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“Voter Turnout Challenges Sanders’ Recipe For Success”: There Is No Real Evidence Supporting His Thesis

It’s not exactly a secret that Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign faces skeptics when it comes to “electability.” With so much on the line in 2016, including the prospect of a radicalized Republican Party controlling the White House and Congress, plenty of Democratic voters, even some who may like Sanders and his message, are reluctant to nominate a candidate who’s likely to fail in a general election.

And on the surface, those concerns are hard to dismiss out of hand. Sanders is, after all, a self-described socialist senator running in an era in which most Americans say they wouldn’t support a socialist candidate. He’s 74 years old – two years older than Bob Dole was in 1996. Sanders has no experience confronting the ferocity of the Republican Attack Machine.

When GOP officials, leaders, and candidates take steps to help the Sanders campaign, it’s pretty obvious why.

But Sanders and his supporters have a counter-argument at the ready. Below these surface-level details, the argument goes, Sanders’ bold and unapologetic message will resonate in ways the political mainstream doesn’t yet understand. Marginalized Americans who often feel alienated from the process – and who routinely stay home on Election Day – can and will rally to support Sanders and propel him to the White House.

The old political-science models, Team Sanders argues, are of limited use. Indeed, they’re stale and out of date, failing to reflect the kind of massive progressive turnout that Bernie Sanders – and only Bernie Sanders – can create.

This isn’t the entirety of Sanders’ pitch, but it’s a key pillar: the Vermont senator will boost turnout, which will propel him and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot to victory.

There is, however, some fresh evidence that challenges the thesis.

In last week’s Iowa caucuses, turnout was good in the Democratic race, but it dropped when compared to 2008, the last competitive Democratic nominating fight. (Republicans, however, saw turnout increase this year to a new, record high.)

In yesterday’s New Hampshire primary, turnout was again strong, and with nearly all of the precincts reporting, it looks like about 239,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. But again, in the party’s 2008 nominating contest, nearly 288,000 voters turned out, which means we’ve seen another drop. (Like Iowa, Republican turnout in New Hampshire yesterday broke the party’s record.)

This is obviously just two nominating contests, and there will be many more to come. It’s entirely possible that Sanders-inspired turnout will start to appear in time.

But Iowa and New Hampshire are arguably the two best states in the nation, other than Vermont, for Sanders. But that didn’t produce an increase in voter turnout.

It’s a metric that may give Democrats pause as the fight continues. If Sanders’ entire model of success is built on the idea that he’ll bring more voters into the process, it matters that there’s no real evidence of that happening, at least not yet.

Update:  I received an update from a reader who suggested comparing 2016 turnout to 2008 turnout isn’t entirely fair, since the 2008 Obama-Clinton race was an epic fight that drove numbers up. It was, in this sense, an outlier – which makes it a poor point of comparison.

And while there’s likely something to this, it actually helps reinforce my point: if a 74-year-old socialist is going to become president of the United States, he’d need to boost turnout in ways without modern precedent. Or more to the point, he’d need to be able to match and build on the kind of turnout Dems saw in 2008. So far, the numbers simply don’t show that.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Electability, Election 2016 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Does Sanders Have A Lock On The Youth Vote?”: It’s Still A Little Early For All Of The Assumptions

The huge story coming out of the Iowa caucuses is that young people voted for Bernie Sanders 84/14. Thus developed the meme that he has a lock on that age group around the country and writers like Nate Silver are attempting to explain the phenomenon. But does the polling bear that out?

The problem with examining the question is that there are very few polls of states that will weigh in after New Hampshire – and even fewer that provide information based on age. So with the caveat that these are merely individual polls and should be taken with a grain of salt, here is a bit of evidence to test the meme.

Based on this NBC/WSJ poll (Feb. 2-3), it looks like the New Hampshire results will closely mirror what happened in Iowa with those under 45.

Sanders 72%
Clinton 27%

One of the states that holds its primary on March 1st (Super Tuesday) is Georgia. Here is how the under 40 vote looks in a poll conducted by Landmark Communications (Feb. 4).

Sanders 13.5%
Clinton 61%

North Carolina holds its primary on March 15th. Here’s what Public Policy Polling (Jan 18-19) found for voters under 45 in that state.

