The electability argument is dead

Bernie Sanders just put 5 million nails in the coffin.

Justin Ward

--

(Gage Skidmore / CC-BY-SA 2.0)

On New Year’s Day, the Sanders campaign announced that it had achieved a record-breaking 5 million individual donations in 2019. No other candidate in history has had as many contributors at this point in the election season. There is no longer room for doubt about the Vermont Senator’s “electability.” Sanders’ strong finish in the fourth quarter clearly shows he has what it takes to win against Trump in November

Pre-nomination fundraising predicts the victor of the general election roughly two-thirds of the time. Of the 11 elections since 1976, the candidate who raised the most before the primary won seven, according to figures from the Campaign Finance Institute. In most of the instances when it failed to prefigure the winner, such as both of Bill Clinton’s elections, the fundraising totals were relatively close. Incumbent George H.W. Bush only bested Clinton by a paltry $400,000.

(Gage Skidmore / CC-BY-SA 2.0)

The 2016 election was a major outlier. Hillary Clinton lost despite out-fundraising her opponent nearly 3-to-1 before the primary . A closer look at the numbers shows why Sanders is the best positioned to take on Trump this time around.

Often it’s a brazen display of bad faith when parallels are drawn between the far-right president and the socialist senator, but the two are alike in at least one sense: Both are popular with small-dollar donors.

Before he secured the nomination, Trump had barely raised money at all. About half of his campaign was self-financed at that point. However, of the money he did raise from individual contributors before June 30, donations of less than $200 comprised 63 percent. Once he got help from the Republican fundraising apparatus he was able to nearly close the gap, and by election day small-dollar donors accounted for 69 percent of his total receipts.

Having a broad base of grassroots support no doubt played a role in Trump’s victory, and Sanders is the only Democratic candidate who is comparable in this regard. In the most recent quarter for which data is available…

--

--

Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD