I know, I know, Bernie’s fans won’t believe a word I say about him or his electability chances, but I’m hoping against hope that I can convince at least some people before it’s too late. Realistically, there are five GOP candidates who could be the nominee (sorry Ben Carson). When you really start to crunch the demographics of 2016, Hillary would easily beat Trump (in minorities and women voters), Cruz (roughly same categories plus moderate Republicans), and Bush (in voters who were alive during W.’s presidency). She would beat Rubio by a smaller margin, and Kasich in a squeaker (would come down mostly to Virginia). Bernie would lose to all of them, here’s why…
[Ranked from the one he’d have the hardest time beating to the one he could possibly beat]
Could Not Beat: John Kasich…Why? The last true blow-out for presidency was thirty years ago. Since then there’s only about ten states that really decided this, and only five of those ten really decide it. Kasich easily takes Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania (he was born in Pittsburgh), and probably Florida too. That means the race is over.
Very Hard to Beat: Donald Trump…Why? I know Bernie fans will point to polls that Bernie handily beats Trump but that’s taken before voters really know Bernie. What happens when Trump is out there every single day saying “I’m a billionaire who’s created thousands of jobs, Bernie’s a socialist drawing a government check who hasn’t created any?” That starts to sound awfully convincing with Reagan Democrats, and moderates. On economics, I’ve heard Trump talk about everything from trade to the open-bribery of contributions more informed than Bernie has and after a year of “Break up the banks” his platitudes won’t be convincing that he really understands this system he pledges to stop. Plus, Bernie has had difficulty drawing support from minorities and older women, two groups that Trump polls horribly with. If they stay home, the race is over for the Democrats.
Hard to Beat: Marco Rubio…Why? Typically, Democrats do better against ancient-looking Republicans (Bill Clinton vs. H.W. and Bob Dole, Obama vs. McCain or Romney, JFK vs. Nixon). The last two times the Republican was younger than the Democratic candidate (although not by much) were W.’s wins. Bernie fans might say “but Hillary is only five years younger” yet we don’t know if that matters for female Democratic nominees because, well, there’s never been one. That gender disparity might not make age as important as when a peppy Rubio (who talks 100 miles an hour) is standing next to a tired-looking Bernie. Even when Bernie and Hillary debate, the guy looks exhausted by the second half.
Unlikely to Beat: Ted Cruz…Why? Sure, Ted is hated by his own party, but an openly Socialist candidate just might be enough to drive them to the polls or get the party machine behind him. For them, it’ll be the Tea Party nut who wants to destroy government vs. a guy who they think will tax them at “95%” to borrow Trump’s scaremongering. Plus, Cruz is the candidate most likely to play up what John McCain called “the dark side of American populism” and use the religious card against Bernie who is either Jewish, agnostic, or Jewish-agnostic depending on what think piece you’re reading. If you don’t think calculating evangelical Cruz could become president against Bernie, remember that many thought the same about calculating evangelical Ronald Reagan taking on an incumbent Democratic President, Jimmy Carter.
Best Odds to Beat…But Still Unlikely: Jeb Bush…Why? A lot of people just don’t like Jeb. They just don’t. They also don’t like his brother George and remember the raging tire fire Obama inherited in 2008 (although Bernie fans seem to have forgotten that period, the only one where Obama had a Democratic congress). It would be easiest for Bernie to beat Jeb because the other candidates are shiny new things vs. a family that has been proven they aren’t good presidents. But I still think he would lose to Jeb, and that reveals the startling problems Bernie would face against any candidate: he’s not that popular either. Sure, he packs out rallies. Sure, he could very well have enough momentum to win a Democratic nomination. But he has almost no real friends in congress—not a single Democratic senator or Governor (including the one from Vermont) is endorsing him, and only two Representatives are—and his base has shown more energy in primarying powerful Democrats (like Debbie Wasserman Shultz) than even being able to identify Republican congressmen that aren’t named “Paul Ryan.” Bernie’s run would likely hurt incumbent Democrats more than help them, and against a relatively palatable Republican like Jeb, they may not be that inspired to work with him. Plus, Jeb has the largest campaign war chest of any Republican running this year, and all big industries in America would actively back him over Bernie.