Can Bernie beat Trump?

Yes and no.

After trailing just a few weeks ago in Nevada to Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory there Saturday, and might even come away with all of the delegates once the precincts have been counted. Biden has dropped 17 points in South Carolina while Sanders is rising, meaning Bernie could sweep the first four states, setting himself up to effectively put it away on Super Tuesday, just 9 days from now. 

That has produced an understandable round of panic from Democrats worried that Sanders will lose badly in November. And, of course, that’s entirely possible, but head-to-head polls show that Sanders is probably far less risky than any of the other potential candidates. Mike Bloomberg is trailing Trump by 3 points in the latest, while Sanders is beating Trump by 3. Given Bloomberg’s debating abilities and general lack of charisma, it’s hard to imagine how he actually gains ground in the face of a Republican onslaught. Biden just doesn’t have it anymore. Buttigieg and Klobuchar have never polled well against Trump, and Warren has had the same problem (though she polls better than Amy and Pete). Perhaps any of them could win, but there’s no reason to think that’s more likely than Sanders winning. 

Indeed, Sanders’ showing among Latinos in Nevada -- he won more than 70%, turned them out at a higher rate and he’s known in the Latino community as Tio Bernie -- suggests that Sanders could put Arizona in play. Trump won Arizona by four points, but it has tilted further Democratic since. He would then need to win just two of the three Rust Belt states Clinton lost in ‘16. Aida Chavez was in Nevada for us, and wrote about the Latino vote there.

When people talk about Sanders as a disaster, they’re sometimes referring to how swing-district House members in the suburbs would do. And that’s fair: Sanders’ strength is not with wealthier, whiter suburbs, but with working class voters and people of color. The question will be how much their feelings about Sanders versus Trump influence their House vote. I simply don’t know the answer to that.  

What we do know is that we don’t know anything. The leadership of Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union spent the week leading into the caucuses locked in a bitter feud with Sanders, yet Culinary workers went overwhelmingly for Sanders. R.J. Eskow, a former insurance analyst who’s now a progressive journalist, closely analyzed the Culinary health care plan and finds that their benefits are indeed good, but would be far better under Medicare for All. His interesting assessment is here.

If you watch just one thing this weekend, this short clip from Anand Giridharadas has to be it.

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