It appears that the view that Sanders might be stronger than Clinton is gaining increasingly broader acceptance. I will repeat what I have always said: Clinton shows no sign that she can capture anything beyond the Democratic base. Sanders has been showing evidence after evidence that he can mobilize missing white voters for Democrats, with huge down ballot implications. If Democrats don’t nominate Sanders, that is because they don’t want to win,period.
The situation is murkier for the Republicans. Looking at exit polls, Ronald Brownstein at the Atlantic contends that Trump has not really expanded the Republican electorate. I think this is a mistaken conclusion, although it is grounded on facts. First, from the same exit polls, it is evident, although not necessarily too clear, that Trump draws more support from non-Republicans and does so more consistently compared to other Republican candidates, although he is no more popular among the independents than he is among Republicans. Second, as per Brownstein’s observation, turnout has increased among Republicans as much as anong Independents.
Dismissing Trump’s “outsider” status, however, would assign too much to Trump voter’s role within the GOP: whether they were nominally Republicans or not, they did not have much of a role and as such, were “missing.”. In the three decades since Reagan years, the erstwhile Reagan Democrats had largely become Republican in their voting habits IF they vote at all. The point is simply that Trump is equally popular among those who made the full transition and those who have not. Those who still call themselves ” Independents,” half of Trump supporters, more or less, are still numerous and constitute an interesting demographic–if only we had real data!!!
My working hypothesis remains that this is the segment that could potentially expand if Trump were to face Clinton. Based on rough estimates from exit polls so far, I’d guestimate up to 1/4 to 1/3 of Sanders’ support comes from this same demographic as well. Most of these votes, Clinton will not keep. Based on the working class whites’ share of the electorate (roughly 1/3) and their usually low turnout (about 57% in 2012), I would guestimate perhaps 3-4% swing from Democrats to Republicans at most if Clinton opposes Trump in November. It may be just barely be enough to give Trump the win if nothing else changes. That is a big if, especially with things getting ugly with the Trump campaign lately, with incidents in Illinois and Ohio last few days among others.
It is not clear if any other Republican even has a realistic chance: given the distribution of demographics, no one has a reasonable chance. But the head to head polls showing Trump defeats do indicate much Republican unease with Trump more than anything–basically, Trump loses because Republicans would not back him, or so they tell pollsters–and the ugliness seen of late cannot reassure them. Of course, politically correct lies to pollsters have a long history. Who knows if many Republicans will actually abandon Trump if he is the nominee?
The prognostication that I offer remains unchanged, then. Generically, this is Democrats’ election to lose. Trump is the only Republican who can win and only if he runs against Clinton. I don’t think Sanders can be defeated if he is the Democratic nominee.