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Digging Into The Sanders' Numbers


The Democrats House majority is made up mostly of gains in more affluent suburbs, especially women in those suburbs. These are sometimes called “GOP suburbs” as though it’s Republicans becoming Democrats. That’s partly true but a lot of it is the people in those suburbs changing. These are longterm trends which Trump catalyzed and accelerated. Regardless, that’s where the gains are.

Sanders does significantly worse with those voters than more conventional center-left candidates like Biden and others. Where he makes up for it is a small but significant percentage of generally left-wing voters under 35 who say they’ll turn out to vote for Sanders but not any of the more mainstream Democrats. So this means not only expanding the electorate but with voters who say they’ll only become voters if Sanders is on the ballot.

Here’s the rub.

For the young/left voters to make up for the losses in the suburbs those voters have to turn out in historically unprecedented numbers. As I said, this is hardly a debunking of Sanders. This is basically Sanders’ campaign’s argument, expanding the electorate, particularly with young voters where all agree his strength is concentrated.

The more affluent professionals in the suburbs vote at relatively high margins. It’s a question of who they vote for. You’d need to see something dramatically new to see young voters turning out at those margins. Again, this is basically Sanders’ argument. (Sanders’ supporters often say he has draw with those mythical “white working class” voters who are the backbone of Trumpism. The actual data doesn’t support that.)

My take on this is partly based on small-c conservatism: we should be skeptical that things that seldom or never happen will happen. But to me we actually have evidence on this. Sanders numbers in the primaries to date show no evidence of expanding the electorate. If anything, the opposite. He’s winning. But he’s winning with the same basic types of voters as have voted in previous primary cycles. Many of them are new. But that’s always the case. One would at least expect this to be pretty different if Sanders claims about his ability to expand the electorate were valid.

About The Author


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.