Could Sanders Win?

Polls show that Socialist Bernie Sanders might win the Iowa caucus and will likely win the New Hampshire primary, but conventional wisdom is that Sanders has no chance of going any farther in the fight for the Democrat nomination.  Is this true?  Is it unthinkable that Sanders could beat Hillary?  Could Sanders win the Democrat nomination?

Yes, he could.  Although Hillary will doubtless win the closed caucus in Nevada eleven days after the New Hampshire primary, the South Carolina primary is seen as a "firewall" for her – but maybe not.  Hillary is moving as far to the left as she can, which makes her unpalatable to Democrats in the South.  More than that, Hillary is widely viewed as insincere and corrupt.

The polls in Southern states are really all over the map.  All the polls, though, show a trajectory in the direction of Sanders, and the idea that the South will embrace someone like Hillary rests on shaky ground.  She is, in no real sense of the word, a social conservative like most Southerners.  While Sanders is no social conservative, either, he has at least the image of integrity, and that counts.

The reception that Bernie Sanders gets in the South may be like the reception Sanders got when he spoke at Liberty University, a very conservative and religious Southern Christian college.  The students and faculty treated Sanders with respect, as an honorable man who was saying what he really thought. 

This may give Bernie Sanders an advantage that Beltway punditry does not understand.  He can, as many have noted, appeal to the educated white liberals…but he may also be able to appeal to the disgruntled rural and small-town folk who do not believe that Hillary is really on their side or tells them the truth.

As Hillary becomes increasingly unsavory and disingenuous in her scripted comments, those who are fed up with professional politicians and who want change in Washington might well swing to Sanders if Sanders appears as a "real" candidate with a chance of winning.  South Carolina is also an open primary.  Republicans can vote for Sanders, and if enough do, then he might win or almost win.

Three days after that, eleven states will have primaries or caucuses.  Six will be open primaries in Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  Oklahoma has a closed primary the same day.  If Sanders has any momentum coming out of South Carolina; if he can appeal to Southerners who like honesty more than lies; and if enough Republicans, who can vote for Sanders, do so, then he might win some or all of these open primaries.

The other states that choose delegates on March 1 might surprise as well.  Minnesota and Colorado, both of which caucus that day, are precisely the sort of white liberal that Sanders has attracted.  Vermont has an open primary, which Sanders, of course, should win.  Massachusetts has a primary as well, which Sanders might win as well.

What if Sanders, having won the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, runs well or even wins in South Carolina?  What if Sanders goes into the March 1 primaries and caucuses with momentum and support and ends up winning states no one thought he was going to win?  Hillary has run so much on her inevitability that losing the aura of invincibility could send her campaign into at least a deep funk and, perhaps, a spiral downward that makes her unelectable and drives Democrat voters away from her in droves. 

Those who think that Sanders could not win the nomination are wrong.  He probably won't, but if someone like Biden feels compelled to enter the campaign after half the primaries are over, there is no guarantee that Hillary could drop out or that Biden would win those Democrats who intend to support Sanders.

Moreover, if Biden, an establishment figure like Hillary, enters the race with the clear and sole intention of keeping Sanders from winning the nomination, then all those Democrats who are angry at the establishment may view a late Biden reversal of his earlier decision to stay out as an "establishment trick" and react accordingly.

Polls, moreover, may well begin to show that Sanders is the Democrats' best choice of winning the general election.  Indeed, some polls are already showing Sanders as running better against specific Republican nominees than Hillary does. 

Could Sanders win the Democrat Nomination?  Stranger things have happened.