I would like to make the argument that it is very possible that if Democrats nominate a candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, there will be down ballot carnage.
I’m not saying that they couldn’t win the presidency, but it’s likely that if nominated, Sanders or Warren will harm candidates who are further down the ballot chances. If Sanders doesn’t win Iowa, how likely is it that the Democratic senate candidate there will win either? If Warren doesn’t win North Carolina, how likely is it that Democrats will flip enough seats to win back the General Assembly?
If a swing voter is checking Donald Trump’s name first, they’re more likely to keep voting Republican down the ticket. “The amount of either of these won’t be especially large, but could matter a lot in close races. The Democratic presidential candidate getting 50% in NC rather than 48% could be the difference between whether there is a Senator Cunningham, assuming he wins the primary, and a Senator Tillis,” said Jacob Smith (no relation to the author), a political scientist who teaches in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke in an email to the Mycenaean.
We have to be honest with ourselves that split ticket voting is becoming increasingly rare. In 2008 when Obama won the presidency, Democrats had senators in very conservative states like Louisiana, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. In the age of Trump, Democrats have lost almost all their senators in those more conservative states. On the flip side, Republicans only hold two senate seats in states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and only three representatives in house districts that Clinton won.
Democrats need to win swing voters in key states such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Iowa. All three states have important senate races in 2020, and Democrats have good chances to win back a chamber in each state’s government, but none of that is achievable if the wrong person is at the top of the ticket.
We learned in 2018 that swing voters are turned off by Sanders and Warren’s progressive ideals. In a study done by Alan I. Abramowitz for Saboto’s Crystal Ball, Abramowitz found that Democratic house candidates in sixty competitive districts that supported Medicare For All did substantially worse than candidates that didn’t support it. Additionally, seventy-two percent of non supporters won their races, only forty-five percent of Medicare For All supporters won their races.
Nominating Sanders or Warren will not help Democrats down ballot candidates in competitive races, especially in crucial states like North Carolina. As a Democrat and a North Carolinian, I would be over the moon if our state flipped blue for the president, senate, and the state legislature, but I know that if we have the wrong candidate at the top of the ticket then none of that will come to fruition.