He just announced this week… So, where does everyone put Bernie’s chances in the Primary? General?
While his age is a significant issue, I think he is a much stronger candidate than is generally appreciated.
Primary Bernie has moved the party to the left on domestic issues. While that may dilute his message, it also makes him more authentic and trusted than candidates who just follow the political winds. Bernie has been saying the same thing for a LONG time. He also has a unique opportunity to distinguish himself on foreign policy. This is an area where the establishment candidates can not follow. (Tulsi Gabbard being an exception here.) And if they do, they will look as inauthentic as Hillary, when she changed her stance on trade. Bernie also benefits from a hugely enthusiastic base of support — reflected in much higher initial fundraising totals than Elizabeth Warren, for example (although his fundraising list from 2016 is no doubt a big part of this). His support is also diehard — even a string of bad press may not cause his fundraising to dry up, for example.
General The conventional wisdom is that Democrats win by running to the center. This will be a particularly attractive move in 2020, since much of the establishment can’t stand Trump. I think that would be a huge mistake. It gives Trump the opportunity to frame the entire election as Trump vs. The Establishment. With Bernie, that does not happen. Once Bernie starts getting close to the White House, the establishment will turn on him in a very obvious and very big way. When it does that, the establishment will cancel itself out, giving voters the space to look at the issues and candidates. But the corporate beltway establishment is so unpopular right now, you can bet Trump would love nothing more than to run against it.
Socialist This will no doubt be the biggest issue used against Bernie in the general — that he is an admitted socialist. It is a charge that’s going to fall very flat. Give voters a chance to see the actual model for Bernie’s “socialism” — Scandinavian countries — and that changes how people view the label. Even libertarians have to admit, Sweden is a pretty awesome place to live — so good, they want economic freedom to take the credit. And let’s not forget, we only consider social democracy something foreign because the left lost its Rooseveltian vision for society. Obama’s neoliberal compromise is just a watered-down social democracy that costs more because corporations and the National Security State want their cut. Sanders’ “socialism” consists of providing Americans with necessary services, while refusing to give the special interests their cut (which is why the establishment is guaranteed to turn on Bernie in a very big way).
Personal Trust Bernie and Trump do have one thing in common — neither particularly expected their campaign to catch on. But the similarities end there… Trump ran as a publicity stunt, an ego thing. Bernie ran to get his message out there and to promote the progressive movement. His lack of personal ambition distinguishes him from conventional politicians. Based on what we already know about him, voters have every reason to trust Bernie. In politics, that counts for a lot.