Sanders 31%
Clinton 51%

Perhaps these polls from Georgia and North Carolina haven’t accurately captured the millennial surge in those states. Or perhaps Bernimania will catch on there as the vote gets closer. Or maybe, like other age groups, a more diverse collection of young people will vote differently than the mostly white group that we’ve seen in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s still a little early for all of the assumptions about how Sanders has a lock on the youth vote.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Millennnials, Young Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Doubt It Works?”: Donald Trump Wants To Reclassify Waterboarding So It’s No Longer A War Crime For Him To Order It

While there was some discussion among the Republican candidates at Saturday night’s debate in New Hampshire as to whether or not waterboarding was a form of torture (it is), Donald Trump went below and beyond everyone else on stage to insist that not only would he reinstitute waterboarding against America’s enemies, he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” as well. Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, Trump elaborated on his position and confirmed that he would “go through a process and get [waterboarding] declassified” as a war crime in order to use it, “at a minimum,” against ISIS if he’s elected president. So far, Trump has not explained what forms of torture he would bring back that are worse than waterboarding, which is essentially simulated drowning. “You can say what you want I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things,” Trump insisted to Tapper, though it’s worth noting that torture doesn’t actually work when it comes to gathering useful intelligence from prisoners.

Regarding the rest of the GOP field’s responses to the torture question Saturday night, Ted Cruz stood by the Bush-administration’s discredited assurance that waterboarding was a form of enhanced interrogation, not torture, though either way he wouldn’t “bring it back in any sort of widespread use.” Jeb Bush changed his position, from saying he wouldn’t rule it out, to last night saying that he was happy with Congress’s ban on waterboarding as it was. Marco Rubio dodged the question by insisting it would be inappropriate to discuss his future plans for America’s interrogation techniques. Regardless, though Rubio missed the Senate vote on banning torture, he has said he would have voted against the ban, and on Saturday night championed the idea of filling up Guantánamo with new prisoners to interrogate.

Though he was not asked about it on Saturday night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has previously said he did not consider waterboarding torture and would not rule it out as an interrogation method. Carly Fiorina supports the practice as well. Ben Carson has made a statement that seems to suggest he would consider waterboarding prisoners, too. It’s not clear what John Kasich’s position is.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 7, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Enhanced Interrogation, Torture, Waterboarding | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When The Applause Dies For Jeb Bush”: He Misjudged The Depth Of The Anger And Division Within His Own Party

“Please clap,” Jeb Bush wryly told a subdued crowd in New Hampshire last week, a moment that epitomizes his problem.

The pundits call it lack of traction. Among too many voters it’s lack of interest.

If Jeb bombs in New Hampshire, he’s done. Even if he doesn’t quit the race, it’s over.

A year ago this scenario was unimaginable. He had more money, more brains, more connections and more governing experience than any other Republican wanting to be president. Like many people, I thought his nomination would be a slam dunk.

The gaseous rise of Donald Trump upended everything, but not only for Jeb. The other candidates had to scramble, too. Some did a better job.

Sure, Iowa is a silly place to start a presidential campaign. Its demographics are freakishly white, and the GOP electorate is anomalously dominated by evangelical Christians.

Still, Jeb spent plenty of time and money there, and wound up with only 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s miserably weak, and there’s no positive spin.

What’s happening? The answer is, for better or worse: Not much.

Jeb hasn’t made any huge, embarrassing blunders on the campaign trail. He’s not obnoxious or unlikable. True, he’s not an electrifying personality, but in most election cycles that wouldn’t disqualify him.

Obviously, he misjudged the depth of the anger and division within his own party. He isn’t the only candidate to get caught off guard.

But he is the only Bush on the ballot, and that’s probably hurt him more than it has helped. Jeb isn’t the one who invaded Iraq and basically exploded the Mideast. He isn’t the one who jacked up the deficit with war spending and then left the U.S. economy teetering on a cliff.

That was his brother, but seven years later lots of voters haven’t forgotten. Before committing to Jeb, they need to be convinced that he’s way different from George W., that he’s wiser and more careful, and that he doesn’t have a Dick Cheney blow-up doll riding shotgun.

So far, there is no sign of a grass-roots pro-Jeb frenzy. The fact he was Florida’s governor for two terms isn’t wowing the masses — even in Florida.

Polls here show Jeb trailing Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He is only slightly ahead of the sleepwalking Ben Carson.

How is this possible? That question is echoing among the heavy hitters who gave more than $100 million to Jeb’s super PAC. They’re running out of patience.

Jeb’s new strategy is tag-teaming with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to tear down Rubio, who surged impressively and finished third in Iowa. Christie is playing the Don Rickles role, insulting Rubio in public, while the Bush team bankrolls a flurry of anti-Marco ads in the media.

The New York Times reports that Jeb has already spent $20 million attacking his former protege. I guess this means no more workouts together at the Biltmore gym.

