Can Sanders beat Trump? A growing number of Democratic voters say yes

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential rivals warn that nominating the self-described democratic socialist will ensure President Donald Trump’s re-election, but a growing number of the party’s voters see the senator as their best chance of winning in November.

Sanders’ dominating performance in last week’s Nevada caucuses, powered by growing support across age, race and ideology, has set off alarm bells among Democratic Party officials who believe putting the progressive stalwart at the top of the ticket will harm the party’s chances up and down the ballot.

Sanders’ electability was a prime topic at Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina. Rivals contended his ambitious liberal policy ideas, such as Medicare for All, which would replace private health insurance, would be an electoral “catastrophe,” costing the party the White House and control of Congress.

But the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling shows Sanders’ rising momentum in the race – a near win in Iowa, a narrow victory in New Hampshire and a decisive win in Nevada – has given him more credibility with Democratic voters.

Some 26% of Democrats and independents polled Feb. 17-25 said they believed Sanders was the strongest Democrat in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, compared with 20% who picked billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg and 17% who named former Vice President Joe Biden.

That was a big change from a month earlier, when 27% of respondents gave Biden the edge, and just 17% thought Sanders could beat Trump.

In the Nevada caucuses, Sanders won the support of a majority of Latino voters and led among most demographic groups broken out by gender, income and political leanings in Nevada. Notable exceptions were those aged 65 years and older, as well as black voters, more of whom supported Biden.

That too could be changing.

The same Reuters/Ipsos polling showed that Sanders had overtaken Biden in support among black voters nationally for the first time.

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