Democrats To Consider Changes To How Superdelegates Are Allocated

Democrats will consider changing superdelegate rules, but not as much as Bernie Sanders would like.

A delegate awaits the start of the first day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte

A compromise on the rules committee in advance of the Democratic National Committee would significantly change the role of Superdelegates during the Democratic Presidential primaries and caucuses, thereby addressing one of Bernie Sanders’ chief complaint during the course of the campaign for the Democratic nomination:

PHILADELPHIA — After a lengthy debate and a deal between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party’s rules committee voted to created a “unity commission” that would dramatically limit the role of convention “superdelegates,” binding roughly two-thirds of them to the results of state primaries and caucuses.

“The Commission shall make specific recommendations providing that Members of Congress, Governors, and distinguished party leaders remain unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice,” reads the new rules language, “but that remaining unpledged delegates be required to cast their vote at the Convention for candidates in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state.”

According to the new rules, approved by a vote of 158 to 6, Democrats will appoint a unity commission of 21 members “no later than 60 days” after the general election, chaired by Clinton supporter Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and vice-chaired by Sanders supporter and former Communications Workers of America president Larry Cohen. That commission would report by Jan. 1, 2018, and get a vote on its proposals by the next meeting of the Democratic National Committee, long before the 2020 primaries.

The other guidelines for the commission included a mix of Clinton and Sanders ideas, including expanding “eligible voters’ ability to participate in the caucuses” in caucus states (a gripe of Clinton’s campaign) and encouraging “the involvement in all elections of unaffiliated or new voters who seek to join the Democratic Party through same-day registration and re-registration” (a Sanders demand).

Clinton’s campaign, which held a commanding majority on the committee, did not give up very much ground. If the compromise rule changes had been adopted for the 2016 presidential primaries, Clinton would likely have maintained a lead over Sanders, losing superdelegate support in some states but coming out ahead. While Sanders favored the involvement of independents in primaries, the unity guidelines suggest that independents must join the Democratic Party, if only on Election Day.

The superdelegate reforms, too, fell short of what Sanders wanted. Binding superdelegates to the results of primaries would resolve one of his major complaints, that states like Rhode Island and Oklahoma saw superdelegates flock to Clinton even as he won them handily. But it maintained the power of senators, governors and members of the House to endorse whenever they chose, and for their endorsements to be counted in delegate totals — something Sanders blamed for creating the early impression that he could not win.

When the amendment was produced, supporters of Sanders and Clinton took turns praising it. Former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin harked back to the reforms pushed by Democratic nominee George McGovern before the 1972 election. “I have no doubt that our former presidential nominee would be proud of the work we have done today,” she said.

That kumbaya sentiment irked some Sanders supporters. Jon Little, an attorney and Indiana delegate for Sanders, voted agaist the compromise on the theory that Clinton, if elected president, had no reason to stick to it. “George McGovern would puke if he saw this,” said Little.

McGovern’s name is a good one to keep in mind in any discussion of the role of the so-called Superdelegates in the Democratic nomination process, because it was largely in response to McGovern’s ability to use the nomination rules drafted in the wake of the 1968 election to win the nomination in 1972 that the Democratic Party has Superdelegates to begin with. At the time, and over the course of several subsequent election cycles, it was believed that these delegates were needed in part to temper the populism of the primary voters and ensure that the party doesn’t once again select a nominee that is so far outside the mainstream that it leads to the kind of landslide loss that the party experienced in 1972. Indeed, one could argue that Bernie Sanders is exactly the kind of candidate that the Superdelegate system was meant to stop to begin with, which is one of the reasons why Sanders was complaining about Superdelegates virtually from the start of the nomination process. As it turned out, though, Sanders’ complaints turned out to be largely without merit. Looking at the Democratic Delegate Count, for example, we see that Hillary Clinton ended the race with 2,205 pledged delegates, more than 400 more delegates than Bernie Sanders and a number that also constitutes a majority of the 4,051 pledged delegates. While this number alone wasn’t enough by itself to ensure Clinton the nomination, it’s worth noting that this was also true of Barack Obama in 2008 in that he too ended the race with a majority of pledged delegates but still needed some number of Superdelegates to put him over the top. With these numbers at hand, it seems clear that the complaints of some Sanders supporters that the system was somehow ‘rigged’ is largely without merit. Clinton only needed about 180 superdelegates to put her over the top, and that simply isn’t enough to make the claim that these delegates had disproportionate power over the process plausible.

