Would the US South Kill Hopes for Trump and Sanders?

Sanders’ socialist message carries a limited appeal in the conservative U.S. South, where Hillary Clinton is well-organized. As for Trump, his lack of religious piety would damage his appeal.

The unexpected, momentous rise of “non-establishment” candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire may be over by March, when candidates face primary elections in 14 mostly Southern states on the same day.

Bernie Sanders is the first self-styled Socialist candidate with such a broad appeal in US history, while Trump has made waves with his nativist rhetoric and even criticism of George W. Bush for the Iraq War, a cornerstone of policy for many Republicans.

“Sanders is going to be crushed on Super Tuesday regardless of what happens in Nevada. ‘Momentum’ does not carry candidates terribly far,” Keith Darden, an Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University, told Valdaiclub.com.

Sanders’ socialist message carries a limited appeal in the conservative U.S. South, where Hillary Clinton is well-organized, according to Darden. Poll numbers show Sanders trailing by over 20 percentage points in many states. The potential turnout of a potentially pro-Sanders African - American voter base makes the actual numbers more difficult to predict.

As for Trump, Darden says that his lack of religious piety would damage his appeal, even when candidates such as Ted Cruz attack him because of his past support for his sister, a federal judge who supports abortion rights.

“Trump is going to have a difficult time in the South regardless of the strategies of the other Republican candidates,” Darden said.

Large numbers of active Evangelical Christian voters, for whom a candidate’s faith is important, could then derail support in the South, despite his hardline rhetoric against Muslims and immigration, Darden said. He noted that surveys have shown Americans more likely to support a Muslim or homosexual president over one who is an atheist.

Is it really anti-establishment?

According to Darden, claims that this is an establishment vs. non-establishment election are overstated. “There are not many voters choosing between Trump and Sanders, and the two-party system remains fairly stable”. In addition, Trump’s overall support remains stable at around 30 percent, although voters may choose him over Jeb Bush, in a race with no other alternatives, according to Darden.

In addition, even if they manage to remain successful, Trump and Sanders would ultimately be nominated at their parties’ national conventions, where delegates may not represent actual results of voting, and Democrats have the “Superdelegates,” who are not elected, and do not pledge to cast their vote for either candidate.

“It is very likely that the party leadership will try to influence the outcome at the Convention in a way that may not map on to the voting in the primaries--particularly if they feel that the primaries have selected a candidate with limited general appeal.”
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