- CRITTER TALK
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Before you knew it, Sanders, a 73-year-old socialist from Vermont with a thick Brooklyn accent and a populist, anti-Wall Street and 1% message, was shaking Democrats out of their pro-Clinton slumber. Crowds of more than 20,000 people filled arenas in Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. Democratic partisans turned out in conservative locales such as New Orleans and Dallas to hear Sanders decry the 1% and pledge radical political change.
Suddenly, the poll numbers began to move. Clinton’s lead in Iowa and New Hampshire (the first two states to cast votes in the presidential race) began to falter and in one New Hampshire poll, Sanders actually is leading. Meanwhile, Clinton’s favourabilities are steadily declining, even among white women, who would seemingly be one of her strongest constituencies. Allegations related to her private email account and a potential federal investigation sent Democratic blood pressure rising.
“Democrats are nearing full-on panic mode,” reported the congressional newspaper, the Hill, over the latest news that seems likely to plague Clinton’s campaign for the foreseeable future. Talk even began of vice-president Joe Biden jumping in the race, even though he has raised no money, has no staff and is polling well behind Clinton. There is, however, only one appropriate reaction to this: meh.
Sanders is only very slightly more likely to be the Democratic standard-bearer than I am. If Biden, who has run two dreadful presidential campaigns (in 1988 and 2008) announces his candidacy he is almost certainly going to be defeated – and embarrassingly so. There is no other Democratic white knight on the horizon (though talk last week began of a possible Al Gore candidacy). Barring some unforeseen event – or perhaps an act of God – Clinton will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.
The reasons for her dominance are not difficult to figure out. She has raised the most money, she’s secured the most endorsements and quite simply there’s no one else in the party who comes close to rivalling her backing within the party. Her favourability rating among Democrats is well above 80% and she continues to lead Sanders in national polls of party members by 30-plus points.
The key to that support is, perhaps, the most important single constituency within the Democratic party – minority voters. In 2008, African Americans were the key to President Obama’s success in his hard-fought primary win against Clinton. Eight years later, those same voters are solidly in her camp – and neither Sanders, nor Biden, nor any of the other potential challengers for the nomination comes close. Clinton also enjoys a marked advantage among Hispanic voters and among Democratic women.
Sanders support can be found primarily among white men and, in particular, the denizens of dark-blue liberal enclaves. The combination of Clinton’s rainbow coalition and Sanders’s more lilywhite liberal supporters also explains his current strong performance in New Hampshire and Iowa, two states not exactly known for their racial diversity. Even in the unlikely chance that Sanders were to prevail in both places, once the Democratic race moves to Nevada, home to a large number of Hispanic voters, and South Carolina, where the Democratic electorate is strongly African American, he will find himself on less hospitable political turf. Quite simply, unless Sanders can make serious inroads among African Americans and Hispanic voters it is nearly impossible to imagine how he could assemble the kind of political coalition necessary to beat Clinton.