Will America Feel the Bern?

When Bernie Sanders announced that he was running for the presidency this May, he was seen as a relatively insignificant candidate; he even polled far below Vice-President Joe Biden, who never even announced his candidacy. In recent months, however, support for Sanders has blossomed, with grassroots mobilization generating a campaign atmosphere reminiscent of that of the George McGovern or Bill Bradley campaigns. Sanders is currently polling an estimated 7% higher than Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Nevertheless, poll numbers a year before elections are hardly indicative of general election or even primary election winners. At this point in 1999, Bill Bradley either led or tied Al Gore in Iowa and New Hampshire, but ultimately never won any primaries.

When looking at important indicators such as prediction markets and political endorsements, Bernie appears to have little chance of winning. Looking to political endorsements, which predict primary election winners relatively accurately, he has far fewer endorsements than previous successful candidates. Currently, only two congressmen endorse him: Keith Ellison and Raúl Grijalva. At this point in the 2000 election, Al Gore, the Democratic nominee (and the winner of the general election’s popular vote), had over 300 endorsements – Hillary Clinton has 361. This does not mean that Bernie has no chance at all – in 2007, Barack Obama had far fewer endorsements than the typical viable presidential candidate and still won. Nevertheless, while the Vermont senator has two endorsements, the Illinois senator had around fifty.

In political prediction markets, people put real money on the line, hedging bets for and against specific candidates. Currently, these markets–specifically Predict Wise–indicate that Bernie will not win the Democratic nomination. Predict Wise gives Hillary Clinton a 77% chance of winning the Democratic nomination but only gives him an 11% chance.

On a different note, it remains evident that the current ideological makeup of the Democratic Party makes Bernie’s sustained popularity more possible than ever. Over the past few decades, the Democratic Party has become far more liberal, with 13% more of the Democratic Party considering themselves “very liberal” than in 1990. Bernie has been very successful in raising money, having raised the second most of any presidential candidate: from donations almost entirely under $200, he has raised around $27 million. Efficient money allocation presents a problem for him, since he is understaffed and under-advertised relative to Clinton, but it would be inaccurate to claim that Bernie’s small donor approach and political ideology alone would disqualify him from winning the general election. In fact, if Bernie ends up winning the primary, a far better determinant of his success will be economic growth during the upcoming year.

According to the Boston Globe, Hillary Clinton currently polls a mere 2% ahead of him.  Despite the fact that Bernie is less likely to win the Democratic primary than Hillary, he remains a serious presidential contender. Hopefully the campaign will pull together and the American people will rally around the right choice for our country: Bernie 2016.

Simon Carroll