She might lose the nomination never mind the general election
Eugene Debs must be grinning in his grave. OK, Bernie Sanders isnâ€™t quite the firebrand radical that Debs was a hundred years ago but the notion that there is a credible route for a self-declared socialist to the White House is one that only a few months ago would have been dismissed with derision. Not now. Two polls released yesterday give the Independent Senator for Vermont genuine cause for hope.
The next round in the Democratic nomination race is the Nevada caucus a week today. The first poll this year there was published yesterday by TargetPoint / Washington Free Beacon, and reported a 45-each tie with the rest undecided, from a 1200+ sample size. Itâ€™s entirely possible that he could achieve back-to-back wins. Indeed, but for his supporters being useless tossers, heâ€™d be on for the hat-trick. That Sanders did well in Iowa and New Hampshire wasnâ€™t too much of a surprise: Nate Silver rated them as two of the three most Sanders-friendly states (after Vermont itself). Nevada, by contrast, comes in twenty-seventh. If heâ€™s competitive there, he should be running close nationally.
And he is running her close nationally. A Morning Consult poll yesterday had the gap down to 46-39. Apart from the sensational Quinnipiac poll a week ago that reported 44-42 to Hillary, thatâ€™s well down on the 12- to 19-point leads found in the rest of the polls this month.
If those were the figures on Super Tuesday, then Hillary would probably win most of the states up for grabs that day â€“ states which ought to favour her anyway â€“ giving her renewed momentum through the rest of a very busy month. But thatâ€™s assuming that nothing does change. If she loses Nevada then panic really will run through her camp.
She surely canâ€™t lose South Carolina as well (if she did, she might as well pack up), so should go into Super Tuesday at worst 2-2 in states and ahead on elected delegates but the trend has been against her for months and sheâ€™s been unable to arrest that decline so far â€“ how much further does it have to go? Sanders dined with Al Sharpton earlier this week in a not-very-subtle move towards winning more of the African-American vote. Given Sandersâ€™ campaigning on inequality, you have to think that he has scope to reach out to a black community that traditional politics hasnâ€™t done a great deal for. The endorsement of a higher-profile African-American figure than Sharpton would help no end too (not that he has Sharptonâ€™s yet).
Of course, Sanders is not Hillaryâ€™s only problem. There are three other obstacles in her route to the White House: the FBI, the Republican, and a possible Bloomberg independent run.
Regarding the FBI and the e-mail investigation, unless something outrageous is found, I doubt it will come to anything. Even if there has been a technical breach of the law, there is always the possibility of a presidential pardon, should she end up the candidate (though I doubt Obama will intervene unless he feels compelled to).
The Republican will, inevitably, be more of a problem though once again sheâ€™s lucky to be facing such an unpopular field. Trump, and it probably will be him, has awful approval ratings with many demographics that Hillary could appeal to. Trump is also highly likely to be rude and quite possibly sexist to her at some point which could go down very badly, though it does depend on how he does it â€“ a justified comeback against perceived Beltway inherited entitlement might equally score a bullseye.
Then thereâ€™s Bloomberg. He could well run against Sanders; he might run against a damaged Hillary. If he does, he hands the election to Trump, Cruz or whoever the Republicans put up. Itâ€™d be 1912 in reverse (yes, Bloomberg ran as a Republican last time but heâ€™s a New York liberal; heâ€™ll damage the Democrats more without having the national appeal to win himself). In the unlikely event that he won enough Electoral College votes to throw the election to the House â€“ winning New York, say â€“ then the Republican wins: the GOP has a majority in 33 state delegations at the moment to just 15 for the Democrats with two tied.
All of which makes Hillaryâ€™s odds of even money to win outright completely nuts. Trump at 9/2 and Cruz at 18/1 offer far better value. Sanders at 8/1 doesnâ€™t particularly, given the risk of a Bloomberg intervention on top of needing to beat Hillary and the Republican, but his 7/2 for the nomination is more attractive. This election has got worse and worse so far for Hillary, and itâ€™s only just started.
p.s. In my New Year article, I predicted that Leave would win the referendum after the EU failed to properly get to grips with any of the big issues facing it. I did wobble on that four weeks ago, when I thought Leaveâ€™s leaderless, fractured campaign would cost it, but given the resounding raspberry given to Cameronâ€™s draft deal (which may yet get worse), the EU seems intent on doing Leaveâ€™s job for it. They can be backed at 9/4 with PaddyPower, though the 13/2 on Cameron standing down this year with SkyBet may be better value.