Appearing on the Wednesday episode of ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, former deputy chief of staff and 2012 campaign manager for President Barack Obama, Jim Messina, stated that he doesn’t believe Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) can beat Trump in 2020.
Messina first noted that Sanders would likely be one of the “final two or three candidates” in the Democratic primaries due in part to his team, which, “over the last four years, in delegate meeting after delegate meeting, and DNC meeting after DNC meeting … got the rules changed in a way that really, really helps [Sanders].”
When host Jonathan Karl asked what it would mean for the Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, Messina spoke about the internal struggle currently roiling the candidates, which has to do with the direction in which to take the party.
He then pointed out, however, that “61% of Democrats say the most important issue in the Democratic primary for president is who can beat Donald Trump.” This, according to Messina, is a point of contrast between the politicians and the average Democratic voter, who simply wants to know who can best win the 2020 election.
This prompted Karl to ask: “Can Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?”
Messina swiftly replied: “No.”
I think if you look at swing voters in this country, they are incredibly focused on the economy. You and I have had this discussion before. The winner of the economic argument in the last five presidential elections with swing voters has won the presidency.
And I think, today, you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues like that.
Now that said, you know, there are other folks, other friends of mine, who believe very differently and that believe that Senator Sanders can excite a new population of people and get new voters out.
There’s this big fight in my party about, do you excite the base and jack up turnout? Or do you nominate a more mainstream candidate, moderate candidate, and get the swing voters? The three Democrats who have won the presidency in my lifetime – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama – have been able to do both. And to win a presidential election against Donald Trump, you have to do both. You have to excite your base and turn out people, and you have to win swing voters. And we are going to look for a nominee who can do both.
Today, you would say in a general election context, Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be that candidate.
According to recent financial disclosures, Sen. Bernie Sanders raised the most money of any declared Democratic presidential candidate during the first quarter of 2019, snagging $20.6 million.
This money includes small donors, large donors, PAC money, self-funding, and “transfers,” which is “money moved over from past campaigns or joint fundraising efforts,” reports FiveThirtyEight.
Sanders leads his closest rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), by approximately $4.2 million.
In terms of small donors (less than $200), Sanders only trails Andrew Yang, who has raised 80.6% of his funds from donations of less than $200 to Sanders’ 73.9%. That said, Yang raised just $1.7 million in the first quarter of 2019.
According to polling data, Sanders beats Trump consistently, but by increasingly slim margins. The RealClearPolitics polling average has Sanders beating Trump by 2.7 points (47% – 44.3%) as of publication. The only outlier is Rasmussen Reports, which has Trump beating Sanders by three points (47% – 44%).
Of course, polls and predictions are fickle, especially this far from a general election. The Democratic debates don’t begin until late-June, and the presidential election is still 564 days away.