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The Carletonian

Bernie Sanders’ Electoral Roadmap

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Many worried that Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be able to command a victory in a general election, fearing that his far left dogma would scare away undecided and moderate voters. His message and his rising popularity, however, tell a different story. And with the election season officially underway, it’s now clear that Iowa has felt the Bern. Soon enough, and with the right campaigning, so can the entire country.

At this point in the presidential race, Mr. Sanders’s meteoric rise has been well documented. Initially polling at just 12%, Sanders just tied Hillary Clinton in what was the closest Iowan Democratic Caucus in history. And with the New Hampshire primary less than a week away (one in which Senator Sanders has a very strong chance of winning), it is time to consider the implications of a Bernie ticket.

He is the antithesis of a modern politician. Standing at his bully pulpit and waving his hands around, he condemns the top 1% and the Wall Street billionaires and fights for the rights of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. He is unafraid to speak his mind or to break the establishment. And that is exactly what has gotten him such notoriety and popularity. But in a general election, will this formula work?

A best-case scenario for Senator Sanders would be to face up against an anti-establishment Republican, namely Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, as Bernie’s appeal spreads farther than their bigotry and ultra-conservatism. Much of their appeal is to the silent majority, a group whose values are not shared by middle America, particularly undecided voters in important swing states. Sanders, despite being the furthest left candidate since perhaps FDR, still can appeal to these voters, particularly because his message is all about uplifting low- and middle-class citizens at the expense of the top 1%.

His job will become significantly harder if a moderate Republican is ultimately nominated. Against the likes of, say, Marco Rubio, Sanders’s social-democratic bent could become a potential turnoff. That said, with the proper campaigning, the election still could be his.

At the beginning of the election race, Politico released a prediction of the Electoral Map, with 247 electoral votes going outright to the Democratic candidate. With only 23 electoral votes necessary to win (assuming their map is accurate), Sanders would only need to take home a handful of swing states to secure the presidency. And with Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, and Florida in the mix, that seems quite attainable.

Florida, with 29 electoral votes, would be both the greatest victory and the hardest win. Especially if facing Rubio or Bush, both Floridians themselves, Sanders would have to campaign extra hard to mobilize students and retirees. Message isn’t his problem there; with a promise of free tuition at public universities as well as lower student debt refinancing options coupled with universal, single-payer healthcare with better access to prescription medication, both of these demographics would undoubtedly and overwhelmingly support him. In order to utilize their support, however, the Sanders campaign would need to mount a massive grassroots campaign to encourage voting, potentially even providing rides for seniors to the voting centers.

Ohio, which holds the second-most electoral votes, is also within Sanders’s reach. A focus on his fiscal policy would play well there. As an industrially focused state, Bernie’s push for a $15/hour minimum wage would undoubtedly be well received. In addition, his popularity with unions (he’s already received endorsement from several major labor unions, including the Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, and the American Postal Workers Union) would give him an extra boost among unionized workers in the state. Pitted against Republicans who overwhelmingly favor deregulation of industry, Sanders’s commitment to workers provides a hard-to-ignore appeal.

Colorado and Iowa would feel similar sympathy towards Bernie as Ohio would. In addition, a focus on free public university tuition, a revitalization of infrastructure amounting to 13 million new jobs, and an acceptance of and focus on mitigating climate change would appeal to a wide array of voters. The races in these states would be significantly closer, commanding much more attention and campaigning, but victory is attainable.

Finally, New Hampshire seems almost like a guarantee. Senator Sanders has been atop of the polls there for weeks, holding a commanding lead over both Clinton and leading Republican candidates. His success in Vermont would surely have some carry-over into the neighbor state. A burst of campaigning would almost assuredly shore up the vote for him, particularly if he focused on such issues as a single-payer, universal health care system with access to prescription drugs, a focus on climate change, racial justice and gender equality, and making the 1% and the Wall Street billionaires bail out the middle class.

For those still wary of Mr. Sanders’s ability to win the general election, let this roadmap assuage those fears. If he and his campaign team focus on the states outlined above and stick to the message that has propelled him this far, victory is within reach.

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