It’s a grim battle for the sane wing of the Republican Party, which means placing at least third in New Hampshire.

The positioning is crucial because Trump’s vaudeville act is starting to fray, and the icy zealotry of Cruz scares many conservatives.

If this were a script, you would now write in a timely entrance by the seasoned, well-credentialed Jeb Bush.

Except, wait — there’s baby-faced, inexperienced Marco ahead of him. Way ahead.

Here’s a guy who has accomplished zero in the Senate, flip-flops when he feels the heat and can’t even manage his own credit cards. How is he beating an old pro like Jeb?

By successfully casting himself as a fresh and electable alternative. Rubio’s only got one speech, but he’s good at it. Ironically, he grew up to be slicker and more calculating than his mentor.

Such is Jeb’s desperation that he has a new campaign commercial using a photo of Terri Schiavo. She was the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents were locked in a legal fight over the continuation of life-support procedures.

As governor, Jeb inserted himself into the case, ultimately involving his president brother and Congress in the effort to keep a feeding tube in Schiavo, who’d been comatose for 13 years.

Eventually the courts put a stop to the political meddling, and she was allowed to die.

The episode was Jeb’s worst mistake in office, an obscene governmental intrusion into a private family tragedy. Now he’s dredging up the memory in hopes of attracting extreme right-to-life voters.

If he asks you to clap, you know what to do.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“How Change Happens”: Why Democrats Can’t Seem To Decide Between Clinton And Sanders

If Republicans are engaged in a three-sided civil war, Democrats are having a spirited but rather civilized argument over a very large question: Who has the best theory about how progressive change happens?

On the Republican side, the results in Iowa showed a party torn to pieces. Ted Cruz won because he understood from the start the importance of cornering the market on Christian conservatives who have long dominated Iowa’s unusual process. Message discipline, thy name is Cruz.

Donald Trump has created a new wing of the Republican Party by combining older GOP tendencies — nationalism, nativism, racial backlash — with 21st-century worries about American decline and the crushing of working-class incomes. He appeals to the angriest Republicans but not necessarily the most ideologically pure. A novel constituency proved harder to turn out in Iowa than polls and Trump’s media boosters anticipated.

Marco Rubio was the remainder candidate, pulling together most of the voters who couldn’t stand Trump or Cruz. He was strongest among the best-educated Republicans, a crowd that has less reason to be angry. Almost as conservative as Cruz, Rubio runs verbally against the party establishment even as he is beloved by it.

The main question in New Hampshire next week (besides whether Trump can actually win an election) concerns Rubio’s ability to repeat his consolidation trick — this time against a fully competitive field. Does he get enough bounce out of his third-place finish in Iowa to beat back John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, who largely skipped Iowa but have been working hard to find Granite State salvation? It’s politics of a classic sort.

The Democratic contest is far more subtle and, as a result, intellectually interesting. The obvious contours of the race are defined by Hillary Clinton’s identity as a moderate progressive and Bernie Sanders’s embrace of democratic socialism.

But there is less distance between Sanders and Clinton than meets the eye. Their sharpest programmatic differences (other than on Sanders’s mixed gun-control record) are over his sweeping ideas: breaking up the largest banks, establishing a single-payer health-care system and providing universal free college education. These disagreements are closely connected to their competing theories of change.

Clinton believes in change through incremental steps: toughening financial regulation, building on Obamacare, expanding access to scholarships and grants without making college free for everyone. One-step-at-a-time reform is the best way to reach a larger goal, she believes. And proposals that are too big are doomed to fail — politically for sure, and probably substantively as well.

Thus her signature critique of Sanders. “In theory, there’s a lot to like about some of his ideas,” she says, and then the hammer falls: “I’m not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world.”

Sanders, by contrast, has long believed that the current configuration of power needs to be overthrown (peacefully, through the ballot box) to make progressive reform possible. It’s why he focuses so much on breaking the corrupting power of big money in politics. He believes that loosening the Republicans’ grip on working-class voters requires initiatives that will truly shake things up, and that only the mobilization of new voters will change the nature of representation in Washington.

Democrats, he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in 2014, have “not made it clear that they are prepared to stand with the working-class people of this country [and] take on the big money interests.”

The same year, he told Vox’s Andrew Prokop: “You gotta take your case to the American people, mobilize them, and organize them at the grass-roots level in a way that we have never done before.”

Sanders added: “The Republican Party right now in Washington is highly disciplined, very, very well-funded, and adheres to more or less the Koch brother position. You’re not gonna change them in Washington. The only way that they are changed is by educating, organizing, and what I call a political revolution.”

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 3, 2016

February 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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