Bernie Sanders’ voter base is growing but narrow

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

6 thoughts about the state of the Democratic race.

A big question mark remains on the list of U.S. presidential hopefuls – will Vice President Joe Biden enter the race on the Democratic side, joining former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders?

Joe Biden’s potential bid for the Democratic presidential nomination faces a fundamental question: Does he have a viable path through a treacherous electoral map?The Democratic Party, whose presidential race has been mostly overshadowed by Donald Trump and the Republicans, heads into the fall with its nomination contest far less certain than it once appeared and braced for a series of events that will have a significant effect on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. Interviews with Democratic Party officials, including those enthusiastic about a Biden candidacy, suggest that finding one is going to be a tough task, given the advantages the vice president’s would-be opponents have in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and his late start in creating a campaign infrastructure.

It’s easy to assume, amid her botched handling of the private e-mail server she maintained while at the State Department, to assume that Clinton is in deep trouble in a Democratic primary. That Democrats are wrestling with such issues so close to Labor Day, when campaigns are expected to be going full throttle, speaks to the broadly unsettled nature of the 2016 race. The poll also shows that Clinton has lost a third of the support that she had in May and that her support among Democrats has for the first time dropped below 50 percent.

Plain-spoken and long-winded, Joe Biden is no stranger to the campaign trail. “We will not go back to the 50s in social policy, to the Cold War in our foreign policy, or to the policies of the last administration in our economic policy,” Biden said. Biden decides to run, the most difficult task for him may come in cobbling together a coalition capable of challenging Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. There is, has been and will be somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of the national Democratic electorate who want to support someone other than Clinton.

Sanders on Sunday tried to stick with the message that is boosting his poll numbers and bringing large crowds to his campaign stops — better wages and more affordable education for the working class. “This is pro-Bernie Sanders and a message that says, ‘enough is enough,’ ” he told ABC. “This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of very wealthy people.” The 73-year-old Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist, also defended himself against criticism that he so far has focused too little on foreign policy and national security. Sanders said he made the correct decision in voting against the war in Iraq because the aftermath led to destabilization across the region but argued he supports military force as an essential component of foreign policy. “Using the military is always an option, but it’s the last option,” he said. “I believe the United States should have the strongest military in the world.” What can Clinton do to regain the trust of voters, generate genuine enthusiasm among grass-roots activists and reassure nervous Democrats that she will be a strong nominee atop the party’s ticket in November next year?

Clinton’s struggles in recent weeks – stories about her personal email server and expensive vacation in the Hamptons – but she still sits in a very strong position among the Democratic electorate. A New York Times report that detailed conversations with 75 high-level Democratic operatives and politicians was an absolutely brutal read for Clinton and her campaign last week. In short, the divides that defined the Democratic primaries in 2008, the last time there was no incumbent running, simply aren’t apparent in the 2015 – at least not yet.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell’s quote — “They’ve handled the e-mail issue poorly, maybe atrociously, certainly horribly” — is just a total gut punch for the Clinton folks. Joe’s been as good a vice president as I think we’ve seen in American history, been at my side in every tough decision I’ve made,” said Obama. “Hillary Clinton was one of our best secretaries of state.” “I think he (Biden) sees a vulnerability in Secretary Clinton,” said senator Lindsey Graham. ‘So I don’t know what Joe’s going to do, but if he’s ever wanted to run, now’s his best chance.” Most presidential aspirants of both parties laid the groundwork for their bids a year or more ago and have already spent months on the campaign trial. Currently those groups are locked pretty securely in Hillary Clinton’s camp along with the groups that backed her candidacy in 2008 – whites and moderate/conservative primary voters. Although it is easy to dismiss the chatter and worries of Democratic elites as the sort of stuff that happens every four years when the party tries to elect a president, it is a mistake to think it has no influence. Asked on CNN how he would take on “the billionaire class”, a central target of his campaign stump speeches, in ways Clinton would not, Sanders said: “I believe that, when you have so few banks with so much power … you have got to break them up.

