So Bernie Sanders is running for President. Good for him.
He doesn’t have a snowball’s chance, of course. FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten thoroughly debunks any notion of a Sanders victory:
Polls show Sanders doesn’t match up well against Clinton. He trails her by nearly 57 percentage points nationally, 54 percentage points in Iowa and 40 percentage points in New Hampshire.
More than that, there seems to be very little desire on the left for a challenger to Clinton. She regularly earns 60 percent support among self-described “liberal” and “very liberal” voters, according to national polls. And Sanders’s colleagues in the Senate with the most liberal voting records — those who would be key to starting a mutiny against Clinton — have already endorsed her.
Which is not to say that Bernie shouldn’t run. He absolutely should. But his candidacy should be seen as a useful counterpoint to Hillary Clinton’s cautious centrism, and a rare opportunity to get high-visibility coverage for Sanders’ left-of-center ideas. Rarely does a leftie get the kind of serious media exposure that is routinely given to conservative nutbags like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Having Bernie share the debate stage with Hillary is a singular opportunity to spread the leftist vision and force the front-runner to define herself more clearly.
She’ll win. And if she becomes President, I expect the Sanders challenge won’t have any effect on her administration. But it’s useful nonetheless, if only for the media exposure.
Besides, what has Bernie got to lose? Nothing. He’s not up for re-election in 2016; he’s near the end of his political career anyway; and while he has little hope of matching Clinton in fundraising, he doesn’t have to. He’s got a good start already, in the big fat campaign accounts that he’ll never need in Vermont.
He had four and a half million bucks at the end of December. He’s got proven broad appeal to a nationwide base of small donors who can be counted on to give generously (as defined within their financial limitations) to a Sanders presidential bid.
Besides, a Bernie candidacy will be less fueled by money than by the force of his personality and ideas. Bernie doesn’t need a robust 50-state ground game to achieve his goals; he needs to hold noisy rallies with partisan crowds cheering him on.
So go ahead, Bernie. There’s no shame in being a useful foil, and in capping your thoroughly unlikely political career with a high-profile run for the Presidency.
I do wish you’d found a way to announce your campaign in Vermont, though.