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Friday, February 28, 2020

Can Bernie Win?

Can Bernie win? Can he beat Trump? On most days, I'd say no. He won't attract enough moderates. They'll hold their nose and vote for Trump, not because they like the latter, but because they can't imagine voting for a self-avowed socialist.

But then, think about how much Bernie's campaign is reminiscent of Trump's campaign four years ago. Remember how no one (including me) thought Trump could win? Trump's base was a bit fanatical, but remember how most of us thought he wouldn't attract enough moderates in the general election? Well, we know how that turned out.

To be sure, Trump did lose the popular vote in 2016 by almost 3 million votes, but he won key battleground states that helped him win the electoral college. Although in New York he lost to Hillary by almost 2 million votes, for which she was awarded 29 electoral votes, Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by just under 78,000 votes, which earned him 46 electoral votes. That margin was largely due to white working class Americans who had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but went for Trump in 2016. It is not inconceivable that, given the policies Bernie advocates for, those same voters would vote for Bernie. Put differently, Bernie could win the popular vote by even a smaller margin than Hillary but still pull out an electoral college victory.

Then there is what political scientists call "party fatigue," which occurs when voters grow tired of a particular party being in power and vote for the party out of power. It is possible that as disruptive as Trump's presidency has been with its daily tweets and mercurial behavior, enough voters will have had enough of Trump--that is, they'll be suffering from "Trump-fatigue"-- and they'll vote for whomever Democratic nominee is.

Another variable is the economy. If the economy tanks, then it won't matter who the Democrats nominate. He or she will win, even Bernie. As I noted previously ("Democrats Could Be in Trouble"), the one guarantee of economic expansions is that they always end. There's always a recession in their future. It's just difficult to predict when they'll occur. The economy has been good to Trump so far, and if it continues to do so, then he'll be tough to beat. But, if it turns south, then he may be looking at a one-year presidency.

So, although Mayor Pete's my favorite ("Pete Buttegieg Won't Save American Christianity, But He'll Probably Help It"), and I think a moderate like Joe Biden or Mike Bloomberg is a better bet ("Candidate Ideology and Vote Choice in the 2020 US Presidential Election", "Bernie Sanders looks electable in surveys — but it could be a mirage"), it is conceivable that Bernie could beat Trump in November. 2020 should be an interesting year.

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