With the Republican freak show at the presidential level, a growing confidence bordering on cockiness has begun to sweep the ranks of institutional Democrats about the 2016 election. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee and as a defined and perhaps fatally flawed candidate, the risk of losses for the party is real.
No doubt exists that the Electoral College map provides a built-in advantage for Democrats. But that advantage like the one the GOP enjoyed from 1968 to 1988 is very much open to a one-off failing like what the GOP experienced in 1976.
The national media has bought into the premise that 2016 could turn out to be a Democratic sweep unless Senator Bernie Sanders is nominated – but in fact it is nominating Clinton while the GOP nominates either Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz which could create problems for the Democrats. While in many cases Clinton might win the White House, problems down ballot could result for the party.
- Trump could engage working class voters and some of the no party affiliation voters backing Sanders.
- Cruz might turn out activists in big numbers and that helps down ballot races even if he loses the Presidential Election.
- The primaries have shown an enthusiasm gap exists for Democrats – turnout in GOP primaries are consistently higher than 2012 while for the Democrats they are consistently lower than 2008.
- Does Clinton depress turnout among Democrats? Her husband certainly did in 1992 and 1996. Both races saw down ballot loses for Democrats INSPITE of the Clinton wins. In 1996, the Democrats had a great opportunity to regain both houses of Congress but ultimately failed thanks in large measure to a major scandal that hurt other Democrats more than Clinton.
Democrats seem determined to make fear the primary motivator to drive turnout among voters on the left. But does this actually work? 2014, here in Florida proved that it might not. The thrust behind Charlie Crist was that “he was not Rick Scott,” and that proved a poor way to stimulate turnout. Voters historically have voted FOR something over simply playing defense or against something. This having been said, we live in different times, with massive demographic shifts and an incredible impact of mass and social media.
Still from where I sit, the Democrats likely have several scenarios as outlined above where things may not go as well as expected now that Secretary Clinton is the almost certain nominee. Food for thought.