Over the last four years, this simple question has been overlooked. Yes, many political pundits and consultants pontificate as to which candidate for president is “electable”, but they rarely ask this question within that context. Additionally, when asked this questions, many pundits and consultants stay within their silos, and only look at possible upward mobility, not downward.
For the sake of this article, I am going to look at voters in socio-economic silos, since this is the ways that the Democratic Party views voters. However, I think it should be noted that only one candidate (Sanders) is creating a cross-cutting campaign which addresses the needs of people in every community.
With that being said, there are only two candidates who can really expand on the 2016 voter base of Hillary Clinton (and by that, I mean increase the number of voters in certain silos). They are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. As I have already mentioned, Bernie’s populist message is one that cuts across all socio-economic statuses, which automatically expands the electorate. As for Joe Biden, he does have the gritty attitude that can win back Democratic votes in the dying communities that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.
After that, it is hard to find how any of the other candidates expand the electorate. Both Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg won’t shrink the electorate, but they offer nothing to expand it either. Their candidacies are basically a repeat of the 2016 election cycle. Yes, Amy might be from Minnesota a state Democrats have carried in every Presidential Election since 1976, but so was Walter Mondale, and simply “being from Minnesota” didn’t help him. And again, Mayor Pete doesn’t bring anyone to the Democratic side that wasn’t there before in 2016.
Yes, I know, I am a Sanders supporter and it is only natural for me to take shots at Michael Bloomberg. Fair enough. However, there are a few key factors that, regardless of who I support, will cause Michael Bloomberg problems which could lead to an even bigger defeat for the Democrats than in 2016.
There are three areas (part of some of the silos that we mentioned earlier) where Bloomberg can underperform. And since Bloomberg is targeting Bernie Sanders’s supporters, let’s start there. So, in the plainest way I can ask, will supporters of a Democratic socialist who support public financing of campaigns support a billionaire who is buying the nomination? Easily, no. While Bernie supporters supported Hillary Clinton overwhelming in 2016 (with ANES data backing up this fact), the likelihood of them supporting Bloomberg is zero. Why? Because the driving force behind Sanders’s support is not simply defeating Trump, but to institute progressive policy. If Bloomberg is simply “running against Trump”, many Sanders supporters will see no difference between the two candidates and abstain from voting. Sanders supporters (including myself) have already pledged not to vote for Bloomberg in the general. And unlike Mayor Pete, where we have to think about it a little, there was no thinking about supporting Bloomberg in the general…it won’t happen.
The second area where Bloomberg could suffer is with black voters. Unfortunately, endorsements in the black communities (whether it comes through political consultants or via community leaders) are powerful. When I campaigned for a certain candidate for state senate in 1992, our black outreach (which was key the winning the election) consisted a handful of local leaders that had strong influence when it came to winning votes. And during this election cycle, Bloomberg is trying to solidify black support through these traditional means (by which I mean large donations to office holders and community organizations). Still, with his record regarding race becoming more clear, this approach might not be as ironclad as it once was. And once the general rolls along, Donald Trump might look like more of a friend to the black community compared to Bloomberg. This might not net Trump any new votes, but it might cause turnout to be suppressed like it was in 2016.
Finally, we need to talk about rural voters and guns (though in Florida many suburban voters view gun control as intrusive and might turn on Bloomberg also). Over the last few decades, we have heard BS from the Republicans that Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Clinton were “gonna take our guns away”. We all knew it was BS, but it was a minor rallying cry for rural communities. With Bloomberg, that isn’t an empty promise to these communities, that is a direct threat. The NRA could easily make the case that Bloomberg will “surely take your guns away”. Bloomberg’s candidacy could make the NRA, an organization that was thought to be on it’s death knell, to rise like a phoenix and become a player yet again in American politics.
If this perfect storm happens, what happens? Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin are lost. Minnesota is probably lost. Illinois starts becoming a purple state (Hillary only received 55.2% of the vote in 2016), and the same with Maine. And, in an ironic twist of fate, the Democratic Party becomes a regional party with support only north of DC and the states on the west coast (with the irony being that we considered the Republican Party a “regional party” of the south in 2016).
Bloomberg will lose this thing. His results will be a repeat of 1988, and possibly 1980. However, those in the Democratic establishment think that buying an election paves the way to victory. Nope, it doesn’t. Democrats also think that elections today are purely on a left-right continuum. This explains why pundits and consultants cannot explain why Bernie wins in Texas but “moderate” Mayor Pete can’t. It’s the establishment and elites, stupid.