THE BLOG
01/27/2016 03:59 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2017

The Democrats' Worst Nightmare Is That Bernie's Supporters Won't Back Clinton

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The constant nightmare among both Democratic Party leaders and Hillary Clinton campaign boosters is that a significant number of Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders' backers will sleep in on Election Day.

A recent CBS/New York Times poll didn't do much to dry the nervous sweat over this prospect. It found that 14 percent of Democrats flatly said that they would not vote for Hillary, period. Another 27 percent said they'd hold their nose and vote for her.

These are voters who no one would bet the bank on in Las Vegas to keep their promise. They've voiced the reasons for their Clinton disdain so often that they can be etched on a stone tablet. She's a Wall Street beholden, corporate pandering, Washington establishment, untrustworthy, fervent war hawk. To them, she'll say, act and do anything to get elected and then once in be no different than Trump, Cruz or any other GOP would be president.

The conventional political wisdom is that all of this relentless anti-Clinton bluster will dissipate quickly because the prospect of Trump or Cruz bagging the nomination and the White House is too hideous for any Democrat to contemplate. That Sanders's is still the consummate loyalist Democrat and will implore his supporters to back Clinton. And that the Democratic vote bulge over the Republicans is so massive that any fall off in Democratic votes for Hillary would be little more than an annoyance and wouldn't derail her candidacy.

Unfortunately, the only one of these three rooted in cement notions is true. Sanders, undoubtedly, will endorse and work hard for Clinton's election. The other two notions rest precariously on shifting sands. The so-called Democratic vote bulge over the GOP and the supposed changing voter demographics is problematic. The changing voter demographics are that African-American, Hispanics, Asians, mid-income, upwardly mobile white women, and youth are lock down for the Democrats. The majority of them are.

But Hillary is not Obama. There is no crusade like passion to storm the polls for her. It was this passion that fueled Obama's win in 2008 and to an extent in 2012. These voters wanted to be part of history by helping to elect the first African-American president. That historic urgency is totally missing this go round.

The real numbers of just how many Democratic versus GOP voters there really are tell a far different story than what is commonly believed. The raw numbers do show that Democrats on paper outnumber Republicans by 20 million votes. But that's on paper. The numbers that count are those that actually trek to the polls, and make that trek consistently. Obama did not win the popular vote in 2012 by tens of millions of votes. He got just short of 5 million more votes than GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. Toss in the overall vote total for the two mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014, and the scorecard reads 103 million votes for Democrats to 98 million votes for Republicans. Again, this was a Democratic net of only 5 million over the GOP. Even this is misleading.

Legions of registered or GOP leaning voters took a long stroll on Election Day in 2008 and 2012 and never got to the polls. These were ultra-conservatives, conservative white Christian evangelicals, and tea party acolytes. Romney simply had no appeal to them. They repeatedly made that known, and ultimately stayed home. This won't happen if Cruz gets the presidential nominee nod. It also may not happen with Trump. He'll pitch hard for their support based on their dread of the prospect of a Clinton White House that will carry on and extend Obama's policies. He'll also stoke their anti-Washington, bureaucratic establishment disgust, and inject a big dose of racial tinged, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim pandering. This will be more than enough to fire up untold millions of hard core conservatives and fearful white blue collar workers to rush to the polls this Election Day.

This frightening scenario probably wouldn't be enough to upend a Clinton White House drive. However, the soundings from those who say Bernie or bust are too ominous to completely write off as so much hot air. The 2016 election will be a numbers game. This means getting the maximum Democratic voter turnout in the handful of swing states that will decide the election. The majority of them such as Ohio and Pennsylvania the last two presidential elections went Democratic.

If any part of the nearly 40 percent of Bernie backers who say they either won't vote for Clinton or will do it under extreme duress don't show up on Election Day in any of those states, it could translate out to tens of thousands of Democratic voters lost in the final count, which just ramps up the GOP total. This would make the race a close run up. And that would indeed make the nightmarish fear of Democrats about MIA Bernie supporters not a nightmare, but a reality.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is Trump and the GOP: Race Baiting to the White House (Amazon Kindle) He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network