Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been edited slightly.
sarahf (Sarah Frostenson, political editor): With the spread of the new corona virus in the USA, the democratic primary school 2020 is on a short break. Many states have postponed their primaries, and now we may not be able to complete things until late June. However, the expected result is not a surprise – former Vice President Joe Biden is the alleged candidate in every respect.
Senator Bernie Sanders is still in the running, but at this point it’s less about what Sanders can do to make a comeback than what, if anything, Biden can do to win Sanders voters, especially at the beginning Transition to the general election phase of 2020.
So let’s unpack this question in three parts:
First, how much does Biden Sanders need supporters? In other words, what does it mean for Biden’s support base if he can win Sanders supporters? What does it mean if he can’t?
Second, how does Biden actually win Sander’s followers?
And third, how important is the unity of the parties – or the Democrats who gather behind a candidate – for what will happen in 2020?
nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, election analyst): Well, it’s so obvious that it sounds silly to say aloud, but: Biden needs something Sander’s main voters support him in November, as Sanders won about 31 percent of the national referendum so far. But he doesn’t need everyone.
Some Sanders or Bust voters could stay home in November. to a certain extent that happens with every choice.
But most Sanders voters don’t fit that description. After a recent Morning Consult survey82 percent of Sanders’ supporters said they would vote for Biden in the general election, and only 7 percent said they would vote for Trump. And Quinnipiac University found that 86 percent of Sanders voters would vote for Biden, 3 percent would vote for Trump, 2 percent would vote for someone else, 4 percent wouldn’t vote, and 5 percent didn’t know who to vote for.
geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, election analyst): Yes, I mean you have surveys Biden wins ~ 90 percent by democrats in The general election process is running against Trump. He probably wins the most Sanders voters. But if a Trump-Biden matchup were a close election like 2016, any lack of support from Sanders voters would increase.
nrakich: Yes, Biden should definitely want to win as many Sanders followers as possible.
Every little bit counts!
sarahf: One thing you wrote about for the website, Perry, is the age differences that we saw in Democratic Elementary School when Sanders consistently won voters under 45.
But you also wrote that these voters generally vote democratically in general elections. So maybe Biden doesn’t have to worry too much about making special progress here? That means it will come in time?
Perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): Every enthusiasm and participation of younger voters helps Biden. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to separate the cohort of people under the age of 45 from the “Sanders-or-Bust” people. Overall, I think the group under 45 copes well with Biden because they hate Trump more.
geoffrey.skelley: Data from the cooperative congressional election study suggest that about three quarters of Sanders voters supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Could this number be higher in 2020? Could be.
On the one hand, it is possible that some of the conservative democratic anti-Hillary voters that Sanders won in places like Oklahoma and West Virginia are now Republicans who did not take part in the 2020 primary. But it is also possible that a handful of these voters support Biden. For example, he is already better As a Sanders among the white primary voters without a university degree, a group of Sanders won in 2016.
So the compromise for Biden in 2020 could be that it loses youth participation but gets more votes from older suburban types who are older. Given that older voters are more reliable voters, that could be an OK trade for Biden.
nrakich: Yes, I think there are far more voices among the on-site Romney Clinton voters than among the young voters.
Biden, who wins suburban areas in the area code, does not necessarily mean that he wins them in the area code (actual voters are different – area codes are only a fraction of the general electorate). But as a more moderate candidate who doesn’t scold the rich, he’s likely to appeal to these moderate, wealthy voters more than Sanders.
sarahf: That makes sense, especially based on your analysis, Nathaniel, of primary turnout, but I can’t help but wonder about your other point – primary school voters are different from the general – so maybe part of Biden’s support among Romney-Clinton-style voters are blown up?
Or the fact that Biden has won rural areas that Clinton did poorly in 2016 isn’t that a good sign of his coalition in a general election context? Perhaps young and very liberal voters are really very important to Biden’s coalition?
nrakich: People should not use the results of the primary elections as a sign of the general election. Biden won every county in Michigan in elementary school, but generally he obviously won’t. Winning white working class democrats is not the same as winning white working class independents or Republicans. Still, I don’t think it’s one Bad Signs for him that the turnout was so high in well-educated suburbs.
Perry: Biden should try to win older and younger voters, moderate voters and liberal voters, and I don’t necessarily see these things as compromises. Obama was stronger than Clinton in 2008 in all types of voting blocks.
It is therefore important and useful for Biden to get younger voters excited about his candidacy. He will probably win the under 45 votes (Historically, the Democrats do it), but increasing this margin should be a goal of his campaign.
sarahf: OK, what does Biden do to actually win Sander’s followers?
nrakich: Well, the first and most obvious answer is to take some of Sander’s positions. He has already started moving left on questions (though not as far left as Sanders) like free tuition – Quite clever in my opinion, because it is an advanced policy that is actually strongly supported by all voters, not just Democrats.
geoffrey.skelley: I agree. This appears to be a fairly transparent game for younger voters and possibly older millennials who like Sanders and also have children and are thinking about how they will one day pay for college.
nrakich: Two other advanced positions that Biden could take without alienating voters in the general election are in favor of legalizing marijuana and introducing an Elizabeth Warren-style wealth tax.
geoffrey.skelley: The latter could of course alienate some donors.