It’s also worth noting that the proposed plan to reform the Superdelegate system, if it passes, would fall short of the demands that Sanders and his supporters have been making, Their demand was essentially that the discretion element would be entirely eliminated for all Superdelegates and that they would be assigned based on the outcome of the primary or caucus in each individual state. If the rules were changed in that manner, then one wonders what the purpose of the Superdelegates would be at all other than to inflate the actual number of delegates a candidate won. Presumably, of course, these Superdelegates would be free to vote their preference on a second ballot, but on a first ballot they would be as bound as the pledged delegates. One immediate result of this, of course, would be virtually guarantee that future contested Democratic primary battles will last until the end of the process in the manner that they did in 2008 and 2016, because it would be unlikely that any one candidate would reach the majority threshold needed to win the nomination before then. The main reason for this, of course, isn’t just the superdelegate rules, but also the fact that all of the Democratic primaries award their delegates on a proportional basis, which is also what would happen to non-elected superdelegates under this proposed rule. Honestly, it would make more sense to change the rule to provide that the candidate who gets the most votes in a given state would get a bonus in the form all the superdelegates from that state on a Winner-Take-All, or at least “winner gets most,” basis. Such a change is unlikely, though, because it goes against the Democratic Party’s odd devotion to mandating proportional assignment of delegates in all contests, a policy that just seems likely to mean that we’ll see more never-ending primary battles like the one that just ended even when its clear that the primary challenger has no chance of winning.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    So, in other words, they voted to appoint a blue ribbon commission which will make recommendations that may or may not be implemented and which won’t be considered until long after this election is over.

    Truthfully, I have a better chance of my house being flattened by a meteor than these changes do of actually being implemented. It’s shell game propitiation aimed at people who are largely too stupid to realize they’re being played for votes in November.

  2. Loviatar says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    It’s shell game propitiation aimed at people who are largely too stupid to realize they’re being played for votes in November.

    dude, shhhh

  3. stonetools says:

    In light of Trump’s triumph, this is not a good year to advocate for doing away with super delegates.The Democratic leaders may fiddle around with the allocation rules, but they’re not going away to do away with their “emergency brake”.
    Sanders has apparently done away with asking for open primaries and he never questioned the most anti democratic aspect of the process-caucuses.
    My understanding is that Sanders is asking for same day registration . It would be good, IMO, if they enacted that.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Why change? The system is working as it was designed to do.

  5. Scott F says:

    Such a change is unlikely, though, because it goes against the Democratic Party’s odd devotion to mandating proportional assignment of delegates in all contests, a policy that just seems likely to mean that we’ll see more never-ending primary battles like the one that just ended even when its clear that the primary challenger has no chance of winning.

    The only reason to abandon proportional assignment of delegates is to shorten the primary season and I see no reason the Democrats should feel compelled to do that. The last two elections where it mattered, the “never-ending primary battles” have only served to strengthen the Democratic Party – despite the doomsaying predictions of easily bored pundits.

    OTOH, though it likely didn’t matter much in the end, having some states winner take all for the Republicans left them with a clown as their nominee.

  6. Tyrell says:

    It seems like the party leaders have been using some of that Common Core funny numbers math:
    “2 + 2 = 4, but maybe not”
    “Those numbers kept changing faster than a car dealer’s bill of sale ! “

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Look, everyone – everyone – knew the rules going in, and now, predictably, the Sanders’ people are saying that the system was rigged. That’s how true believers operate: any defeat is seen as the result of establishment forces conspiring to deny them victory.

    I’m with @Dave Schuler: above, the system worked as intended.

    Does anyone really think that with Bernie at the top of the ticket that Trump would be trailing in any poll?

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Has anyone noticed that the two big gripes Sanders had were essentially discredited by this election?