The real estate mogul and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, continue to outpace the long lineup of establishment GOP candidates, a scenario party leaders don’t like but can’t seem to address. DNC members who were on a conference call with the vice president last week came away with significant doubts that he was emotionally ready to run as he and his family still grieve the death of his son, Beau. “People love him,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “But I think it would take one incredible sales pitch to convince the people right now who are energized about Bernie Sanders to move away from him or the people who are gung-ho about Hillary to move away from her.” A new poll released Saturday night showed Clinton on a dangerously downward trajectory in Iowa, whose caucuses will kick off the nominating contest.

The questions hovering over Sanders include whether he can convince enough Democrats that he is electable and, if he falls short, whether the movement behind him would shift its allegiance willingly to Clinton or the eventual nominee. And that is not easy, particularly when he would have a lot of money to raise and a lot of endorsements to seek, all with September rapidly approaching There is still a long way until the first primary vote is cast, of course, but the better parallel for the 2015 Democratic race may be 2000, when there was one clear front-runner, Al Gore, and one serious challenger, former Sen. Now, she will definitely outspend Sanders on TV there, and it’s possible that an Iowa caucus win by Clinton, which still seems likely, could change the dynamic in New Hampshire.

On Sunday the New Jersey governor Chris Christie, one of 17 candidates for the Republican nomination, told Fox News Sunday “no one is above the law”. Voters are restive, surveys indicate, creating an opening for unconventional candidates, not unlike Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam War message in 1968 and Ross Perot’s third-party run in 1992.

Pressed on the restriction of debates by the DNC, he said: “I think that that is dead wrong, and I have let the leadership of the Democrats know that.” On the Republican side of the ledger, the Register/Bloomberg poll showed the real-estate mogul Donald Trump leading the 17-strong field with 23%, to 18% for another outsider candidate, the neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Biden would be an unusual hybrid of establishment candidate, as the sitting vice president, and insurgent, seeing as he would be going up against the party’s presumptive favorite, Mrs. From a practical standpoint, I have written that it doesn’t make a ton of sense for Biden to run — he just can’t differentiate himself enough from Clinton to build a plurality — but I am not sure that practical concerns are what is motivating Biden at the moment.

Texas senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker scored 8% each, ahead of Senator Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb Bush, long seen as the likeliest challenger to Clinton in a general election. But there’s that side of her that needs to come across.” All the questions about Clinton would come into starker relief if Biden were to decide to run.

He sits in the same establishment space as she does and, almost by default, would have to make a case that he has more and better experience in office than she does — an argument that goes right to Clinton’s greatest strength in the race. What’s much less clear to me is whether the “we’ve basically already won this thing” message being pushed by Clinton folks on superdelegates will have any effect on Biden. Biden’s office declined to comment on his deliberations. “There is a path, but it is narrow and requires a lot to break Biden’s way,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior political adviser to President Barack Obama. On virtually every question related to her e-mail server, independents — long considered the crucial swing vote in a close presidential election — are closer to Republican views than Democratic ones. The state’s caucuses reward candidates able to mobilize voters, getting them to turn out for party sessions that can last well into the cold winter evening.

Clinton’s campaign has been building a network of volunteers since she entered the race in April and now has about four dozen paid organizers and 11 offices set up. That has led to further erosion in Clinton’s overall “honest and trustworthy” numbers — particularly among independents and in key swing states. Biden is in danger of missing his moment and can’t afford to deliberate much longer. “There are a number of people here in Iowa that are still waiting to find out if he’s going to run, who will commit to him if he runs,” Mr. Rybak, a prominent supporter of Obama in 2008 and previous liberal insurgent candidates, said channeling the passion Sanders has stirred in the progressive base is both a challenge and opportunity for Clinton should she become the nominee. “Party politics is often like a funnel,” said Rybak, a DNC vice chair. “You want to get as much coming in, and then the party’s job is to figure out a way to pull all that together and direct it where you need it.” When you’re setting up a statewide organization, it’s really important to get that started.” Eight days after the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire holds the nation’s first primary.

Clinton in the state, gaining traction by dint of a populist message that couples red-meat attacks on the “billionaire class” with calls for higher taxes on wealthy Americans. Biden “will struggle with the African-American vote,” said Scott Huffmon, a political scientist and pollster at Winthrop University in South Carolina. “She has much stronger connections.” Mrs. Jim Frasier, a Democratic National Committee member from Oklahoma who attended the party’s summer meeting in Minneapolis this week, said: “I love Joe Biden.

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