According to independently conducted online polling, up to 100% of supporters of US Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would back him in the general election if he were to lose the Democratic nomination and run as an Independent. The poll used convenience samples of the active members of 25 large Bernie Sanders Facebook groups, simply asking if “people would change their vote” if Sanders lost the nomination.
According to the latest national poll numbers, Sanders supporters make up about half of the Democratic Party. Sanders supporters also include by a massive margin the most voters aged 18-40, whose support is crucial to winning a general election.
Combining those numbers with the surprising number of Republicans who would vote for Sanders and with the Independents and Unaffiliated voters who support the Senator leaves him with a sizeable electoral coalition. Sanders may be sitting on what turns out to be the most viable potential non-major party presidential campaign in a long, long time.
For his part, Sanders was an Independent for the duration of his political career. In fact, he is the longest serving Independent in the history of the United States Congress. He chose to run his Presidential campaign within the Democratic Party, he said, because that was the way to run the “most effective political campaign at this point in history.” Sanders was, of course, referring to the very dismal record of third party or independent attempts at winning the Presidency over the course of relatively recent American politics.
Still, Sanders has built up an immense network of support and has a real chance at winning up against 2 or even 3 other major candidates. Both of the respective major parties’ front-runners have insanely low approval ratings, and many voters are disenfranchised with them both and would flock to Sanders.
Sanders though did not quite see it that way when he was interviewed by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) back at the start of his campaign last Summer. He answered the question of whether or not he would ever consider running as an Independent with a resounding no. He explained that he had made a “promise” not to do as such, and he did not want to be responsible for the election of a GOP President. He was referring to the possibility that Democratic votes go over to him and leave no left-leaning candidate with a majority of votes -meaning that the Republican nominee would clinch the Presidency.
You can watch the clip at the USHCC below.
But, that was then- almost an entire year ago. A lot has changed since then, and in an interview on The Young Turks a couple of weeks ago, Sanders refused to explicitly assert that he would automatically back Clinton if he did not win. He said,
‘What we do is together, as a nation .. as a growing movement is we say: “If we don’t win...” and by the way we are in this thing to win, please understand that. “What is the Democratic establishment gonna do for us?”’
He was talking about support of Clinton hinging upon whether or not she would truly take the populist perspective that Sanders has put forward.
You can watch the interview with the Young Turks below.
Sanders does still maintain a solid chance of actually clinching the nomination himself. Back on April 1, it was estimated that Sanders needs about 57% of the remaining vote to win, and he has been running close to that number. He is favored to do well in the New York primary on April 19, where he is coming up fast behind Clinton in the polls.