That brings up two issues: is Sanders a runaway front-runner candidate to get the nomination, and if he does, can he win against Trump?
The first issue is centered around the head-exploding fear of many Democrats that it would be an absolute disaster if Bernie Sanders is the party's nominee. And I completely understand that reaction. The thing is, my perception is that the cries of “We’ve lost” if he’s the nominee, while understandable, are based purely on understandable fear, but not reality. For example, just as a starting point, all polls today show that in a head-to-head match-up against Trump, Sanders is actually ahead. Now, yes, I know we don’t elect a president by popular vote (let alone by poll), but two things – 1) while it’s just a starting point in the discussion it is however a factual one, based on actual numbers not fear, and 2) for all the people who understandably say that such a poll is totally meaningless, I suspect their heads would be exploding if the exact same “meaningless” polls said the very opposite, that Trump was instead ahead of Sanders. So, people don't find the polls as totally meaningless as they profess.
Also left out of the equation of people’s fear of Sanders against Trump, in which they point out all of Sanders’ very real and very high negatives and all the damning things the Trump campaign will say about him – is that they ignore all of very real negatives Trump himself has and what the Democratic campaign will, in return, say about him. Elections aren't all just one way, of course.
Just one example: a couple days ago, a friend said that his fear of Sanders as the candidate is that so much of the public will hate his "Medicare for All" health plan because they want to keep their private doctors. I said that’s a totally valid concern – but it ignores how Sanders will reply. And I’m sure it would be something like, “I know that many of you don’t like everything about my health plan, but don’t forget – whether you like all the details or not, I have a health plan to expand your coverage…but Trump wants to take your current health plan away! He wants your health plan gone. NO health care plan. None. And he also wants to cut back your Social Security! And Medicare. On top of getting rid of your health care plan. So, yes, some of you may not like everything about my health care plan. But I’m absolutely sure that you hate having no health care plan. Which is what you’ll get from Trump.” This isn’t to say that Sanders’ health plan isn’t a potential problem, just that you can’t ignore the full argument and the other side being worse.
Keep in mind, as well, with Sanders winning the Nevada caucus by a large margin, which the press has pointed to as a major factor in him being the front-runner but something about that which has also gone unmentioned by the press – caucuses are a truly terrible way to judge support. It’s a massive time commitment, and candidates with the most passionate support are likely to do the best. As such, only 22% of people who voted Democratic in 2016 voted in the Nevada caucus. By contrast, 80% of New Hampshire Democrats voted in their primary. Winning in Nevada was important, but it doesn’t have the substantive meaning that it appears.
Indeed, with all the attention on Sanders being the frontrunner... we've only had three elections, two of them in tiny states, two of them in caucuses. Even South Carolina upcoming isn't a Big Deal, The only real Big Deal is that everyone should wait until after Super Tuesday. I wouldn’t be shocked if Michael Bloomberg vaulted to #2 in the delegate count at that point – and I wouldn’t take a bet that he won’t be in the lead. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, just that so much will change after Super Tuesday. Joe Biden could have some wins. Bloomberg is campaigning with wallpapering ads in every states. Warren could build on momentum. I don’t think Buttigieg will win anywhere and could hit a speed bump, though he might have some good states. Same with Klobuchar, who should at least win in Minnesota. And I’m sure Sanders will continue to do well, though the question will be how well against the broader field.
Without question Sanders is the leading candidate. But the impact of Super Tuesday – hurtful to him or helpful – is too massive to overlook. And what I most suspect it will show is that no candidate will have enough delegates to win before the convention. And I have no idea what will happen there. The only thing I know is that whoever is in the lead by the time of the convention will make the case that that means they should be the nominee – and that it doesn’t mean that at all, whoever it is. To be the nominee, you rightly MUST have a majority of delegates. That’s how every political convention in U.S. history has properly been decided. Otherwise, for example, in a multi-candidate race, you could have a conservative leading with 30% of the vote against all the moderates with 70%, yet giving your party leadership to the vast-minority position.
As for whether Bernie Sanders can win if he's the nominee -- well, I've typed far too much here, so we'll take a look at that tomorrow. Unless something especially noteworthy comes up.