Faith in Polls Not Seen

One of the weird things about the electability debate in the Democratic primary is that it seems utterly divorced from polling data. In particular, the argument is that Sanders can’t win, even though polls have him as competitive, if not more competitive, than other Democrats. Somehow, the belief–the polls not seen–is that there will be a killer ad, a One Neat Trick That Will Destroy Sanders.

Does Sanders have weaknesses? Sure, though I think it’s harder to depress low-attachment, likely Democratic voters with Sanders as the nominee than with many other candidates. And there are third rails in U.S. politics, such as being perceived as a Social Security cutter–but we have decades of support for that hypothesis.

Will pointing out that Sanders is a ‘socialist‘–something he already freely admits to–the devastating body blow that some think it will be? It might be, but we’re also overestimating the role of advertising. Clinton wasn’t sunk by One Neat Trick, but by decades of negative attacks. All of the attacks revolved around a theme of her being dishonest, shady, on the make, so the attacks (and the Comey fuckup) fed into an extremely well established narrative. That seems different than pointing out something Sanders freely acknowledges. I could be very wrong, but to be wrong, that means Trump et alia have to be able to seriously ding Sanders. Those arguing this might be correct, but so many making this case have been wrong before, often many times.

So I fall back on the data: the race will be very close regardless of who the nominee is.

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