Image Credits: AP Photo/John Locher.
Charlie Mahtesian has a piece in Politico Magazine that looks at how Donald Trump has shuffled the traditional battleground states in the Electoral College. The basic premise is that some states are no longer competitive, like now solidly red Ohio and solidly blue Virginia. These have been replaced by once noncompetitive states like Minnesota, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona.
There’s an argument that can be made that Bernie Sanders is in a good position to benefit from this in ways people don’t expect. In particular, while he has reputation for failing to attract minority support, the New York Times reports that he’s actually doing quite well with Latinos in the west and southwest.
Most surveys of California voters over all now have him in a virtual tie or with an outright lead — and his support among Hispanic voters is foundational to that. A survey conducted for The Los Angeles Times by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, found Mr. Sanders with 26 percent support among likely primary voters statewide, putting him ahead of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the runner-up, with 20 percent. He had the support of 38 percent of Hispanic voters, including 41 percent of those living in households where Spanish was the dominant language.
In Texas, exit polls in 2016 found that Mr. Sanders, Vermont’s junior senator, had lost the Latino vote to Hillary Clinton by a two-to-one margin. He now enjoys a commanding lead among Hispanic primary voters there, according to a Texas Lyceum surveyreleased this week. (In Texas’ Democratic primary, white voters are expected to make up a minority of the electorate, as they did in 2016.) The Lyceum poll showed Mr. Sanders with 36 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared with 24 percent for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and just 10 percent for Ms. Warren.
It’s hard to see how Trump could win California under any scenario, but Texas has some potential to be competitive. It’s more clearly Arizona where Sanders’ strength with Latinos could give him an advantage over other Democratic candidates.
There’s a flip side to this, however. To illustrate my point, there’s the opinion of Texas state House speaker Dennis Bonnen who was caught on secret audio tape saying, “with all due respect to Trump, who I love by the way — he’s killing us in the urban-suburban districts.”
The urban-suburban coalition is the majority-maker for the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it could soon be the majority-maker in the Texas House of Representatives. But these are the exact types of districts where Sanders is likely to run behind more traditional Democrats. It’s very difficult to see Sanders matching the suburban performance of Barack Obama or, especially, Hillary Clinton.
This sets up the possibility that the Democrats will run a presidential candidate in Sanders who is mismatched to their congressional majority. We can see how this will cause problems already by looking at the news out of New Jersey. Freshmen lawmakers there are not lining up behind Sanders. Rep. Mikie Sherrill just endorsed Michael Bloomberg, while Rep. Andy Kim opted for Pete Buttigieg. Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski had previously endorsed Joe Biden. With Sanders at the head of the ticket, none of these representatives will feel safe, and the same can be said across the Delaware River in suburban Philadelphia, where the biggest employer in freshman congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan district is Vanguard. She most definitely does not want to share a ticket with Sanders.
To win in Pennsylvania, the Democrats will have to do better in districts like Houlahan’s than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. There’s virtually no chance Sanders can accomplish this.
This is why the party is not going to unite behind him. Even if he has a roadmap to victory, it will be an unconventional one. In Texas, he might ride strong Latino support and turnout to victory, but he’d end any hope the party has of winning a majority in the state House, because those urban-suburban districts would be out of reach.
However, Nate Silver’s model seems to be predicting that Sanders will go on a major run of victories now. It could be that it’s too late for him to be stopped.