There is now enough polling evidence to conclude that Bernie Sanders is surging, and he’s surging at exactly the right time. I’m writing this piece less than a week before the Iowa caucus, where he leads three of the last four polls. I’m writing two weeks from the New Hampshire primary, where he’s been up in each of the last six primary polls. And if he wins both states in consecutive weeks, watch out. As we know from past presidential primaries, victory creates its own momentum. Sanders may well be the Democratic nominee.
Most smart people accept this possibility. He almost won in 2016, after all. But could he win the general election? Key figures in the Democratic establishment have a singular message, “Don’t risk it!” Key figures in the Trump camp are practically cackling with glee at the prospect of taking on Bernie. “All the Democrats have to do is not be crazy,” they say, “and Bernie is crazy.” Writing in The Atlantic, David Frum made the case that “Bernie Can’t Win”—in part because Bernie is a gold mine for opposition researchers. When he goes from insurgent outsider to major party nominee, Frum says Bernie is in for a pummeling:
The members of the team around Sanders are experts in Democratic Party factional infighting. Few have dealt with people who do not play by the rules of the mainstream Democratic Party. They have always been the rule breakers, the people who got inside the other team’s decision cycle. They have been the Minute Men fighting the Redcoats, picking off the other side’s regulars from behind trees and fences. Now they are about to experience what happens when a militia faces off on an open field against a ruthless modern army with cluster bombs and napalm. They will be shredded and torched.
Consider me dubious. Make no mistake, I don’t think Bernie is the Democrats’ most formidable general election challenger, but I think he can win. And I don’t think it’s that hard at all to understand why.