Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Nearly every story on this event contains the word “finally”, but that is not entirely justified. This is a process, not an event. Today’s message was dragged out until Sanders could get every concession to his movement that he could, and for good reason. That is primarily what Sanders was in this for all along – real, progressive change.
Now, it’s up to Sanders and Clinton to sell it. The process is not over.
Reports on the event center on how difficult the long process has been, which is certainly justified. At any other point in Democratic Party history such an endorsement would have been automatic and perfunctory. Not Sanders. His supporters wanted him to hold out for as much as he could, which is what he clearly wanted to do anyway. The only ones he is disappointing are the “Bernie or Bust” crowd who would rather he continued as an independent or a Green.
We have yet to have this truly sold to these supporters and we have yet to see how it will play out in the end. There is a contingent of “smash the system!” radicals supporting Sanders who might well go for Trump – or Gary Johnson. Their numbers are tiny – probably 10% of Sanders’ 42% of the Democrats 28%, which is to say around a percent or two overall. But they are out there, for sure.
The rest? That’s where it gets interesting.
Sanders addressed those who are willing to listen to his endorsement of Clinton rather strongly in the end, going through a list of important planks in the Democratic platform. There is a lot that they agree on, and now that low cost college tuition and a public option for health care are part of it, a lot to work hard for. But in the end, Sanders made it clear that as an experienced politician, he had to get real:
It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee which ended Sunday night in Orlando, there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton president – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.
This statement is important not for the slight diss at the top, which will get all the press, but for his read of the stakes. That takes us directly to the polling.
The most interesting poll I can find is the Reuters / Ipsos poll. It has an A- rating from FiveThirtyEight, which is not bad. But what sets it apart is that it is a “rolling poll” taken continuously, giving a high sample rate. And the cross-tabs by just about anything you can imagine – age, gender, race, income, and other affiliations – can be found with their incredibly handy online tool. It’s worth playing with.
Their poll currently shows Clinton leading Trump among likely voters by 46-33. They were identified by asking them, and this produced a reasonable, but high 73% turnout. Among all voters Clnton’s lead drops to an even 40-30 with a large undecided block. But when you break the results down by age there is a very interesting effect:
Note that Clinton leads among all ages. But the most dominant feature of this is that while Clinton leads 2:1 among both 18-29 year olds and 30-39 year olds, the former has an incredible block of undecideds. In fact, the 30% undecided overall is driven by this age group’s 42%, where every other age group runs about 25%.
If they only had the same preference as the next highest age group, Clinton’s lead would extend 1.5%. But if we assume that most of those undecideds are Sanders supporters, which is quite possible, and they convert to Clinton with Trump “capped” around 20%, their Clinton support should go from 38% to 55%. That extends Clinton’s lead overall by more on the order of 4%.
It’s also worth noting that if you throw out the undecideds, assuming they will either break like their peers or not show up at all, Clinton wins 58-42.
These numbers are important because at the highest end of this we are indeed considering the US House to be in play. Even with just a 4 point shift to Clinton, she starts to close in on 50% very rapidly, already hitting it among likely voters. If that happens in August the money game will start to seal the deal – in case it isn’t already. It will be hard for Trump or any Republicans to gain traction at all.
How important is Sanders’ endorsement? It’s not as huge as his supporters might like, but it is very important to ending this campaign early and especially so if he helps the Democrats follow through and take the Senate and House. That’s what this is about by now.
It’s up to Sanders’ team to deliver. Yes, they can make a yuge difference if they, like Sanders, are happy with what they’ve gotten from this process.