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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Bernie Is Out

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under  way.  

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday, ending his second White House bid, which revolutionized the way political candidates raise money and talk about wealthy campaign donors.

Sanders’ exit comes weeks after he ceased all fundraising activities for his campaign and raised over $2 million for charities providing resources amid the coronavirus outbreak. With former Vice President Joe Biden set to challenge President Donald Trump, 80 percent of Sanders supporters said they would back Biden, 15 percent said they would vote for Trump.
“While we are winning the ideological battle and support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful,” Sanders said to his supporters during a livestream on Facebook.
Coronavirus hurt Sanders in two ways.  First, there is some evidence that the crisis moved some Democratic voters toward the "safer," more moderate candidate.  Sanders promised upheaval, but coronavirus provided all the upheaval that Americans could handle right now. 

What is the impact of anxiety on vote choice? Building on a well-documented phenomenon in finance, we posit that voters will exhibit a “flight to safety” by turning toward establishment candidates. We test this theory in the context of the Democratic primary election of 2020 by examining changes in the vote shares of Bernie Sanders, a candidate promising disruptive change. We use the outbreak of the novel coronavirus across both space and time to identify a causal effect of anxiety on voting. By comparing counties with and without reported cases in their local media market, before and after the outbreak of the virus, we show that COVID-19 anxiety resulted in diminished support for Sanders as compared to his support in the 2016 election. Our findings contribute empirical evidence to an as-yet underappreciated preference for “safe” candidates in times of social anxiety
Second, it severely limited campaign activities.  Sanders had to campaign hard to catch up with Biden, but now he could not really campaign at all.  On March 13, he said: "We do more rallies than anybody else, and (they’re) often very well attended. I love to do them,This coronavirus has obviously impacted our ability to communicate with people in the traditional way that we do. That’s hurting.”

Moreover, the economic fallout made it hard for him to raise money.  He relied on small donations, particularly from working-class voters -- exactly the people who are suffering the most from the economic crisis.