Bernie Sanders won big in West Virginia yesterday, but a third of the Democratic primary voters said they would back Donald Trump in November. And the latest Clinton email brouhaha is a non-story. (More)
“We’re going to stay in the race until the last vote is cast”
Sanders was expected to do well with West Virginia’s almost-all-white, open-primary electorate. (More on that below.) And he did, defeating Clinton by a 51-36 margin and gaining 16 pledged delegates to her 11. But she holds a commanding 1716-1430 lead in pledged delegates, so Sanders must win 65% of the remaining pledged delegates to overtake her.
Even so, Sanders was jubilant:
“With this outcome, we now have won primaries and caucuses in 19 states,” Sanders said in a statement after the results were in. “We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination and we’re going to stay in the race until the last vote is cast.”
Notably, that is a change from his earlier promises to stay in the race until the Democratic Convention. He can and should stay in the race until the D.C. primary on June 14th. But Clinton will likely pass 2027 pledged delegates with the June 7th primaries in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota. That will give her both a majority of pledged delegates and a majority of Democratic primary votes cast, and Sanders will almost certainly concede rather than ask super-delegates to overturn the collective voice of the party’s voters.
“They feel everybody has abandoned them”
West Virginia was a hard state for Clinton, both demographically and economically. The Democratic primary electorate was 90% white and 52% male, as compared to averages of 61% white and 42% male in previous primaries. It was also an open primary, and 41% of the Democratic primary voters were independents or Republicans.
Perhaps most notably, fully a third of West Virginia primary voters said they’ll vote for Donald Trump in November. Sanders fans make a lot of Twitter noise about that, but roughly equal numbers – 34% and 32%, respectively – said they’ll vote for Trump over Clinton or Sanders. As the Washington Post headlined their exit poll story: “A lot of Donald Trump supporters voted for Bernie Sanders today.”
Campaign officials have argued that Clinton’s wins in Ohio and New York, for instance, show she can pick up support from that slice of the electorate, expanding on a coalition of older voters, women, and people of color. Still, as she campaigned ahead of Tuesday’s primary, the protests that followed her across Appalachia revealed a larger shift among the same voters who supported Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008 and identified with her husband’s campaigns, but now flock to Trump’s unlikely brand of populism.
“What happened,” Bill Clinton reasoned, “is most of these people are making the same or less money than the last day I was president. And there’s been a big loss of jobs.”
“But the people – there’s nothing wrong with them. They just want to work,” the former president said, echoing the words of protesters like Branham, the woman who stood outside Clinton’s campaign event in downtown Williamson. “They want a future. I think that you can’t blame ’em for being mad. They feel everybody has abandoned them.”
Well … and they’re overwhelmingly white, in a country that increasingly isn’t.
“Voters too ashamed to acknowledge publicly how they intend to cast their vote”
There is also strong evidence that most traditional public opinion surveys inadvertently hide a segment of Trump’s supporters. Many voters are reluctant to admit to a live interviewer that they back a candidate who has adopted such divisive positions.
Welcome to The Bradley Effect, 2016 Edition. Edsall munches a bunch of polls – including several that dramatically over-sampled whites relative to the 2012 presidential electorate – and concludes:
First, the way Trump has positioned himself outside of the traditional boundaries of politics will make it unusually difficult to gauge public support for him and for many of his positions.
Second, the allegiance of many white Democrats and independents is difficult to predict – cross-pressured as they are by the conflict between unsavory Trump positions they are drawn to and conscience or compunction. The ambivalence of many Republicans toward Trump as their party’s brazenly defiant nominee will further compound the volatility of the electorate.
Finally, the simple fact that Trump has beaten the odds so far means that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could beat them again. If he does take the White House, much, if not all, of his margin of victory will come from voters too ashamed to acknowledge publicly how they intend to cast their vote.
Vox’s Andrew Prokop agrees, but before you join the handwringing …
“Don’t get caught up in all the white working-class chatter”
The warnings about jumping to conclusions about November are widespread.
I’ve heard that it’s early in the presidential race and that we underestimated Donald Trump last time so we should be careful now. I’ve also heard that Trump’s strength with working-class whites could change the electoral map, giving him a path to an Electoral College win.
The purpose of these and similar warnings is to convey the impression that the 2016 presidential contest should be regarded as competitive. This is utter baloney.
Rather than choosing the polls that fit his theory – as Edsall did, the same mistake pundits used to dismiss Trump’s chances of winning the GOP nomination – Rothenberg surveys all of the available national and state-by-state polling data. He also notes that working-class whites have been a core GOP constituency for decades, and that the 2016 electorate will be more diverse than the 2012 electorate. Given those realities, Rothenberg concludes:
One of the reasons why political analysts (including myself) missed Trump’s strength is that we dismissed the early polls, which Trump cited so often. They showed him leading last fall and in the early primaries, but we discounted those numbers, promising things would change. They didn’t.
But now, the early numbers show Trump trailing badly and even more unpopular than Clinton. That makes sense given Trump’s controversial campaign and often contradictory message.
So, don’t get caught up in all the white working-class chatter or the hesitation to call the race what it is. It isn’t close now, and it may never get all that close. Hillary Clinton is the clear and undeniable early favorite in this race, and a double-digit win would not be surprising.
So when you read poll headlines like “Clinton and Trump in dead heat” … check the demographic crosstabs. It’s likely the pollster is making the same mistake that too many pollsters made in 2012: assuming (or hoping) the presidential electorate will be as white as a typical midterm. It won’t.
“And ultimately never was”
And wingnuts are all agog over a Washington Post headline that Hillary Clinton’s lawyer walked out of an FBI interview. She did, for a few minutes, and for good reason:
Near the beginning of a recent interview, an FBI investigator broached a topic with longtime Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills that her lawyer and the Justice Department had agreed would be off limits, according to several people familiar with the matter.
Mills and her lawyer left the room – though both returned a short time later – and prosecutors were somewhat taken aback that their FBI colleague had ventured beyond what was anticipated, the people said.
The questions that were considered off limits had to do with the procedure used to produce emails to the State Department so they could possibly be released publicly, the people said. Mills, an attorney herself, was not supposed to be asked questions about that – and ultimately never was in the recent interview – because it was considered confidential as an example of attorney-client privilege, the people said.
In other words, the FBI tried to ask specific questions about conversations between Clinton and Mills, and Mills walked out while the prosecutors reminded the FBI about attorney-client privilege law. Duh.
Invoking that privilege does not imply Clinton asked to do anything illegal, or that Mills suggested anything illegal. That privilege is “a bedrock legal principle of our free society,” and violating it is a serious breach of ethics. Mills could have been disciplined or even disbarred had she answered those questions.
So no, there’s no story there. But it’ll keep the wingnuts frothing for a few days.
Photo Credit: AP
Good day and good nuts