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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Can Biden’s New Narrative Unify Democrats?

There is a lot of rethinking of the races for the Democratic presidential nomination going on today, as a result of Biden’s juggernaut sweeping the south and winning MN and MA, along with with the campaigns of Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer folding up shop. In his article, “Many young voters sat out Super Tuesday, contributing to Bernie Sanders’ losses,” Ledyard King reports on one of the most striking turnout trends, confounding many pundits:

Exit polls for several states Biden won, including  Massachusetts, Texas and a number of southern states that helped catapult the former vice president into front-runner status, found that while more young voters went to the polls this election cycle, they did not show up at the rate they did in 2016.

In Virginia, for example, more than 1.3 million voters cast ballots compared to the roughly 800,000 four years ago. But exit polls on Super Tuesday showed that the share of young voters as a percentage of the entire electorate declined in the Old Dominion, diminishing their influence as a voting bloc.”

Further, King notes, “the Vermont senator has been grabbing a smaller share of them in most cases.”

  • In Alabama, only  10% of the voters were in the 17-29 range compared to 14% in 2016. Sanders won six of every 10 of those voters Tuesday compared to 46% in 2016.

  • In North Carolina, 14% of Tuesday’s electorate were young voters, compared to 16% four years ago. Of those, 57% went for Sanders in 2020 compared to 69% in 2016.

  • In South Carolina which held its primary Saturday, young voters made up 11% of the electorate compared to 15% in 2016. Sanders won 43% of those voters compared to 54% four years ago.

  • In Tennessee, 11% of those voters showed up Tuesday versus 15% in 2016. Sanders did better among that group Tuesday winning 63% compared to 61% four years ago.

  • In Virginia, young voters comprised 13% of Tuesday’s vote compared to 16% in 2016. Sanders won 55% of those voters Tuesday compared with 69% four years ago.

King adds that “Sanders’ home state of Vermont showed a lackluster turnout of young millennials and ‘Gen Zers.’ Only 11% of the state’s electorate was under 30 compared to 15% when he ran against Clinton, according to exit polls.”

Biden’s upset includes Texas, “where 15% of voters was between 17 and 29 compared to 20% in 2016″ Ditto for Warren’s “Massachusetts where the share of young voters dropped from 19% four years ago to 16% Tuesday…The common theme in all those states: Sanders fared worse this year than he did when he faced eventual nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago.”

It isn’t the first time predictions of youth turnout proved to be over-hyped. The disappointing youth turnout for Sanders was one of the key reasons for Biden’s Super Tuesday upset, but not the only one. There was Rep. Clyburn’s moving endorsement of Biden in S.C., which became a powerful rallying cry for African American voters across the south. You have to also give some credit to the candidate, whose warm brand of retail politics served him well with southerners in general. Biden’s eloquent interviews and speeches closing in on Tuesday also breathed new vitality into his campaign.

Also, don’t overlook Warren’s takedown of Mayor Bloomberg, which encouraged moderates to focus more on Biden. In addition, it looks like the socialist boogeyman turned out to be more of a zombie, who still refuses to die, at least in the sunbelt. And give it up for Biden’s campaign strategists and staff, who did a great job of marshalling a series of impressive endorsements by Bloomberg, O’Rourke, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and just managing their candidate in general with very little money. Former Vice President Biden had a powerful personal ‘narrative’ even before Super Tuesday. Now he may have an irresistible one.

For more data-driven analysis of Biden’s sweep and prospects going forward, check out Steve Kornacki’s excellent MSNBC report, right here.

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