A New York Times/CBS News poll, released last night, found Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead over Donald Trump, 47% to 41%. Given that the Republican race has been over for weeks, while Democrats are still battling it out, the margin probably brings some comfort to those hoping to avoid Trump’s inauguration.
Indeed, the Times’ piece on the results noted that Republican voters “are starting to fall in line with Mr. Trump now that he is their presumptive nominee – and that they expect party officials to do the same. Eight in 10 Republican voters say their leaders should support Mr. Trump even if they disagree with him on important issues.”
Among Democrats, it’s a little more complicated.
…Mrs. Clinton is still contending with resistance to her candidacy from supporters of Mr. Sanders as their contest carries on and grows more contentious. Twenty-eight percent of Mr. Sanders’s primary voters say they will not support her if she is the nominee, a figure that reflects the continuing anger many Sanders supporters feel toward both Mrs. Clinton and a process they believe is unfair.
To a certain degree, this reinforces the intense anxiety many Democrats are feeling. The 2016 race poses a variety of challenges for the party, but if a significant chunk of Sanders supporters refuse to support the Democratic nominee, Clinton will lose, Trump will be president, and the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation.
But some context is in order. At this point eight years ago, 60% of Clinton backers said they were ready to vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama in a general election. Now, in this poll, 72% of Sanders backers say they’ll vote Clinton.
Obviously, Democrats would prefer to see that number at 100%, but the point is, Democratic divisions were even more dramatic eight years ago, though that didn’t stop Obama from winning the general election with relative ease in 2008. After the convention, the party and like-minded allies came together, as they nearly always do.
Similarly, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted this morning that Clinton’s favorability ratings among Democrats are even higher now than Obama’s at roughly this point eight years ago.
The parallels are admittedly imprecise. In 2008, for example, the substantive and ideological differences between Clinton and Obama, all of their intense fighting notwithstanding, were practically nonexistent. They were also both Democratic loyalists with a deep commitment to the party, its candidates, and its future.
As TPM’s Josh Marshall explained yesterday, “Sanders and Jeff Weaver have no such investment on the line. Indeed, their own political background is one as dissidents whose political posture is one of resisting and opposing institutional politics.” The results are key structural differences between the Democratic races in 2008 and 2016.
The fact remains, however, that the latest polling data suggests intra-party divisions have not yet reached an irreparable point, and Bloomberg Politics reported today that the senator himself has “reached out to multiple Senate colleagues in an attempt to assuage them,” including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faced the fury of Sanders backers at the Nevada Democratic convention last weekend, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, came away from the conversation on Wednesday convinced that Sanders, who has all but lost the presidential nomination battle to Hillary Clinton, understands the need for party unity and will do his part to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.“We talked about the demonstrations and such,” Durbin said Thursday in an interview. “I am convinced, as Bernie has said repeatedly, he is going to be on the team to defeat Donald Trump. I don’t have any question in my mind.”
That’s obviously just one perspective, and we didn’t hear the exact nature of the phone call, but if the Vermont senator intends to burn down the convention, the party, and the country this fall, Sanders doesn’t appear to be giving others that impression.