Feb 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The evidence doesn't back Democrats' panic that Bernie can't win

Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane at a rally in Austin on Sunday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lots of Democrats are in full panic that Bernie Sanders will win the nomination and get clobbered in the general election — and bring the party down, too. But the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn't back those doomsday warnings.

Why it matters: Virtually every national and swing state poll shows Sanders tied with or beating President Trump.  And, unlike every rival, he has a huge base of fervent, unshakable supporters he can only grow.

Just the facts, please: A Quinnipiac Poll last week showed Sanders beating Trump in Michigan and Pennsylvania. A CBS News/YouGov poll showed Sanders beating Trump nationally.

  • Texas Lyceum poll shows Sanders doing better against Trump in Texas than any Democrat, losing by just three points.

He’s socially savvier: Sanders has much larger followings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms than his rivals — and has consistently shown new media sophistication others lack. 

Loyalty matters: The guy’s base writes checks regularly, for years now, making him the best-funded non-billionaire in the Democratic game. His supporters also show up — on social, at rallies, in elections. Ask Trump if this matters. 

Socialism hasn’t killed him: It’s not like Sanders hides his big government socialism — he has screamed it to the nation for a half-decade. Maybe voters don’t care, just like 45% don’t care about Trump’s outlandishness.

Peter Hamby, who works for Snapchat and writes for Vanity Fair, argues "bed-wetting" Democrats might have it all wrong:

  • "Instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question: What if Sanders is actually the MOST electable Democrat? In the age of Trump, hyper-partisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump this year."
  • He’s a Trump-like celebrity: "Running for president has always been about winning the attention war, and the competition for attention has never been more difficult than it is in 2020,” Hamby writes. Sanders has way more old-school and new-age celebrity than the rest of his rivals combined. 

The bottom line: The truth is we are all clueless about what voters want or will accept. That includes everyone on Twitter, inside the Democratic establishment — and me!

Go deeper

Sanders insists Democrats will unite around eventual nominee

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday dismissed claims from some Democrats that it would be difficult to unite the party around him, insisting on ABC's "This Week" that the "threat" that President Trump poses will rally Democratic voters and leaders to support the eventual nominee.

What he's saying: "At the end of the day, I have known Joe Biden for a very long time. He is a decent guy. I have no doubt that if I win, Joe will be there. If Joe ends up winning, I will be there. We are going to come together and President Obama in my view — he has said this — will play a leading role in helping whoever the Democratic nominee is."

Bernie Sanders' big socialism rebrand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bernie Sanders is trying to rebrand socialism in the U.S., but he'll have to overcome common fears about what the word means — fears the Trump campaign is watching and waiting to exploit.

Why it matters: Sanders may face a major challenge in convincing Americans in their 40s or older that there's a meaningful difference between what he supports, described as democratic socialism, and the authoritarian socialism that we've seen in regimes like Venezuela.

What to watch in tonight's Democratic debate

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Colorado. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders is now the clear front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his opponents are ready to try to knock him down at tonight's debate in Charleston, South Carolina — especially Michael Bloomberg, who was the punching bag at the Las Vegas debate.

Why it matters: This is the last debate before Super Tuesday, when Sanders is expected to win California and Texas and could secure an insurmountable lead for the Democratic nomination. That's a direct threat to the entire field, but especially to Bloomberg, who skipped the early states to focus on the March 3 contests.