    1) Big money rules politics? So. . . Jeb Bush is the standard bearer? And Bernie had no money? Huh?

    2) The value of superdelegates is proven with one word: Trump. Lacking super-D’s the GOP was unable to save themselves from Trump.

    Bernie’s wrong. It’s past time for him to sit down and quit bitching.

  9. Grewgills says:

    Tyrell, there is no such thing as common core math. There are only common core standards. The curriculum to reach those standards is chosen either locally or by the state depending on where you live.
    As to the nonsense you’ve seen online, the new methods being taught in some schools have some value. Just because it isn’t how you were taught back in Mayberry in 1952, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

  10. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: 2) The value of superdelegates is proven with one word: Trump. Lacking super-D’s the GOP was unable to save themselves from Trump.

    And if Trump beats Hillary?

    Mike

  11. MBunge says:

    @Scott F:

    1. I really don’t think you can say the primary battle is what made Obama a great nominee.

    2. The problem with proportional representation is what will happen when you get more than two contenders. This hasn’t been a problem in the past because when it became obvious people weren’t going to win, they dropped out. Hillary broke that pattern and Bernie has now, mostly likely, normalized it. So all it’s going to take is for Democrats to not have an overwhelming front runner and three or more candidates splitting the vote all the way to the convention becomes not only possible but almost inevitable at some point.

    Mike

  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @MBunge:

    And if Trump beats Hillary?

    Is not particularly germane to the point Mr. Reynolds is making, but to answer your question, the nation will have gotten the government it deserves.

  13. Moosebreath says:

    @MBunge:

    “And if Trump beats Hillary?”

    Then he will have beaten the person who won the primaries with superdelegates, who is the same person who would have won the primary if there were no superdelegates.

  14. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    And if Trump beats Hillary?

    I don’t think Michael was implying that Trump will inevitably lose, but I’ll let him speak for himself. In any case, it should be clear that Trump is a weaker nominee than a standard-issue Republican like Marco Rubio or John Kasich would have been. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, but it does mean that nominating him has reduced the GOP’s chances of winning.

    Moreover, it isn’t just a question of electability. Doug mentions that the superdelegates were created largely in reaction to the McGovern disaster, but what he neglects to mention is that Jimmy Carter’s candidacy also played a role. Unlike McGovern, Carter actually managed to win a single term in office. But like McGovern and like Donald Trump, he was a candidate who won his party’s nomination without a drop of support from party elites, simply by winning primaries.

    Party elites want nominees who can win in a general election, but they also want nominees who, once in office, can be counted on to successfully enact policies they care about. It’s definitely true that one of the main reasons GOP elites didn’t want Trump was because they believed he would lose to Hillary. But if that were their only reason for opposing him, they’d have all gotten on board once he clinched the nomination. That clearly hasn’t happened–not because they love Hillary Clinton but because they have a supreme lack of confidence that a President Trump would govern the way they want. That’s why I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see them adopt a system of superdelegates or some similar mechanism in the future.

  15. MBunge says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    It’s entirely germane because his point is that GOP superdelegates would have prevented a Trump win.

    Mike

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    And if Trump beats Hillary?
    Mike

    I’m not sure if you’re angling toward the suggestion if Hillary loses,
    that Bernie would have won? Are you?

    I can agree that the appearance of the rules concerning super-delegates is not good, but then again everyone (including the Sanders’ people) knew this going in, and yet no one seriously suggested changing the super-delegate system back then.

    Only now, after Bernie Sanders lost by a considerable margin in actual primary voting – 15.8M to Hillary, 12.0M to Bernie – are the Sanders people talking about a ‘rigged’ system. Here in California, Hillary beat Bernie by over 400K votes – 1.9M to 1.5M. I’m still waiting for the Sanders people to explain to me how Debbie Wasserman and her DNC crew rigged the system to get Democratic voters to prefer Hillary over Bernie?

  17. MBunge says:

    @Kylopod:

    1. Hillary is also a weaker candidate than a standard-issue Democrat would have been, as demonstrated by polls throughout the campaign.

