Can Sanders beat Trump? A growing number of Democratic voters say yes
NEW YORK: Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential rivals warn that nominating the self-described democratic socialist will ensure President Donald Trump’s re-election, but a growing number of the party’s voters see the senator as their best chance of winning in November.
Sanders’ dominating performance in last week’s Nevada caucuses, powered by growing support across age, race and ideology, has set off alarm bells among Democratic Party officials who believe putting the progressive stalwart at the top of the ticket will harm the party’s chances up and down the ballot.
Sanders’ electability was a prime topic at Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina. Rivals contended his ambitious liberal policy ideas, such as Medicare for All, which would replace private health insurance, would be an electoral “catastrophe,” costing the party the White House and control of Congress.
But the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling shows Sanders’ rising momentum in the race - a near win in Iowa, a narrow victory in New Hampshire and a decisive win in Nevada - has given him more credibility with Democratic voters.
Some 26% of Democrats and independents polled Feb. 17-25 said they believed Sanders was the strongest Democrat in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, compared with 20% who picked billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg and 17% who named former Vice President Joe Biden.
That was a big change from a month earlier, when 27% of respondents gave Biden the edge, and just 17% thought Sanders could beat Trump.
In the Nevada caucuses, Sanders won the support of a majority of Latino voters and led among most demographic groups broken out by gender, income and political leanings in Nevada. Notable exceptions were those aged 65 years and older, as well as black voters, more of whom supported Biden.
That too could be changing. The same Reuters/Ipsos polling showed that Sanders had overtaken Biden in support among black voters nationally for the first time.
Saturday’s South Carolina primary will be the first major test of Sanders’ appeal among African-American voters, who represent about 60% of that state’s Democratic electorate.
Three days later, 14 states will cast ballots on Super Tuesday, when Sanders could build an overwhelming advantage if he captures the lion’s share of the available delegates.
His path has been smoothed by the fragmentation among the moderate candidates. Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar – all of whom say Sanders’ policies are too radical to win in November, have each recorded at least one top-three finish thus far, while Bloomberg’s name will appear on ballots for the first time on Super Tuesday. – Reuters