Bernie Sanders won a big victory in New Hampshire last night. But how he won spells trouble for his path to the Democratic nomination, and more importantly, for the general election in the unlikely event that Sanders is the nominee.
Democratic Turnout was Down in 2016 Compared to 2008
Bernie Sanders keeps telling us that he will storm the White House and bring Congress to submission to his socialist agenda by a revolution of unprecedented engagement of voters. So far, it hasn't panned out. Iowa caucus turnout was down from the last contested Democratic race, 2008, and now it is clear that turnout in New Hampshire is also down for the Democrats.
Roughly 246,000 Democratic ballots were cast in New Hampshire last night compared to almost 288,000 cast in 2008. That is a drop of 42,000 - a number that doesn't bode well for the candidate who has staked everything on turnout.
Republican turnout, in the mean time, surged 32,000 compared to 2012, their last contested primary, and by 41,000 compared to 2008, to 280,000 this year.
If the candidate promising overwhelming turnout can't do it in territories most friendly to him, it certainly requires suspension of disbelief that it will suddenly happen in November.
An Electorate Whiter than a Jar of Mayo (h/t: stolen from community member "CL Nicholson")
93% of Democratic voters in New Hampshire last night were white. That's just 3-points lower than Republicans. It was so overwhelming that no major news organization bothered to track other voters of other ethnicities individually in their exit polling, though CNN did publish overall non-white numbers (they polled a grand total of 155 non-white voters). Bernie Sanders won 61% of the white vote (and 60% of the total...). Winning 60% of the white vote can get you close to the White House, if you're a Republican (and even then it's impossible).
Prominent conservative blog Redstate estimates that the Republican nominee will need 64% of the white vote in 2016 to win the White House. So, Sanders is running in the Democratic primary on the power of a GOP electorate.
It's not just a matter of Sanders competing in demographics Democrats will not win in November. If you think Republicans can't get 64% of the white vote, consider this: though they fell short in 2012, the GOP did win 64% of the white vote in the midterms in 2014. Whether Democrats will win the White House this year depends in very large part on the turnout of people of color. So far, Bernie has failed to increase turnout in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and no real test of the minority vote has yet hit the primaries.
The White Electorate is About to Shrink Dramatically in the Democratic Primary
At the time President Obama was re-elected, 40% of Democrats were non-white, and the trend is for that share to increase. The demographic shift from then to now is in favor of more non-white voters, and Cook Political Report calculates that if the 2012 election took place with the 2016 demographics, President Obama would have increased his margin of victory in the popular vote by 1.5-points to 5.4%.
This dramatic gap between the makeup of Democratic voters in early states and Democrats nationwide comes from much more diverse states the primaries are now moving to. The south, the west and the midwest are rich in people of color. Over 60% of Democrats in South Carolina are black, and almost 40% of Democratic caucus goers in Nevada will be non-white.
It's Not Just Race, But Also Ideology
Remember the "Qien es mas progressive" pissing contest that Bernie started? That may not help him much now that the two non-representative primaries are over. In New Hampshire and in Iowa, roughly two out of every three Democratic voters identified themselves as somewhat or very liberal, with well over a quarter self-identifying as 'very liberal.' These were Bernie's best ideological ally states, and Clinton actually bested him even within that electorate in Iowa.
There are actually Democrats in other parts of the country who largely identify as moderates, and some even call themselves conservatives. Even though under President Obama's leadership, Democrats have embraced liberalism more than ever, only about half of Democrats say they are liberals of any stripe at all, a far cry from the electorate in the "first in the nation" states. In what could be a cautionary tale for Bernie's radical economic message, fully 64% of Democrats nationally identify as economically moderate or conservative. Social liberals are a plurality among Democrats, at 47%, but much of that liberalism comes in the form of the minority vote and advocacy for minority rights separate from economic populism.
There's a long road to go on the Democratic primary yet, but by the numbers, the Democratic party nationwide is defined by its diversity - both racially and ideologically - compared to the near monoliths in New Hampshire (which Bernie won) and Iowa (which he lost).