Let’s talk electoral college math for a moment. Here’s why I’m so concerned about a Bernie Sanders candidacy. This is the electoral map as I see it. And I gave Bernie the benefit of the doubt in several states that I think might be tough for him (NJ, CA, WI). But looking at that map, I don’t see him getting to 270 from here, for these reasons:
IOWA – Sure, he had a great caucus showing. But let’s not forget that in a record turnout year, GOP turnout was still 15,415 higher than Dem turnout. And that’s with all the independents who crossed over to caucus for him, and with record under-30 turnout. So his “I’ll increased Democratic turnout” argument is already baked into the numbers. Plus in a general election, Bernie would bleed some moderate Iowa Dems who find him too liberal.
NEW HAMPSHIRE – Again, an impressive showing and record turnout. But the party split was 284,000 GOP ballots to 251,000 Democratic voters – a 33,000 vote gap. And again, that was with record youth turnout and with independent voters who already crossed over to vote for him. Could Sanders carry NH against a weak GOP candidate? Sure. But it’s by no means a slam-dunk.
PENNSYLVANIA – Solidly Democratic, you say? Yes, it usually is, but I don’t think his political background (I’m being polite here) is going to play outside of Philly and Pittsburgh. Sure, his populist message would have strong blue-collar appeal. But the socialist thing… I’m sorry, I just think it’s going to be a much harder sell in the heartland than his supporters seem to think.
OHIO, VIRGINIA, FLORIDA – See Pennsylvania. Okay, that was glib. But heartland states are apple pie America, as is the Florida panhandle. Sophisticated east and west coasters and post-cold war millennial voters might ignore the socialist label. But the instinct to repel anything that seems “un-American” is ingrained in middle America and won’t be easy to reverse. And once the Karl Rove-GOP attack machine goes to work on him, Sanders will look like Fidel Castro to them.
Look, on any given election day, every candidate has a chance. But the odds of a Sanders win have to be 25% at best. That may be a reasonable long-shot bet at the track when a few hundred bucks are at stake. It’s not a good bet to make with the ACA and the Supreme Court at stake.
Could I be wrong? Of course. We’re all just guessing here. But a lot of very smart, very informed and very connected political experts share my concerns. These are people who really know how the American electorate thinks. And even in years that seem to defy conventional wisdom, some basic rules of the political universe are immutable. Outside of Vermont, Americans don’t elect socialists. Even nice, likable, populist ones.