50% more Republican voters participated in last week’s Iowa caucus than did in 2012 while Democratic participation dropped 30% from 2008. The party reported 171,109 caucus-goers this year compared to nearly 240,000 in 2008. We find a similar story in New Hampshire where 285,000 Republicans turned out while only 250,974 Democrats voted which is more than 30,000 short of 2008. It is also important to note that the Republicans turned out nearly 15 percent more voters than in 2012–just shy of the all-time record of 287,000 voters that Democrats turned out in 2008.
So, what’s my point? The Sanders’ campaign continues to argue that Bernie is energizing new voters—folks who were eligible to vote but who have never before voted—and young voters for whom this election is the first since they turned or will be turning 18. More important, the Sanders’ campaign and Sanders himself in the Feb 4 Democratic debate insists he “can win a general election by exciting young people, the middle class and working-class people and driving up voter turnout.” So far the numbers don’t show this is what’s happening. Yes, he lost by a very narrow margin in Iowa and won big in New Hampshire, but the turn out was less that what it was when the party’s previous big turnout candidate ran in 2008. Obama turned out voters; so far, Sanders hasn’t come close to Obama’s numbers.
Right now, Sanders’ plan of turning out a yooge number of new voters is little more than an idea. I’m not suggesting it’s not possible for Sanders to turn out new and irregular voters—as we know, Barack Obama did so in 2008—and certainly there is a great deal of enthusiasm among Sanders’ supporters. But . .we’ve yet to see any evidence that Sanders can bring forth a revolution.
Still, several questions remain:
- Is this a Republican rather than a Democratic revolution?
- Can Sanders really get the kind of turn out he needs to win?
- Does he have the necessary on ground organizations in every state?
- Can he fully address issues he’s so far ignored in his standard stump speech?
- Can he offer concrete plans rather than great claims supported by no evidence showing how they’ll actually work?
- Can he stand up to the onslaught of attacks the GOP will unleash if he’s the candidate?
If Sanders can do all these things and more, he might have a chance in the general election, but I remain unconvinced that a country as polarized as ours is going to elect a 74 yr old socialist who is only registered as a Democrat so he can run for President.