Sometimes, it seems like our entire system of democracy is an insane logic puzzle, or a brain-teaser purposely designed to confuse everyone but Sherlock Holmes. How can we possibly make any sense of a new survey that shows voters significantly prefer Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton … and yet Clinton has millions more votes than he does?
Here’s what we know: in the new poll, conducted by the Associated Press, 48 percent of respondents had a positive opinion of Bernie Sanders. Only 40 percent had a positive opinion of Hillary Clinton. (If it makes you feel better, and it definitely should, only 26 percent had a favorable opinion of Donald Trump. Confidence in America: slightly restored.)
And that’s not all: 63 percent said that they’d never vote for Trump; 51 percent said that they’d never vote for Clinton, and 38 percent said they’d never vote for Bernie. Clearly, Bernie’s the preferred choice here, right?
And yet … the same survey showed that 80 percent of Americans felt that Clinton could win a general election, and only 60 percent felt that way about Bernie. And when you tally up all the votes, 2.4 million more people have voted for Hillary than for Bernie.
So what’s going on here? Why do people like Bernie more, but vote for him less?
It’s just one more weird puzzler in an election season that makes absolutely no sense, and in which all of the rules seem to be broken.
The candidates themselves are struggling to make sense of voter behavior. Hillary and Bernie held one more debate last week, at the strong insistence of the Sanders campaign. That’s likely because they’ve noticed that his favorability increases every time voters see him. And there’s a huge primary coming up next week: New York, where Hillary is vastly favored to win (but she’s been vastly favored in the past, and lost.)
This time, calling for another debate may backfire. Bernie’s performance was a bit more hostile than it’s been in the past, and he interrupted, made patronizing faces and gestures, and seemed to struggle for words during a lot of the exchanges onstage.
Of course, a person’s performance on stage isn’t a great predictor of how effective they’ll be as a president. But this election isn’t about selecting the best president — it’s about choosing a favorite entertainer. And neither Democrat can hold a candle to this season’s entertainer-in-chief, Donald Trump. Even his star is beginning to tarnish, though: in the last week, he looked like an idiot after it was revealed that most of his kids aren’t registered to vote, so they can’t vote for him.
Ben Carson (remember that guy?) made Trump look like a bit of an idiot as well. Carson is advising people to vote for Trump, but he’s doing it as unhappily as he possibly can. “Are there better people? Probably,” Carson said. Truly a stirring endorsement.
Trump lost big last week in Wisconsin and Colorado, so the days may be numbered for his candidacy. But then again, in a season when none of the rules seem to make any sense, it’s probably a mistake to count anyone out too soon.
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