Monday, May 23, 2016

Is it time to panic?

It's easy to hit the panic button when you look at some of the recent polls.  Hillary looked like she was on top of the world a month ago, well ahead of Trump in most polls, but now it is a virtual dead heat.  It is difficult to say whether these early polls mean anything, but Bernie is hoping to capitalize on some of the anxiety emerging by noting that he is still comfortably ahead of Trump in national polls.

As I said before, it is difficult to understand how two such disliked figures could emerge as the parties' nominees.  Attitudes appear to be softening, at least toward the Donald, who is no longer seen as quite so unfavorable at 58 per cent, where before 70 per cent of Americans openly disliked him.  Now that he is the presumptive nominee, more persons are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, notably Republican leaders who before said they would never accept him as their nominee.  It doesn't seem to matter that he made a mockery of the Republican party, 80 per cent of Congressional Republicans are willing to back him, believing that Hillary would be worse.

This is why Bernie said in his ABC interview that it has come down to a choice between "the lesser of two evils" in most persons' minds, and that he represents the last remaining positive choice.  He was quick to point out that doesn't mean Hillary can't win in November.  It is just that his chances are greater.

Whether this will make any impact on the Democratic superdelegates remains to be seen.  Although the vast majority have already verbally committed themselves to Hillary, it doesn't mean they can't change their minds between now and The convention in July.  These 700+ delegates are enough to swing the final ballot one way or the other, and now Bernie is directly making his case to them, as there is only about a 200 differential among pledged delegates between he and Hillary.

However, that is not likely to happen especially with the fissure that has been created in the Democratic Party.  Many within the party view Bernie as an outsider and are not likely to lend their support to him.  They prefer one of the their own, even if she isn't the most appealing choice to the electorate as a whole.  Demographics favor her in November.  As close as the polls may be now, she still holds quite an edge among women and minority voters that are more than enough to offset Trump's appeal to angry white males.

Like Bernie, Trump has drawn a lot of support from the outside edges of the political party and from Independents who are not likely to make a big impact in a national election.  Surveys tend to include these persons now because it suits the media's interest to make this a close race, but that will change in the months ahead as polls focus more on likely voters.

One set of numbers is very disconcerting -- nearly a quarter of "likely voters" say they will not vote in November.  Of course, we can ask who is a "likely voter?"  Turnout in a presidential general election is usually around 60 per cent, and if these are voters who would normally take part that means we can expect a turnout of around 45 per cent, unless a third-party candidate lights their fire.

Let's assume it's just Hillary and Donald.  If voter turnout is low, Donald's chances increase, as conservatives are generally more likely to vote than are progressives.  This is why Republicans fared better in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, as only about 40 per cent of the national electorate voted.  This does not bode well for Hillary or the Democrats.  If voters stay home then US Congressional and State Democrats suffer as well on the ballot.

Bernie seems to think he is the one who can bring voters out. stating "any objective assessment of our campaign ... will conclude we have the energy, we have the excitement, we have the young people, we have the working people, we can drive a large voter turnout, so that we not only win the White House but we regain control of the Senate."  He's banking on the same level of enthusiasm that brought a record voter turnout in 2008 when Obama won the White House and Democrats maintained control of Congress.

However, most Congressional Democrats are giving their support to Hillary.  In the end, this is party politics and even Obama ran as a candidate inside the party.  It is not enough to caucus with the Democrats as Bernie has done throughout his long tenure in Congress.

We'll see what happens in November, but if Hillary wins it could very well be the Republicans retain control of Congress as voters feel this is the only way to keep the Democrats in check.  There is this odd game of checks and balances that makes it very rare for a presidential candidate to achieve a sweeping mandate, even someone as popular as Bernie.

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