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Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Bernie 2020 rally at the Stifel Theater in downtown St. Louis, Missouri on March 9, 2020. (Photo: Tim Vizer/AFP via Getty Images)

Boosting Electability Argument, Sanders Has Won Independent Voters in 13 Out of 16 Exit Polls So Far

"The criteria by which we should judge any Democratic presidential candidate's electability is their popularity among Democratic-leaning independents and 'true independents' in swing states. And by that metric, Sanders excels."

Julia Conley

Despite predictions made by pundits and journalists in the corporate media regarding electability in the 2020 general election, exit polls in the states where Americans have voted so far show that Sen. Bernie Sanders is the most popular Democratic candidate among voters who are likely to be considered "swing voters" in November.

As Sanders's speechwriter, David Sirota, tweeted Friday, the Vermont senator is winning far more votes from independent voters than former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to CNN, Sanders has won independents in 13 out of 16 states where exit polls are conducted, including Minnesota and North Carolina, which are expected to be competitive in the general election.

"Weird that this hasn't been mentioned by anyone on cable TV in the 24-7 coverage of 'electability,'" Sirota wrote.

In CNN's polls, Sanders won the support of independent voters in every state so far except Virginia, South Carolina, and Alabama.

The Washington Post also reported that a majority of independent voters supported Sanders in the states that voted last Tuesday—34% versus 26% for Biden.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also pointed to Sanders's success with independents, saying the exit polls are a sign that the senator could beat President Donald Trump in November.

"He is a stronger candidate than Biden against Trump," tweeted Ocasio-Cortez. "I’m not just saying that because we align on progressive policy. I'm saying it because I believe it is true."

In 2016, independent voters supported President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

"The criteria by which we should judge any Democratic presidential candidate's electability is their popularity among Democratic-leaning independents and 'true independents' in swing states," wrote Nathan Tankus at Jacobin earlier this month. "And by that metric, Sanders excels."

Biden's electoral strategy is leaving independents and other groups out in the same way that Clinton's did, added Tankus—putting his potential success in November in question. 

"Biden has little shot of improving upon the expected turnout boosts from anti-Trump sentiment because of his weakness among younger people and Latino voters as well as his underwhelming field operation," Tankus wrote. "There would be no equivalent to a South Carolina primary to save Biden in the general election—especially not if he's repeating the same failed strategy as Hillary Clinton, which kept Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents unenthusiastic and disengaged."

Unless the Democratic candidate energizes Democratic-leaning independents and independents who don't lean toward any party affiliation, he added, the party will not be able to boost turnout in 2020.

"Sanders's strategy is not a pie-in-the-sky leftist dream, but a straightforward, clear-eyed understanding of electoral math," Tankus wrote.

NYU Law School professor Rob Howse pointed to recent polling that showed American voters' views on healthcare to help explain why Sanders has had success with independent voters which would likely carry over into the general election.

More than Democrats and Republicans, independents in the survey by the Financial Times said they believed rising healthcare costs are the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.


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