2016 Democrats, History, State of the Race, Uncategorized

California Dreaming: How Bernie Would Do the Improbable (Part Four)

January 12, 2016

Here’s Part One.  And Part Two.  Also Part Three.

If you’ve followed along from the beginning, we are now up to the New York primary on April 19.  The Sanders Improbable Dream is in full swing, and he’s leading the delegate race with Hillary’s old constituents getting ready to vote.

Remember, this series is a scenario, not a prediction, though if Bernie is to actually win the nomination, he’s going to have to win the states I’m suggesting, or something pretty damn close.  There’s only a 1 in 8 chance anything like this happens, but you never know…

Bernie wins New York (233)

Bit of a reach, right?  Hillary finished 17 points ahead of Obama there.  Really gives you an idea of how large a boulder Bernie is pushing up the mountain here.  If he doesn’t win New York, you need to give him Florida or North Carolina + Missouri.

Here’s why this seems more probable, not to mention highly possible:

In 2008, Clinton was the current, sitting junior senator from New York, elected in 2000, re-elected in 2006.  This was about as popular as she’s ever been in the Empire State.

They gave her a launching pad and she was rewarding them with a run at the presidency.  At this point Obama was a promising interloper.  He sounded neat and looked slick, but was getting in the way of putting an adopted New Yorker in the White House.

It was a more centrist New York in 2008.  The last Democratic Mayor of New York City was David Dinkins, who was then 15 years removed from office.  Now Bill DeBlasio is inhabiting Gracie Mansion.

Then it was only a little more than a year since Republican George Pataki left the governorship.  Now, Democrats have won the past 3 elections.  Don’t get me wrong, it was already plenty blue, but the shade has deepened.

Jewish voters matter more in New York than anywhere else.  It’s the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.  In 2008, Hillary had close ties to the community and a fairly good record on Israel.

Now she would find herself up against a Jewish candidate with her more mixed (she’ll create some space between herself and the administration she served) Secretary of State record on the books.

Sanders is a very secular Jew.  I’m not sure the 600,000 Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn are going to race to the polls for him.  He’s never made Israel a primary issue.  Also, you can argue evangelical Christians are more interested in protecting the Jewish state than the average semi-observant Jew.

Still, it can’t hurt.

Bernie has multiple endorsements from African-American politicians in Harlem and the Bronx.  The $15 minimum wage push is a bigger deal in NYC than elsewhere, as you’d expect somewhere living expenses are high.

When Bill opened his post-presidential office in Harlem, it was a big deal, part of the second renaissance that was just kicking off then.  Along with Magic Johnson’s group opening movie theaters, Starbucks locations, etc., it helped completely change perceptions.

That was a long time ago now.  Geoffrey Canada’s Children’s Zone is now more emblematic of the progress across 110th street in the past couple decades.

If you don’t remember the great photo ops for Barack Obama, it’s because they didn’t exist.  Not only was he running as a candidate who happened to be black, but he wasn’t going to invest in challenging Hillary on her home turf.

Like California, New York is back in it’s traditional primary slot this year, instead of being front-loaded into Super Tuesday as in 2008.  Both states hoped earlier meant more meaningful, but it didn’t really turn out that way.

There are no big state primaries between March 15 and April 19.  This is Bernie’s biggest window to complete his transition from a candidate for younger white people to a representative of the entire progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Oh yeah.  Hillary’s office is in Brooklyn, but Bernie is FROM there.  Can she beat Larry David in New York?

April 26

Hillary recovers in Pennsylvania (160), Rhode Island (22), Delaware (17), and Connecticut (51)

I’m confident Hillary would win the Keystone State under this scenario.  In 2008, she also won Pennsylvania after beginning to noticeably trail in the race.  While I have Ohio and New York flipping to Bernie, and PA is geographically right between them, this is different.

Of the three states, Democrats are most centrist here.  New York, as mentioned above has plenty of liberal/progressives and especially in New York City a decent amount of young voters.

Pennsylvania, a place where Bob Casey was a well-respected pro-life Democratic governor, and his son is a current senator, is different.  It skews much older than the average state and is less open to new faces.  The primary is closed to Independents.

You might wonder how someone who is strongly in favor of abortion rights is helped by the above, or how her shift toward stronger gun control helps.  It doesn’t.

Democrats are still more often pro-choice, and the gun control helps in the Democratic leaning suburbs in and around Philadelphia.  One reason she has a better shot in Pennsylvania than Ohio is the larger amount of upscale, suburban Bill Clinton voters.

