected, Trump is as mysogynistic and racist as he has been to date.  He is unlikely to change those stripes, which so appeal to his base.  Enthusiasm for Sanders, who cannot be the first female president, may be less than for Clinton, but it is difficult to believe his support from those groups will be significantly diminished.  Enthusiasm among younger voters is likely to make up for any shortfall.

The best case for Clinton is her performance in the three “swing states” that have held electoral primaries this year.  These are Florida, Ohio and Virginia.  Clinton trounced Sanders in each, realizing 62 percent of the vote.  But when one leaves the precincts of the Democratic primary in those states and looks at the GOP results, even here there is cause for concern.  That concern is called candidate enthusiasm.  In Ohio, for example, Trump realized over 50,000 more primary votes than Clinton — and this was the one state in which John Kasich prevailed.  Trump trailed Clinton only slightly in Florida, which also had a favorite son Republican in the running.  Virginia was the only one of the swing states in which Clinton was clearly more popular than Trump.
Purple state dem results

Purple state GOP results

Although the caucus states are less instructive as a forecast than electoral primaries, they do suggest something about candidate enthusiasm, as only the most dedicated voters turn out for these time consuming activity.  As above, let’s discount those states which are unlikely to vote for any Democrat in November. That leaves the purple swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada plus blue states Washington, Minnesota and Maine.  Sanders tied in Iowa (OK, he lost by four votes), lost in minority-rich Nevada, and won the rest.  Six figure turnouts for a caucus were especially impressive in Colorado and Minnesota, both of which Sanders won handily.

dem caucus state results

None of this analysis even touches on the chances that Clinton will poison her own chances by the kind of over-thought, vacuum-wrapped campaign that has characterized the race thus far.  As she hasadmitted, Clinton is not a very good retail campaigner.  And remember, husband Bill, who has been absent of late, will reappear to remind many voters of the New Democrat who is not nearly as well-liked as the Old Democrats who focus on improving the lot of working Americans instead of appealing to the bicoastal liberal educated elite.

Despite all of these arguments in favor of Sanders as the better candidate for a November election win, it looks like Clinton will pick up all the marbles at the convention.  But her weakness in several demographic sectors, combined with her defensive campaign demeanor and proclivity for personal missteps, may not make up for her strength among women and minorities.

At a minimum, Clintonistas, stop demonizing Sanders and his supporters.  Let them have their fair run up to the convention.  Treat them with respect, not derision or anger.  You are going to need those people in the fall.

 

 

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