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The Last War

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Above: definitely a winning message to the typical Democratic primary voter!

As Paul recently observed, the news in the most recent polling is arguably even worse for Bernie than for Biden:

History has not been kind to primary runner-ups of previous primaries polling this low of a position. I went back and looked at where 13 previous runner-ups since 1972 have been polling at this point in the primary. All six who went on to win the nomination were polling above Sanders’ 15%.Indeed, we can widen it out and see how perilous Sanders’ position is. Among all well-known candidates, only 9% polling at between 10% and 20% at this point went onto win the nomination.The early state polling is not much kinder to Sanders. A new Suffolk University poll has him at 9% among likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. This first-in-the-nation contest for Democrats is probably a must win for Sanders. He barely lost it in 2016. Yet, he’s behind Biden (24%), Harris (16%) and Warren (13%). It doesn’t seem like there is a reservoir of support available for Sanders either. A mere 6% of likely caucusgoers say he is their second choice. All told, only 14% list him as a first or second choice.Worse for Sanders is that he seems to be slipping in Iowa. That 9% for first choice is the worst he’s done in any Iowa poll since at least December.

This doesn’t mean he can’t win the nomination, of course — Harris’s post-surge shows how volatile the race can be at this stage — but it’s not a great position.

As I’ve said before, while I’m sure as with Clinton in 2008 he could have handled losing better I’ve never seen any good evidence that Sanders staying in until the end materially affected the 2016 general election (ultimately, his supporters voted for Clinton at as good a rate as one would expect.) But what his obvious bitterness about the outcome, ongoing false implications that the primary was “rigged,” etc. are not is a good approach for is if you want to be the 2020 Democratic nominee. Winning the nomination means getting the support from people who like Clinton! Putting people whose political identities are constructed around hating the Democratic Party to the extent that they wouldn’t support Clinton over Trump in 2016 — culminating in David Goddamned Sirota — in senior campaign positions suggests a failure to understand that to win the nomination you need the votes of a lot of people who proudly identify as Democrats. If he’s able to pull out of it I’ll be pretty surprised.

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