With shale oil from fracking, along with coal, having an impact on the state economy and jobs, Bernie’s focus on global warming won’t help.  With two strongly pro-choice candidates and Sanders modifying his gun positions, it’s a bit of a tiebreaker.

Even more importantly, Hillary would have focused heavily on the state as a firewall, comeback point, etc. as soon as she saw on March 15 that she was unable to make Bernie go away.

Though I’m assuming for the purposes of the exercise that Democrats would and could ultimately consolidate around Sanders given the right conditions, if they weren’t ready to sign off on Obama yet last time, Bernie shouldn’t count on Pennsylvania to end the contest this time.

Rhode Island was strongly pro-Clinton in 2008.  It’s an older, more traditional voter.  Think she hangs in.  Same goes for Delaware, unless Favorite Son Biden is noticeably negative toward her.

Bernie barely wins Maryland (78)

I’ve given Connecticut to Clinton and Maryland to Sanders.  If you want to reverse the two, I won’t argue.  Many Connecticut voters get New York TV and will have seen lots of the coverage in and around the New York primary (plus the ads).

Obama won both states in 2008.  Maryland by a much larger margin, but with a percentage of African-American voters Sanders won’t match.  Many of the upscale Bill Clinton voters Hillary will benefit from in PA exist in Connecticut too, while if Sanders is able to increasingly connect with minority voters in Michigan, Illinois and New York, he’d be in great shape to win votes in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland.

It’s a closed primary in a state with many loyal Democrats.  Like Rhode Island, there are many older Catholic voters who would likely prefer Hillary, so no easy win for Bernie.  Those same voters are in Connecticut too though, in East Hartford, Bridgeport, etc., so on balance I still think Maryland is a better shot.

Scoreboard: Bernie (1634), Hillary (1372)

With Hillary finally facing a favorable schedule in May, as long as she wins most of the April 26 states, she’s still in the race.  It’s also why Bernie needed New York.  If she can hold serve in May, the race goes down to the wire.


Hillary wins Indiana (70), Guam (6), West Virginia (26), Kentucky (47)

Indiana is too conservative for Bernie.  West Virginia and Kentucky are coal states.  Thinking they don’t want to hear global warming is our most pressing national security issue.  Guam is hella far.  I’m not giving him a place on the other side of the International Date Line.

Continuing from the results of late April, there’s also a bit of the not wanting to decide on a nominee yet going on.  It’s very customary, especially on the Democratic side, for voters to pump the brakes a little before an underdog nominee is chosen.

Usually, the surprise contender ultimately triumphs, but there are a few speed bumps, and demographics combined with closed primaries increase the odds of a correction.

Bernie avoids a winless month in Oregon (52)

If you think there’s any chance he doesn’t win Oregon, immediately watch an episode of Portlandia.  Even if you believe me, the show is kinda clever.  Give it a try.

Tally: Bernie (1686), Hillary (1521)


Hillary wins Virgin Islands (6), Puerto Rico (51), New Jersey (110), South Dakota (15), New Mexico (29), DC (17)

I’m not sure Hillary would actually win all of these.  South Dakota, New Mexico and Washington D.C. could easily favor Sanders at this point.  She won the first two in 2008, and neither seem a likely major focus for Bernie.  At this point it doesn’t actually matter who wins them.

California is the whole game.  In both delegates and narrative, it will overwhelm the other June events.

New Jersey does favor Clinton.  If Bernie wins it, this race isn’t as close as I’m indicating in this scenario.  It’s yet another Bill Clinton state and some of the demographics helping her in Pennsylvania and Connecticut help her here.

Remember, a “Bill Clinton” state has to do with a large group of centrist upper income voters who have leaned Democrat for the past couple decades.  It doesn’t have much to do with his approval ratings or nostalgia for his administration.

The voter types favor Hillary, the nostalgia is less important and just as likely to make her look inferior by comparison.

Bernie wins California (405)

A long, long time ago, in a political era far away, California really mattered.  The 1964 Republican and 1972 Democratic nominations were effectively clinched when insurgent candidates defeated their establishment opponent in the Golden State.

Californians endorsed both Barry Goldwater and George McGovern.  Things have certainly changed in the last several decades.  This is no longer a purple state.  One thing that remains similar is the lack of a moderate majority.

Some states (like Pennsylvania) have a lot of relatively centrist voters.  California does not.  Democrats are progressive, Republicans are conservative.  Even many Independents lean strongly one way or another.  There are just a lot more Democrats these days.