    2. I don’t doubt that GOP elites might try to gain more control over the process. Why is that a good thing? Trump’s nomination is a rebellion against those elites, one largely deserved because of their behavior. Does giving a failed leadership class more power to suppress dissent have any moral or long-term practical virtue?

    3. And just so this point isn’t missed, you can’t support superdelegates and criticize caucuses unless you admit you don’t care about democracy and just want the result you want.

    Mike

  18. Bill says:

    The onion did something on this already- and I tried to warn the “bernie-faction ” that all was decided 8 years ago. So your vote is meaningless as the banks, wall st., msm have their girl.

  19. Grewgills says:

    @al-Ameda:
    I have some die hard Bernie Bro friends and their “explanation” is that hundreds of thousands of Sanders supporters were disenfranchised in CA and that if their votes were all counted then Bernie would have won CA in a landslide. In other words, they have an “explanation”, but it is 9/11 was an inside job level conspiracy mongering.

  20. al-Ameda says:

    @Grewgills:

    I have some die hard Bernie Bro friends and their “explanation” is that hundreds of thousands of Sanders supporters were disenfranchised in CA and that if their votes were all counted then Bernie would have won CA in a landslide. In other words, they have an “explanation”, but it is 9/11 was an inside job level conspiracy mongering.

    I hear you. In my area here, not-so-far north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, in my ‘neighborhood’ there are many Sanders’ supporters and they’re all in on the conspiracy notion. The worst are the aging Boomers (full disclosure: I am a Boomer) – they’re unreconstructed 60’s liberals who are now anti-vaccination, anti-GMOs, anti-EMFs and pro-conspiracies wherever necessary.

  21. stonetools says:

    @MBunge:

    . Hillary is also a weaker candidate than a standard-issue Democrat would have been, as demonstrated by polls throughout the campaign.

    @Kylopod:

    In any case, it should be clear that Trump is a weaker nominee than a standard-issue Republican like Marco Rubio or John Kasich would have been.

    The problem with both of those arguments is that they are demonstrably false.O’Malley was a standard issue Democrat. He was brushed aside by Hillary. Trump entered a field filled with standard issue Republicans -and annihilated them.Clearly, the primary electorates did not want “standard-issue”Democrats or Republicans, no matter what some counterfactual poll says.
    There is an argument that Hillary is actually quite close to a standard issue Democrat in her policy positions. There is even an argument that Trump is closer to Republican in his positions than the media would have you believe. Personality wise, though, Trump or Hillary aren’t “standard issue”, I guess.
    Frankly, I don’t think the “standard” model is predictive this year. Standard analysis didn’t predict the rise and rise of Trump , or the astonishing success of Sanders.Maybe it will start working now, but I do have my doubts.

    `

  22. stonetools says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Well, maybe offering up Debbie Wasserman Schultz as a sacrificial lamb might propitiate the Bernie faithful. Kind of doubt it, though. They are convinced Bernie wuz robbed, even if Bernie doesn’t say so.

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @stonetools: To elaborate on your point, Wikileaks got its hands on the DNC’s emails and showed that the DNC was working real hard to sink Sanders, despite their repeated declarations that they were neutral on all candidates. So yeah, Sanders was right when he said — repeatedly — that the DNC was working like hell to make sure Hillary won and he didn’t.

    So the story seems to be that Putin just took out the head of the DNC. So much for that “RESET” button…

  24. Monala says:

    @Grewgills: See, I don’t get that. How can you disenfranchise people based on who they are planning to vote for in the privacy of the voting booth? A group needs some readily observable characteristics to be disenfranchised – race, neighborhood, etc. But unless party officials can read minds, they can’t tell who is planning to vote for Sanders and who isn’t.

    Unless they are saying, as has been said during this primary season, that not allowing non-Democrats to vote in the Dem primary is disenfranchisement. But those non-Dems have the chance to become Democrats very easily (except maybe in NY, with its 6 month in advance registration rules), and again, the Sanders supporters are ignoring actual Democrats who, like me, were unable to vote because they were unable to attend their local caucus. I could go about shouting that I was disenfranchised if I wanted to.