I also don’t think Biden will ever completely replace Sanders in the minds of many voters – much of Sanders’ appeal is based on his personality and rhetoric of tearing down the system.
geoffrey.skelley: Yes, and Biden’s appeal was that of a safe haven in a storm – all the more so as we are now exposed to the new corona virus threat. He is interested in reforming the system, not breaking it open and then rebuilding it.
Perry: I honestly don’t think Biden has to do much to win the vast majority of Sanders voters – other than not being Trump. The question is rather: “How does he excite her?” The danger of Biden is that he’s like Clinton in 2016 – he wins the votes of the older, traditional Democrats in the area code, but he’s not a candidate that people are excited about – and that shows in the turnout, in donations, in the general mood of the campaign.
Biden cannot be Obama in 2008, but he should avoid being Clinton in 2016 or Kerry in 2004. I think he should aim for a running mate that people are really excited about.
geoffrey.skelley: Is that Senator Kamala Harris? I don’t see it as Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Perry: Geoff, I honestly don’t know who that person is. But I think it should be an Obama-like person – less exciting in terms of politics (the party is divided in terms of politics), but more in terms of the person and charisma.
As I said, Biden should focus on energizing “Democrats under 45” and not “Sanders supporters”.
nrakich: The problem is that everyone has a different definition of who is “exciting”. The stereotypical leftist Sanders voter won’t jazz about Harris who did it their own problems under the progressive flank. Maybe not even someone like Stacey Abrams who addresses the party’s “woken up” wing, but it is safe closer to Biden than Sanders in politics.
And then there’s the fact that it’s controversial How much impact do vice presidential candidates have?.
sarahf: That makes sense, Perry, definitely from a messaging perspective. But right, for Nathaniel, it’s hard for me to imagine that Sanders voters are excited about Harris as his election as Vice President. But maybe that’s the point – it’s not about die-hard loyal fans, it’s about motivating younger voters in general.
This is especially true given the fact that voter turnout in these primaries was not historical, as many thought.
It’s easy to read too much in the area code and try to apply this to the general election, but the 2020 turnout issue makes me pause, especially if, as you say, Biden is someone around whom the Democratic Party gathers, but not necessarily jazzed around.
nrakich: But how many young voters are against Biden because he’s not far enough away, and how many are against him because they just want a new generation of leaders? I really do not know it.
Perry: I think the second group (new generation of executives) is both larger and easier to satisfy (because moving to the left can cause election problems).
geoffrey.skelley: Right. Pew Research found back in 2017 that younger democrats and those who were democratically oriented were so more liberal than older Democratsthey weren’t The much more liberal.
sarahf: How important is the unity of the parties for what will happen in 2020? As said in this chat, in many ways the biggest factor for the Democratic candidate is that he is not Trump. But is there a risk that the Democrats will not gather behind Biden? After all, it was like that a criticism of what happened in 2016Sanders cost Clinton the choice. Could that happen again in 2020?
Perry: The unity of the party is very important. But I think Trump will create unity for the party. Sanders and Warren will end up behind Biden. And the biggest difference between 2016 and 2020 is not between Clinton and Biden (they are very similar candidates), but between Trump 2016 (theoretically) and Trump 2020 (a reality that Democrats hate). Because of Trump, some of the problems Clinton faced to get the grass roots behind won’t be that important to Biden.
nrakich: Yes, I think we dealt with this question indirectly. The party’s unity will certainly be important, but according to the polls cited above, most of the Democrats already have it. And some of those Sanders voters that might have cost Clinton in the 2016 general election might have been just anti-Clinton voters in the area code. It doesn’t seem like there will be a rash of anti-biden protest votes this year.
geoffrey.skelley: It is helpful not to have been a target for a quarter of a century before you have been named your party’s candidate.
Even while we are Have suggested some exit poll data Some Sanders voters may not want to vote for Biden. It is important to remember that some may answer this question differently when they are no longer in elementary school. I remember “Party Unity My AssClinton voters (PUMAs) in 2008. Obviously Democrats were largely unified behind Obama in November.
nrakich: Right, and no one asked whether PUMA voters Obama would have tasted this election – he won easily! So it is clearly possible to win after a splitting elementary school.
Actually, According to a studyIn 2008, only 70 percent of Clinton voters voted for Obama – comparable and even slightly lower than the three quarters of Sanders we believe voted Clinton in the 2016 general election. So it wasn’t the unity of the party itself that cost Clinton the 2016 election – the party was roughly the same in 2008 and 2016. Instead, it was how narrow the choice was that made the difference. And that could be what matters again in 2020.