Bill Clinton was (and is) very popular here.  His presidency helped transition California to the blue side.  In 2008, when the state voted early and Barack Obama didn’t have time to completely establish himself in the minds of voters, this mattered.

In early June, 2016 it wouldn’t.  Much as in 1964 and 1972, candidates would spend dollars and days in state, campaigning intensively for multiple weeks.  Both Bernie and Hillary will have the resources to make a fight of it.

Clinton would not have the advantage among ethnic voters that she does today.  Unions would hedge their bets, particularly local branches who don’t want to follow national endorsements.  Sanders has a strong volunteer core even now.  By June he’d have thousands and thousands and thousands on the ground.

His winning formula would be a combination of minority outreach from New York, with progressive curating from places like Oregon and Wisconsin.  The Larry David Factor would kick in a bit too.

If California chose the establishment candidate in a high-stakes primary, it would be the first time.  in 1984, they picked Hart over Mondale, it just wasn’t enough to get him over the top.  Combined with Jackson, insurgents had well more than half the vote.

This time, in a two-way race, I would expect Sanders to win by 7 to 10 points, enough of a statement to give him the needed edge in delegates and perception to get nominated.

Final: Bernie (2091), Hillary (1749)

The gap wouldn’t actually be that big.  Giving the whole amount to the winner of each state was just an easier way to count.  In reality, Bernie would lead by 150-200 delegates, not almost 350.

But winning the majority of states considered competitive in the fall election, a majority of large states, a majority of states period, Sanders would make enough of a case to make it difficult for all but the most Hillary-committed of super delegates to stay with her.

To make up the gap, she would need 65-70% of those delegates, and though she would hold more of them than in 2008 (especially since over 300 of them have formally endorsed her), a 50/50 split would get Bernie nominated.

I feel very comfortable saying if he won the states I gave him (or swapped for comparable ones) he would win the nomination, even if he needs to win a decent portion of super delegates to get there.

It’s mathematically impossible for Bernie to win the nomination outright based on regular voters only unless Hillary completely collapses.  This would mean she lost South Carolina, or won that, but got swept on March 15.

Don’t expect another candidate to ride to the rescue.  It’s too late for Joe Biden or anyone else to get on the ballot in a number of states.  Unless Hillary were to drop out at the end of February, another entrant would only wind up splitting the vote in a way that helps Bernie in the states they could still enter.

Conditions have changed slightly since I began this four part series.  A new Investor’s Business Daily national poll shows Hillary only 4 points ahead of Bernie.  It’s the closest national survey yet, one of only a couple on the Real Clear Politics list with a single-digit gap, the first in 100 days.

He’s hardly home-free.  Part of the difference is a drop in Hillary’s support, down to 43%.  At this point it shows a chunk of voters are up for grabs, rather than Bernie being anywhere near a majority (39% so far).

We don’t have a national primary.  Moods will wax and wane over the next few months, and Hillary will not underestimate him.  Especially now.  The survey was taken before Clinton’s new push against Sanders on gun control.

The first step was always establishing viability to ensure that as many voters who prefer Bernie as possible will turn out and choose him over the supposedly more inevitable Hillary do so.  This helps tremendously.  You can almost argue the poll came a week or 10 days early, but he’ll take it.

Combined with an Iowa poll showing Bernie within the margin of error (trailing 48/45), if nothing else, the timing for writing this was good.  It doesn’t noticeably change the odds though.

If you want to give him a 15-18% chance instead of 12% go ahead, but a Sanders improvement in polling was a prerequisite of the scenario.  It just happened a week or two early.

Hillary remains the favorite.  If Bernie wins Iowa this is a real contest.  If he wins New Hampshire, he has a good shot in Nevada.  After all three it would become a toss-up.

To become a favorite, he either needs to win South Carolina, which would be an enormous statement.  He could win a southern state or two on March 1, something further south than the Tennessee or Virginia I already gave him.

He could win four out of the five March 15 states instead of the two I gave him.  Any of those things and he’s a legit favorite.  Until then, not so much until the New York primary the scenario has him winning.

Bernie hasn’t taken much criticism yet, hasn’t spent time as a target for Republicans as Hillary has.  Partially as a result, his favorable numbers are much better, Independents are far more open to him, he’s doing better in pseudo-matchups with GOP candidates.

That doesn’t mean much now, but in a couple/few months, after more scrutiny and plenty of Hillary/Hillary PAC attack ads, it would.  While we can’t assume Bernie will keep his favorable numbers up, we also shouldn’t assume they will collapse.

At the moment, this is looking like a real contest.  You haven’t wasted your time reading this series.





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