  25. Monala says:

    @Jenos Idanian: This whole thing is BS – and honestly, for once this comments isn’t really directed at you, but at the Sanders supporters milking this thing. One DNC official said they should use Sanders’ [lack of] religion against him in states like KY and WV, and the idea was squashed by the monster Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. No one actually did anything against Sanders; meanwhile, he spent virtually the whole primary season calling them corrupt.

    I started the primary season leaning toward Sanders, and the day that started to end was the day of the DNC data breach last fall. I kept seeing all this howling on my social media about the horrible Hillary Clinton and DWS and DNC, and groaned, thinking, “What horrible thing have they done now?” Yet when I finally read up on it, I realized that it was actually Sanders’ campaign that had committed the breach. Yet his supporters were yelling like they were the wronged party. That was the start of my turning away from Sanders as a possibility, and it grew from there.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    Hillary is also a weaker candidate than a standard-issue Democrat would have been, as demonstrated by polls throughout the campaign.

    But for better or worse, she’s who the party elites overwhelmingly wanted. You can chalk that up to poor judgment and to the negative effects of dynastic politics, but it wasn’t so obviously self-destructive going in. In 2014 while Hillary was still mulling a potential run, she was very popular, and even by the time she officially entered the race the following spring she was still moderately popular. It was during that period that several conventional Democrats passed over the opportunity to run. By the time her ratings started falling, there were no longer a lot of alternatives available to the elites–two mavericky ex-Republicans who were anything but conventional liberals, an obscure Maryland governor, and Bernie Sanders. It’s not surprising they stuck with Hillary.

    I don’t doubt that GOP elites might try to gain more control over the process. Why is that a good thing?

    When did I say it was a good thing? You may not have paid attention but for the past several months I’ve been more or less railing against the idea of superdelegates. But I’m under no illusion that party elites are going to see it that way during the year of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They’re going to feel they need that escape hatch more than ever, instead of considering what a mess it would probably be if they ever resorted to that option.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @stonetools:

    Trump entered a field filled with standard issue Republicans -and annihilated them.

    The point cannot be emphasized more: Primary elections are not general elections. It is possible to be a strong candidate in one and a weak candidate in the other. That’s why we’re even having discussions like this.

    First of all, during the GOP primaries this year there were polls showing that when Rubio and Cruz were each matched up against Trump one-on-one, they each beat Trump by double digits. Trump was “annihilating” the other candidates in part because the opposition to him was divided. That’s one of the paradoxes of multi-candidate fields: it’s possible to win without actually being all that popular. In fact Marco Rubio consistently had much, much higher favorable ratings in his party than Trump did; in other words, more Republicans liked him than liked Trump. He just wasn’t the first choice of as many Republicans as Trump.

    More to the point, though, primaries and general elections involve completely different electorates. The very things which Republican primary voters found appealing about Trump were what caused him to become dazzlingly unpopular with the general electorate. Likewise, the matter which helped cement Rubio’s downfall in the primaries–his past support for immigration reform–would have been a plus in the general election.

    Now, we have a Republican nominee who is literally the most unpopular nominee in history, who half his own party hates, who has virtually no campaign organization–and while he has been trailing in the polls for the past several months, the race is still competitive. (Nate Silver currently gives Trump a 41.7% chance of winning.) This is in part because his opponent is merely the second most unpopular nominee in history.

    It amazes me how many Democrats still think Hillary would have had this election in the bag against a conventional Republican. It should be patently obvious that Trump is probably the only reason she’s ahead. Against a Rubio or Kasich, she’d be the underdog. This race is looking more and more like a national version of the Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle in 2010, where the Republicans blew a perfectly winnable election against an unpopular Democrat by nominating a total nutcase. But a lot of Dems are still in denial over the fact that 2016 was very much winnable for the GOP. Fairly or not, this is an election between two weak candidates, and the fact that each was able to vanquish their opponents in the primaries is no contradiction.

