Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign rally, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
While the New Hampshire primary results are starting to come in, we’ve got other data on turnout coming in as well. Breakdowns from exit polls are making the rounds and they spell very bad news for Democrats in 2020.
I’ll preface this by mentioning the conventional wisdom that has been bandied about. One, we are told that Democratic enthusiasm is at ceiling breaking levels because Trump is uniquely able to galvanize his opposition. Two, we are told that young voters and other segments which don’t normally vote will turnout because they so hate Trump.
It looks like neither of those things is playing out.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) February 11, 2020
Bernie Sanders, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, has touted his ability to get young voters to the polls. In fact, it’s the only real argument that he can win in 2020. Yet, that didn’t happen in Iowa (where turnout was flat) and it looks to have actually gotten worse in New Hampshire.
Here’s some consternation from Joe Lockhart on the issue.
Exit polls in NH show under performing in the 18-29 age group. That's down about 20% from 2016. As usual, those over 65 turning out the most. We need more young people involved if we're going to beat Trump.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) February 11, 2020
Further, “new voters” aren’t turning out at the required levels either.
"Bernie Sanders particularly talks about trying to expand the electorate. Bring people in that haven't voted before especially young people…
"Only 12%…told us they were a first-time voter that's a little lower than…2016." – CNN's David Chalian pic.twitter.com/nvZm02xz0r
— Francis Brennan (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@FrancisBrennan) February 11, 2020
If Democrats can’t garner first time voters at a higher level than 2016, they are in trouble. If they can’t turn out 18-29 year olds at higher rates than 2016, they aren’t just in trouble, they will lose.
This all puts a real damper on Sanders’ idealistic idea that he’s going to form a new Obama coalition out of groups normally less likely to vote. It also means the fears the Democrat establishment have that Bernie is a dead man walking if he wins the nomination may be very justified. But what if Bernie isn’t the nominee? Then it’s likely that youth and low propensity voter turnout is even worse, as there will be a lot of bad blood after a hard primary race. If Bernie is shelved at a brokered convention, the damage would be immeasurable.
It’s early, and perhaps Democrats get excited later, but these numbers are very bad omens early on.