For months, if Republicans talked about Bernie Sanders at all, they did so with a gleam in their eyes. If only, they said…if only this self-proclaimed Vermont socialist could somehow beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries…Republicans could nominate a pet rock and still win the White House in November.
After Sanders nearly bested Clinton in Iowa before crushing her in New Hampshire, though, some Republicans are rethinking their early arrogance. “No one took Obama seriously at first when he ran in 2008, and we’re not going to make that mistake,” said Dan Conston of Future 45, a conservative super PAC now taking aim at Sanders.
Even a month ago, the thought of Sanders actually defeating Clinton in the primaries was laughably absurd. His ultra-liberal agenda played well with the young and the uninformed, but it had no chance of winning over moderate Democrats. At best, Republicans could hope that Sanders would force Clinton so far to the left that they could stockpile sound bites to use against her in the general election.
In another year, facing another opponent, perhaps it would have played out like that. But in a year where both conservatives and liberals are sick and tired of Washington elitists and their corruption, Sanders has been steadily expanding his base of support. Positioned against one of the most unlikable and entrenched members of the establishment, Sanders is winning voters over to his side with his blunt, plain-spoken, revolutionary message. Even some Republicans have openly said they would vote for Sanders over certain GOP candidates. A little honesty goes a long way.
Because Clinton is desperate to hang on to the liberal base, she refuses to attack Sanders as a socialist. Therefore, it’s been left up to PACs like Future 45 and America Rising to begin developing commercials meant to wake voters up to the truth about the senator. One such ad debuted on Thursday, using images of Soviet flags and footage of Sanders promising to raise taxes to paint a frightening picture of what it would mean to elect him president.
People who are really “into” politics often miss a very crucial point about the general voting public: people don’t always vote according to logic. In fact, it could be argued that they seldom do. They vote on personality. They vote based on something someone said at some point. They vote on looks. They vote the way their friends are voting. That’s why you see these puzzling scenarios where voters tell the media that they’re stuck between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It’s nonsensical, but those votes carry just as much weight as any others.
It’s very important that Republicans understand that as we get deeper into the process. Sanders’ “socialist” identification may not mean as much as the so-called experts thought. With so much at stake, we can’t afford to take anything for granted.