Bernie Sanders’ Electability Fears

So Bernie Sanders is scheduled to give his so-called “socialism speech” this afternoon, placing his own professed “democratic socialism” in the tradition of FDR, usually thought of as the US’s closest brush with European-style Social Democracy.

According to the New York Times‘ Patrick Healy, there’s one big reason he’s taking this risky step:

The unstated goal of the speech is to address Mr. Sanders’s biggest challenge: electability. While he is running strong among liberals, many other Democrats see him as an anti-establishment protest candidate from the left-wing fringe who isn’t in the party (he is one of two independents in the Senate). They fear they would be wasting their votes choosing him over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the nomination fight, even though some opinion polls show him doing just as well in the 2016 general election as Mrs. Clinton.

That was indeed the case for a while, but a new national poll from PPP that provides head-to-head match-ups of Clinton and Sanders versus various Republicans shows an emerging gap:

Early general election contests are shaping up to be very competitive with Hillary Clinton polling within 2 points of 5 out of 6 Republicans that we tested against her. The only GOP hopeful to actually lead Clinton is Marco Rubio at 45/43. Rubio is also the only candidate in the field with a positive favorability rating among the overall electorate, at 39/37.

The one Republican who trails Clinton by a wider margin is Carly Fiorina at 46/41. Beyond that Clinton leads everyone by 1 or 2 points- it’s 46/45 over Ben Carson, 45/44 over Donald Trump, 46/44 over Ted Cruz, and 43/41 over Jeb Bush.

Bernie Sanders does on average 6 points worse than Clinton in comparable general election match ups. He trails Fiorina 42/40, Bush 42/39, Trump 44/41, Cruz 44/39, Rubio 44/38, and Carson 46/39.

I don’t know if that 6 percent is composed of people who reach for the crucifix and garlic at the word “socialism,” but we’ll see how Sanders does with that interesting task later today.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.