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“Sanders Polls Well With Independents”: But He Might Lose His Appeal If He Were The Democratic Nominee

Anyone who stares at polls for a good while probably knows that Bernie Sanders is significantly more popular with both independents than Republicans than is Hillary Clinton. Indeed, this is probably at the heart of Sanders’ fairly regular advantage over HRC in general election trial heats.

There are two common interpretations of Sanders’ regularly higher ratings among non-Democrats. The first, popular among Clinton supporters, is that he simply isn’t well-known enough to draw the ire of conservatives and moderates. The second, which you hear some Bernie fans articulate, is that he represents a subterranean majority of voters that transcends party labels. The first take undermines Sanders’ electability claims; the latter reinforces it.

But there’s a third interpretation that should arise every time one hears Sanders described as an “independent running for the Democratic nomination” or even as a “democratic socialist.” What he’s not being described as is a Democrat.

At The Upshot this weekend, political scientist Lynn Vavreck reminded us that pure, simple partisanship is largely what is driving the anger in American politics at the moment:

That Democrats and Republicans have different views on issues — even issues about race and rights — is not surprising. But recent work by Stanford University’s Shanto Iyengar and his co-authors shows something else has been brewing in the electorate: a growing hostility toward members of the opposite party. This enmity, they argue, percolates into opinions about everyday life.

Partisans, for example, are now more concerned that their son or daughter might marry someone of the opposite party (compared with Britain today and the United States in 1960). They also found that partisans are surprisingly willing to discriminate against people who are not members of their political party.

We’ve entered an age of party-ism.

So being less marked with the sign of the Democratic beast, it’s unsurprising that Sanders is less despised by those who dislike that party (Republicans) or both parties (true independents).

Would that survive a Democratic national convention in which Sanders (assuming he somehow wins the nomination) is kissing every Democratic icon in sight? And is then embraced in the final emotional moments of the convention by Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

I don’t think so. Whatever vehicle Sanders rides into Philadelphia, he would ride out of Philadelphia on a donkey. That could lose him some points among non-Democrats.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Independents | , , , , | 1 Comment

“For The GOP, It’s Always A Base Election”: Only Change Is The Idea Of How To Give The Base What It Wants

I wonder if anyone has come up with workable definition of a base election. The idea is simple enough. Some elections are won not by winning an argument with the other side and persuading swing voters or independents or undecideds, but by doing a better job than your opponents in convincing your core voters to turn out to vote.

It seems to me that this is roughly how the Republicans won the 2004 presidential election, and also probably how they won the 2002 midterms. It’s definitely how they won the midterms in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, I think the Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 precisely because they convinced people in the middle (and even many Republicans) to come over to their side. I think you can probably make the same case for 2012, although that seems to have been more of a hybrid of the two.

In any case, it seems to me that the Republicans last won a presidential election using a base mobilization strategy in 2004, and we shouldn’t forget how close of a call that was. When the polls closed, most people looking at the exit polls thought that John Kerry had won. And he would have won if Bush hadn’t done such a great job getting out his base in Ohio. Yes, there were also shenanigans in Ohio that may have changed the outcome, but it’s definite that the red parts of Ohio turned out in huge numbers, largely motivated by their opposition to gay marriage.

So, 2004 is a fairly recent example that shows that the Republicans could theoretically win a base election. It won’t be easy to replicate, though. First, demographic changes since 2004 have made it harder for the Republicans to win a base election because their base is now smaller and the Democrats’ base is now larger. Second, it helped Bush a lot that he was the incumbent and could direct media coverage and attention at will. It also helped that he had a willing partner in shenanigans in then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Since 2004, the Republicans have tried and failed twice to win an election by pandering to their base rather than pursuing voters in the middle. All the proof you need of that is that Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan were chosen as running mates, both of whom were supposed to please the mouth-breathers and rally them to the cause.

After the Republicans lost in 2012, the RNC’s after-report was clear about the futility of trying to win a base election again in 2016. Yet, the idea seems more popular right now than it was in the last two cycles. Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the idea of how to give the base what it wants. Does it want someone who is frothing at the mouth about immigration even if they’re pretty inconsistent as a conservative on many other issues? Or, are they looking for the most hated man in Washington, DC, just because they hate Washington, DC so very much?

That’s really the choice they have between Trump and Cruz, although Trump promises to at least change the shape of the Republican base. That doesn’t mean he will enlarge it though.

This is admittedly a weird election season and unpredictable, but I think a base election is close to unwinnable for the Republican Party in a presidential year. If they win, I don’t think it will be because their base turned out and the Democrats’ base did not. If they win it will because the persuadable voters liked their candidate better than the Democratic candidate. And the more their candidate panders to the base, the less likely that the persuadable voters will like them better.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Base Elections, GOP Base, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Death Of The Swing Voter”: The Dominant Fact Of American Politics Is That Nobody Is Changing Their Mind About Anything

Here’s a strange thought to chew on a year before the presidential election: The votes of 95 percent of Americans likely to cast ballots are already determined. People who lean conservative will vote for any Republican who emerges from the scrum (with the possible exception of the divisive Donald Trump). Ditto for people who lean liberal. New research by Michigan State political scientist Corwin Smidt confirms that the percentage of voters who are truly “independent,” swinging from party to party, has plunged from 15 percent in the 1960s to just 5 percent today. Crossing over party lines to vote for the other tribe’s presidential candidate has become unimaginable. As Jonathan Chait put it this week at New York: “The dominant fact of American politics is that nobody is changing their mind about anything.”

