The Democratic Race: Sanders Surge or Clinton Consensus?


Over the past several months I have spent an inordinate amount of time talking and writing about the intense and somewhat bizarre race for the Republican presidential nomination. Thanks to the endless supply of fodder for discussion offered by the likes of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina, I have largely ignored the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (and to a much lesser extent, Martin O’Malley). Compared to classic, chaotic Democratic nomination fights over the past few decades, this race feels somewhat less disorderly due to the peculiar nature of the GOP contest.

For the past two weeks the headlines on social media and in many news talk programs have focused on Bernie Sanders’ growing lead in New Hampshire and the close race in Iowa. The talking heads, of course, are framing this as a reprise of 2008 when Clinton—who most everyone thought would easily take the nomination—lost to an upstart from Illinois named Barack Obama. Although it is true that Sanders is leading in New Hampshire and running neck-and-neck in Iowa, the pundits who say that Clinton is “in trouble” like she was in 2008 are angling for a good horse race story rather than dealing with reality. Let’s take a moment to address the reality of the Democratic race.

A national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on January 17 found that Clinton’s lead among Democrats nationally is growing, not contracting. In fact, she now leads by 25 points, up from 19 points a month ago. Specifically, she leads by nearly 60 points among voters who are choosing a candidate based on experience. She also leads Sanders by nearly 50 points among voters 50 years of age and up (who are the most likely to vote, statistically speaking), 40 points among moderate and conservative Democrats, 38 points among women, and eight points among men. She also maintains an 11 point lead among liberal Democrats who are largely viewed as bread-and-butter Sanders voters. Meanwhile, Sanders leads Clinton by 13 points among those who “want change” and just five points among voters between 18 and 49 years old.

This poll tells me at least three things about the race:

1) Sanders does better in Iowa and New Hampshire than he does nationally because those states are less racially and ideologically diverse (whiter, more liberal) than the Democratic electorate in the Keep reading...

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