  28. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Monala: No big deal, yet DWS resigned for an “honorary” position with Hillary’s campaign.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    It’s funny that someone who was never a Democrat until he needed the label to run for president is now complaining about how unfairly he was treated by Democrats…that loyalty thing works both ways…also, if super delegates are just so horrible, why did Sanders try to influence them to vote for him even though Hillary won more regular votes than he did? Meanwhile, to some people, it seems to be no big deal that a foreign government is trying to influence an American election…

  30. Monala says:

    @Jenos Idanian: It’s a big deal because people are making a stink about it, and the Democrats don’t want to go into their convention with that. Meanwhile, if DWS had been guilty of something major, she would have become persona non grata rather than been given an honorary position in Clinton’s campaign..

  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Monala: Also interesting in the leaks is how Politico regularly ran their stories past the DNC for review before publishing, and how the DNC people got really pissed at MSNBC’s talking heads when they strayed off the reservation…

    And “honorary” positions mean “not substantial.” It’s face-saving for both sides. This was supposed to be DWS’ greatest week, and now it’s her swan song.

  32. Stan says:

    @Monala: Debbie W-S, aka the monster, is out. She’s a human sacrifice, given the boot to satisfy the Sanderistas. They do this thing all the time in Great Britain. Their system is more efficient. Somebody prominent has to be sacrificed to satisfy political blood lusts, they are sacrificed, and then they’re given a life peerage or the mastership of an Oxbridge college. The Brits may have come down in the world, but they know how to manage these things.

  33. gVOR08 says:

    OK, do I have this right? One Party had disastrous nominating process and picked a nut job who may kill their chances in the general. Or at least so any reasonable person must hope.The other Party had a pretty straightforward nominating process, but had a mechanism in place to prevent it going off the rails. But the Party of the second Party is looking at changing th process and the Party of the first Party isn’t. Which is nuts. Except the Party of the second Party isn’t serious about it. So actually nothing is happening. So why is this thing you’re arguing about even a story?

  34. James Brown 32 says:

    @An Interested Party: For once we agree–never understand why Sanders and his supporters had any real grievance….the guy is not even a Democrat.

  35. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    DNC’s emails and showed that the DNC was working real hard to sink Sanders

    Could you please tell us: What actual action did the DNC take to “sink” Sanders?

  36. Pch101 says:

    Is Sanders ever going to become a Democrat, or is he going to continue to demand “reforms” that allow those who aren’t Democrats to run as the Democratic nominee for president whenever it suits them?

    I should try this stunt with the Elks Club. I’m not a member, but I’ll be damned if I don’t deserve to be their president just because I feel like it.

  37. Andre Kenji says:

    DWS is a horrible party chair, that allowed Democrats to lose several seats, both in Congress and Statehouses. She should have been fired years ago. But these emails does not show that she rigged anything, in fact, they were sent when it was obvious that Sanders had lost.

    It´s bizarre seeing people demanding her head for these emails, but not for her horrible job of winning elections.

  38. michael reynolds says:

    Bernie needed a scalp – preferably female – for his Bernie Bros. DWS was a waste of space, but Sanders’ obsession with her is silly and more than a bit nasty.

  39. Davebo says:

    @Kylopod:

    It should also be noted that by the time it started to look like Trump could actually win the field of viable candidates had dwindled down significantly.

    Given a choice between Trump, Cruz or Rubio I can see where a lot of people might go with Trump as Cruz was just as insufferable and Rubio looked, and acted, like your petulant nephew mainly because of his lame attempts to “get tough” with Trump.

  40. stonetools says:

    @Kylopod:

    The point cannot be emphasized more: Primary elections are not general elections.

    Which is why I spoke of the primary electorate.

    In fact Marco Rubio consistently had much, much higher favorable ratings in his party than Trump did; in other words, more Republicans liked him than liked Trump. He just wasn’t the first choice of as many Republicans as Trump.

    Sounds a bit contradictory to me. In any case the bottom line is that Rubio actually did run against Trump -and was decisively beaten, losing badly even in his home state. That indicates to me that actual Rubio may simply be a less competent campaigner than virtual Rubio.

    It amazes me how many Democrats still think Hillary would have had this election in the bag against a conventional Republican. It should be patently obvious that Trump is probably the only reason she’s ahead. Against a Rubio or Kasich, she’d be the underdog.