It wasn’t always this way. For much of the latter half of the 20th century, there were liberal-leaning Republicans and conservative-leaning Democrats. It was not impossible to find common ground. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both actively sought the votes of people who traditionally vote for the other party, and enjoyed great popularity partly as a result. But since 2004, polarization on immigration, climate change, abortion, religion, and social issues has become so acute that every presidential election seems to represent a major turning point, with the very definition of our nation at stake. Polls suggest that the gulf between the two parties is actually widening. Republicans loathe Hillary Clinton as much as they do Barack Obama; Democrats see Trump and Ben Carson as wackos and frauds, and have only slightly less contempt for the rest of the field. So here’s a safe if depressing prediction: The new president John Roberts swears in on Jan. 20, 2017, will be very quickly despised and distrusted by roughly 45 percent of the nation. Is this a democracy, or a dysfunctional family?

 

By:Wlliam Falk, The Week, November 13, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Dangers Of Democratic Complacency”: The Last Thing Democrats Need Is To Be Lulled Into Complacency

It’s only mid-April, but with “Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election,” New York‘s Jonathan Chait has zoomed into the lead in the race to win this year’s chutzpah-in-punditry award.

Don’t get me wrong. Even with the general election still 19 interminable months away (that’s 571 days, but who’s counting?), Chait makes a strong case for a Clinton victory. But I still wish he hadn’t written the column. The last thing Democrats need is to be lulled into complacency. Yes, they have a number of demographic advantages going into the next election cycle. But that doesn’t mean Clinton will coast to victory.

Chait relies heavily on a new Pew poll, and much of his analysis is sound. Democrats are indeed likely to benefit from two demographic trends: the “emerging Democratic majority” (which is a product of liberal-leaning segments of the population growing at a faster rate than conservative-leaning ones) and the replacement of more conservative older voters by more liberal younger voters.

But Chait fails to note a finding in the Pew poll that should give him pause — namely, that 39 percent of the public now identifies as independent. That’s the highest level in over 75 years of polling.

It’s true that many of these independents are “closet partisans” — functionally Republicans or Democrats in their ideological leanings. But not all of them are, and even some of those who lean one way or the other are persuadable by the other side under the right circumstances and by the right candidate.

This appears not to trouble Chait because, as he notes at the conclusion of his column, he has faith that the Democrats are the only “non-crazy” party in the U.S. at the moment, and thus the only party that will appeal to non-crazy voters.

I submit that this might make a decisive difference if the GOP ends up nominating Ben Carson — which it won’t. It may also prove important if they go for Ted Cruz — which is highly unlikely. And it may even have some effect if they put up Scott Walker or Rand Paul.

But bland-and-boring Jeb Bush? Or Cuban-American pretty boy Marco Rubio? I don’t think so.

Sure, Chait — a loyal Obama supporter and merciless scourge of the right — thinks the GOP nominee doesn’t matter, because the party (as displayed most vividly by its congressional brinksmanship since 2011) is fundamentally nuts. Even a temperamentally moderate Republican president would have to ride the Tea Party tiger while in office.

I largely agree. I just doubt most voters will. If Republicans can manage to nominate a candidate who sounds halfway reasonable, Hillary Clinton will have a real fight on her hands.

Democrats are going to have to work hard to prevail in 2016. The left’s sharpest minds would be well advised not to encourage Democrats to deny this fact.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 16, 2015

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Independents | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Olympia “Snowe” Keeps Falling

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) published a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal the other day, calling for new measures to make the legislative process more difficult. No, seriously, that’s what they said.

For two years in a row, the Democratic-led Senate has failed to adopt a budget as required by law. Meanwhile, our gross national debt has climbed to almost $15 trillion — as large as our entire economy. Our bill puts in place a 60-vote threshold before any appropriation bill can be moved through Congress — unless both houses have adopted a binding budget resolution.

We can certainly have a conversation about the breakdown in the budget-writing process, but let’s think about what Snowe and Sessions are proposing here: they want to make it harder for Congress to approve appropriations bills, regardless of the consequences.

Jamison Foser explained, “Republicans, including Sessions and Snowe, have filibustered even the most uncontroversial of measures — and that knee-jerk opposition to just about anything the Senate majority wants to do is a significant part of the reason why the Senate hasn’t adopted a budget. Now Sessions and Snowe cynically use that failure to justify structural changes that would make it harder for the Senate to pass any appropriations bills.”

Snowe and Sessions went on to call for additional “reforms” that would make it far more difficult for Congress to approve “emergency” spending without mandatory supermajorities, too, because they’re horrified by efforts to “spend money we don’t have,” which might “bankrupt the country.”

Of course, Snowe and Sessions see no need for mandatory supermajorities when it comes to tax cuts, alleged “bankruptcy” fears notwithstanding.

But in the larger picture, have you noticed just how far Olympia Snowe has fallen lately? Last week she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill just one day later. A week earlier, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being wrong.

It’s tempting to think the fear of a primary challenge is pushing Snowe to the far-right, but the truth is, the senator’s GOP opponents next year are barely even trying. She may fear a replay of the Castle-O’Donnell fight that played out in Delaware, but all indications are that Snowe really doesn’t have anything to worry about.

And yet, she’s become a shell of her former self, leading to this op-ed — written with a right-wing Alabama senator, no less — demanding that the dysfunctional Senate adopt new ideas that make it more difficult to pass necessary legislation.

There is some prime real estate in the political landscape for genuine GOP moderates who could have a significant impact. Instead, Congress has Olympia Snowe, who now bears no resemblance to the centrist she used to be.

If I had to guess, I’d say most mainstream voters in Maine have no idea of the extent to which Snowe has moved to the right, which is a shame. I wonder how those who supported her in the past would even recognize her anymore.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 25, 2011

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Income Gap, Independents, Jobs, Middle Class, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Taxes, Unemployed | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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