The Post-NH Democratic Landscape for 2016

Since I’ve alluded to the issue rather generally, thought I should pass along the more precise observations made by the folks at Sabato’s Crystal Ball about the landscape of the Democratic nominating process right after New Hampshire, where (along with Iowa) Bernie Sanders could theoretically win if his recent surge of support in those states continues.

Sanders may be ideally suited to confront Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire because they are both small and very white….

Nevada’s caucuses should also be more fertile ground for Clinton. Hispanics might make up a fifth or so of the voters there, and Clinton, as noted above, did well with Hispanics in 2008 nationally. That year, she beat Obama 64% to 26% among Hispanic voters in the Silver State. Hispanics made up 15% of the voters in the 2008 caucus, and Nevada’s Hispanic population is growing rapidly. Democrats will maximize the Hispanic vote and use the caucus as an organizing tool in what is an important bellwether state.

March 1 brings the still-forming SEC (Southeastern Conference) primary, which will include many Southern states. For the Republicans, this line-up could boost candidates who are aligned with evangelical Christians, as many of these states will have large social conservative blocs. But some of these states also have huge nonwhite populations, which will boost Clinton.

The “SEC primary” now includes Alabama and Georgia (whose Democratic primary electorates should be 50% black or more); Arkansas (where former state First Lady Clinton rolled in 2008 and where Sanders likely will have little appeal); Texas (which will have a majority nonwhite primary electorate); and Tennessee and Virginia (where blacks should be about a third of primary voters). While Sanders might do well in some places outside the South on March 1 — that’s when his home state, Vermont, is scheduled to vote, as well as Massachusetts — Clinton will probably have a much better day than Sanders. That would set her up well for the big-state contests that come later in March, like Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, where her expected financial advantage should allow her to dominate Sanders over the airwaves and on the ground.

So between NH and the large-state primaries on March 15, Sanders is likely to have little to brag about other than probable wins in his home state and perhaps next-door Massachusetts (though it should be remembered that HRC romped to a solid victory in MA in 2008 with virtually the entire elected leadership of the state endorsing Obama). So any sort of early Sanders knockout punch seems very unlikely, and the longer the contest goes on the stronger the moneyed Establishment candidate will probably be, unless, say general election trial heats start showing Bernie doing a lot better than HRC, which seems unlikely.

Now it remains possible that a really big Sanders surge in IA/NH polls well before the actual voting could undermine HRC’s Establishment support, or even lure new candidates into the race. And then it’s a whole new ball game. That’s a bit of a stretch, but hey, the Democratic nominating contest is already proving to be more exciting than most people expected.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.