    Would actual Rubio be more effective in general election campaign? Maybe. It may also be that he might have no answer to an ad attack painting him as a lazy empty suit that was only good at reciting scripted lines-and there was plenty of video on which to base such an attack. How would Rubio do in a debate against Clinton? My guess is not good, based on his performance in Republican debates.You can’t zero out the general election campaign in your analysis of how well Rubio would have done in the general election.
    Similar polls have said that Bernie would have been a better match against Trump than Clinton. Bo you believe that? I don’t. The Republican attack machine and Trump would have made mincemeat of Sanders in a general election campaign, IMO.

    But a lot of Dems are still in denial over the fact that 2016 was very much winnable for the GOP.

    I wasn’t and I don’t know any Democrat who started out thinking 2016 was going to be a cakewalk. . Frankly, what I was hearing was how nearly impossible it was for one party to win a third consecutive presidential term

    Fairly or not, this is an election between two weak candidates, and the fact that each was able to vanquish their opponents in the primaries is no contradiction.

    They may be weak compared to a virtual Democratic or Republican candidate. But election contests are always held between real people. And like it or not, these two have proved to be the strongest candidates for each party.

  41. Kylopod says:

    @stonetools:

    Sounds a bit contradictory to me.

    It’s only contradictory if you think of voters’ preferences as a zero-sum game where liking one candidate means disliking all the others. Obviously that’s not the case; in a primary it’s typical for party members to like multiple candidates.

    My statements about Rubio aren’t speculation; they’re backed up by reams of data. Here, for example, is a Gallup poll from Feb. 29 on the net favorable ratings of each candidate among Republican voters:

    Trump: +14
    Cruz: +15
    Rubio: +34

    So, yes, Trump “annihilated” a candidate who was far more widely liked and far less disliked than he was. That can happen in multi-candidate primary races, and it’s exactly what happened here.

    Would actual Rubio be more effective in general election campaign? Maybe. It may also be that he might have no answer to an ad attack painting him as a lazy empty suit that was only good at reciting scripted lines-and there was plenty of video on which to base such an attack.

    But even if that were to happen, it’s very unlikely to prove fatal to his campaign. Bush was also depicted as an empty suit who was out of his depth in unscripted situations (a criticism I believe was accurate), and yet it didn’t sink him.

    Keep in mind that even if you totally take Trump out of the equation, Hillary would still be massively unpopular. In fact, without Trump she’d be the single most unpopular nominee in history. You’re not seriously going to suggest that Rubio, in a general election campaign, would acquire similarly toxic poll numbers. Unlike Trump, the party would have no difficulty unifying around him, and he’d also stand a good chance of making serious inroads with Hispanic voters. If he were to remain more popular than her, which is very likely, then he would probably beat her at the ballot box too. He’d be depicted by the media as a fresh-faced agent of change running against a decrepit old dynastic politician, and his more extreme views would be glossed over. Hillary could call him an empty suit all day, but I’d wager the electorate would prefer that to someone they view (fairly or not) as untrustworthy if not crooked.

    Similar polls have said that Bernie would have been a better match against Trump than Clinton. Bo you believe that?

    No, I don’t. But Rubio is commonly viewed as a much more mainstream figure than Sanders. Despite a very right-wing voting record, he has managed to craft an image of himself as a safe establishment choice–exactly the opposite of what Sanders represents. I think the media, with its false equivalence and its superficialty, would have eaten it up if he’d been the nominee.

    I don’t know any Democrat who started out thinking 2016 was going to be a cakewalk

    I heard it several times here from regular commenters, but never mind.

    And like it or not, these two have proved to be the strongest candidates for each party.

    By that logic, George McGovern proved himself to be the strongest Democratic candidate in 1972 by the fact that he vanquished all those other Democrats in the primaries. That’s a pure fallacy: beating candidates in primaries is no proof of being a stronger general-election candidate. It’s apples and oranges, because you’re talking about two completely different types of elections with two completely different electorates. Winning primaries certainly requires skill, but it doesn’t necessarily prove someone is a “better candidate” in some absolute sense. We have plenty of historical examples to attest to that.

  42. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: You were listening to El Rushbo today, weren’t you? Your point was his hour two topic.