Smart play or futile effort?
Donald Trump has attracted a somewhat unorthodox foe — Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Because the 2016 election cycle hasn’t been bizarre enough, we now have a self-professed Democratic-socialist candidate actively attempting to woo supporters away from the Republican frontrunner during primary season.
Consider the similarities: both are party rogues, neither is remotely conservative, neither is traditional in any sense, both favor big government solutions, and both have harnessed angry populism and dissatisfaction with political establishments — just to name a few.
With New Hampshire’s open primaries up for grabs, Team Sanders is targeting Trump supporters in the hope of picking off a few votes.
Now, Sanders and his aides are making a direct attempt to woo at least some would-be Trump fans away from the dark side of populism, especially in New Hampshire, which has an open primary system that allows even a small number of independent voters to make a big impact.
“Bernie’s ability to appeal to a broad swath of voters, and not solely triple-prime Democrats, can make a crucial difference in the Live Free or Die state, where unaffiliated and independent voters play an enormous role,” said Sanders’ New Hampshire communications director Karthik Ganapathy. “Bernie’s message speaks to people who feel that frustration, but instead of channeling it towards hatred and xenophobia, offers voters a forward-looking and hopeful vision for the future.”
Both candidate share reliance on independents and those who have not voted before, and both have strong support among similar demographics, like middle-aged white men. Both have accused his rivals as being in the pocket of special interests, arguing for a systematic overhaul — they just disagree on what the country should look like afterward. And even operatives with rival campaigns privately say they’re surprised at how often they’ve encountered voters who say they like both Trump and Sanders.
…“What Trump has done with some success is taken that anger, taken those [economic] fears which are legitimate and converted them into anger against Mexicans, anger against Muslims,” Sanders said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I think for his working class and middle class supporters, I think we can make the case that if we really want to address the issues that people are concerned about … we need policies that bring us together,” he said.
Sound impossible? Data suggests otherwise.
Though Trump has successfully syphoned off some traditional Republican supporters, the majority of his support base is comprised of a very particular kind of Democrat.
Despite the media infatuation with The Donald, Sanders’ play highlights three major obstacles for the “cranky yankee”:
1) Many states have closed primaries. Trump’s on the Republican ticket, assuming he makes the ballot. But garnering loads of support from Democrats? They’d have to change their voter registration to give Trump a primary boost. Which leads us to 2) Trump’s strongest supporters aren’t the voting sort. And then there’s 3) the fact that Trump has no discernible campaign infrastructure or path to victory.
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