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The General Election begins

Looking back on the Democratic Primary...

Now that the primary season has entered a "zombie mode" where the front-runners are slowly inching toward their inevitable nomination, the analysis of what happened...and why...is in full swing. It's been a crazy election already with massive amounts of ink spilled trying to figure out the rise of Donald Trump and what makes his supporters tick.

On the other side, the conversation has many side branches. The debates have side debates and those side debates have side debates. And one interesting line of conversation is about how the narrative has gone one way despite the results going another. A few strange pieces of information...Donald Trump is actually farther from winning his nomination than Hillary Clinton despite him no longer having competition and her rival staying in the race. Odd. Another oddity...we've lost sight of just how dominant Hillary Clinton ended up being in the fog of "Bernie Sanders did better than expected." He did. But as Five Thirty Eight noted, I think correctly, this is what a blowout looks like under Democratic rules for proportional delegates. This has not been as close a race as 2008 (nor as bitter) and that year wasn't especially close either. Bernie Sanders hasn't been within striking distance of Clinton in months despite the appearance of it being a competition because he's still in it, talking tough, and she's got the slow task of building up the necessary delegates to say he's been eliminated. (She's at about 100 more needed as I write this.)

From this perspective, the talk of Sanders trying to gain influence at the convention, the mayhem his supporters caused in Nevada, the talk of a party split, and the anger being vented by some is all surprising. The Democratic Party--in terms of Democratic voters--is largely in agreement and very mellow. Most Democratic primary voters have said all along that they like both candidates. Most Sanders voters say they will vote for Hillary in November. So what's going on? A small number of vocal opponents are making the situation seem worse than it really is. Part of that is because Sanders has so many independents backing him who aren't actual Democrats. It makes the conspiracy theories and "Bernie or Bust" minority more visible even if the majority of Sanders supporters are perfectly lovely people. But Hillary Clinton remains hugely popular within the party even if she has large unfavorables overall.

To answer a few of the swirling questions with my own thoughts--

Will there be trouble in Philadelphia? Will Bernie demand concessions? Will he support Hillary?
There may be a few protests at the convention, but I would expect it to go fairly smoothly. Sanders is in no position to demand or receive much change in the agenda. He will support the nominee though that may be less side-by-side and be more of an independent effort to defeat Trump.

Will Sanders supporters show up in Nov to vote for Hillary?
Yes. Overwhelmingly. Most Bernie folk already liked Hillary just fine when polled. They dislike Trump even more. There is a large segment of Sanders' base that won't, but it's a small enough chunk overall that it doesn't matter too much. Especially considering Hillary will pull in Republicans who dislike Trump.

Will there be primary reform? What is the future health of the party?
I suspect that if Bernie supporters channel their energy into asking for changes to the rules going forward we could see a more "votes equal delegates" approach. Fewer caucuses. Fewer superdelegates. But I'd not put money on fewer closed primaries...actually, you may see some who want all closed primaries. One lesson from Sanders/Trump has been that it's far to easy for one radical to hijack established political structures. Democrats have done a better job at containing ours, but we probably need to be better prepared to protect the interests of moderate, mainstream voters. On the Republican side, the middle has very little hope within the party and are left contemplating someone across the aisle who better fits their political character...even if they dislike her just as much. Overall, Democrats are in a good place. But we'd be in a better place if we could translate our demographic success to off-year elections down ballot. Something Sanders has been accused of not helping enough.

Clinton vs Trump...
The polls this week have shown Clinton up by 13 and on the other side Trump up by 2. Neither is probably the case! Do not pay attention to individual polls!!! Especially national polls. There is no national vote. The average of all polls can give us a great look at where things stand...that has Hillary up by a few points (probably correct). But the far more important thing is now the Electoral College.

And we won't know how the Electoral College is shaping up for sure until we get a series of state-level polls to average together. But initial analysis shows a few things--

Clinton will start off with a huge advantage in the Electoral College that requires Trump to roll up several key states just to have a chance. Most likely, if Clinton wins Florida she blocks any path Trump has to the White House. Similarly, the 2016 map shows many opportunities for Democrats to pick up odd states that aren't normally swing states. Early polling in states like Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and even Arizona shows some promise.

Best guesses at this point would lead to an electoral landslide for Clinton even if the national popular vote is within a few points. The "fundamentals" are in her favor...the economy is doing fairly well a few months out, Obama's approval is above 50%, etc..

Of course, all this doesn't mean Clinton will coast to an easy victory. It could be ugly and Trump may do better than we expect if he manages to convince the GOP rank and file that he's a better alternative than sitting out and/or letting Hillary nominate Supreme Court Justices via a Democratic-controlled Senate. There's rumbling that the House could be in reach for Democrats, too.

My eyeball of the situation says Democrats control the Senate but not the House and Clinton wins with over 300 in the Electoral College. We'll see.

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