Did Elizabeth Warren spoil things for Bernie Sanders (by the numbers)

Sorry I have been MIA. I’ve been having procedures that suck.

Ok, there is no way this “Spoiler” question gets answered just with primary outcomes simply because of things like momentum and other things that are pretty intangible, but I remember a lot of kvetching from Bernie camp about Warren. My own position on this is that

  • Primaries are there to let people get on the big national stage, get their name out there, etc, and that a lot of the kvetching about Warren as a spoiler amounted to “Girls shouldn’t run for public office, let alone for the big chair” and
  • If you can’t win the primaries, decisively, then you are going to get routed in the generals.

but I always planned to go back and look at the states where not having Warren in the race would have made a difference for Sanders. I put together data from Wikipedia—I am assuming these are probably fine. If they aren’t, then let me know a better source. From this I patched together a Google sheet that got so messy I am loathe to share it. If you really want it, email me.

I’m going to go forward with the assumption that every single Warren vote would have gone to Sanders and not Biden or Bloomberg, which is a pretty big assumption, but I don’t actually have a good reason to parse the votes any differently.

It looks like Biden walked off with a total of 19,080,152 votes and Sanders got 9,680,042, so that the overall vote gap was 9,400,110. Warren got 2,831,566. So the aggregate level isn’t even interesting, even if you dump in Bloomberg at 2,493,523. (Sanders plus Warren plus Bloomberg would put the gap between Biden and Sanders at 4,075,021. Why in heaven’s name did people vote for Bloomberg? Why do people think rich buttheads from New York are good candidates? Why? And BTW, I am not in any way of the mind that rich buttholes from California would be any better. )

So going state by state, I calculated the gap between Biden and Sanders and compared it to Warren’s vote take. Then I compared: which was bigger? I threw out states with caucuses because those are weird and I threw out states that Sanders won. I found there were six states where Warren not being in the race might have helped Sanders: Maine, Massachusetts (the state she reps), Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. But, Bloomberg actually beat Warren in Texas and Oklahoma–in Texas, he beat her by kind of a lot.

The plot below shows the votes needed and votes available if you kick out either Warren (W) or Bloomberg (B). So there are two states that stand out: Texas and Massachusetts and they split between Warren and Bloomberg.

So who was the spoiler for Sanders? I think the argument is that the people who voted for Bloomberg would never vote for Sanders, and that Bloomberg was a spoiler for Biden if anybody. But I’m not sure about that–Trumpism is populism led by a rich guy from New York, and I don’t think the left is immune from becoming enamored of rich dudes from New York. Nobody asked whether Bloomberg had any business running, and nobody that I followed ever ragged on him to endorse Sanders the way Sanders people went after Warren to do so. Misogyny, of course.

But also, I think a lot of the Bernie people just didn’t watch Bloomberg too terribly closely, and it’s one of the blindspots that I think needs to get some attention. Bloomberg is arguably more of a center-right candidate that Barack Obama was. The idea that somehow challengers from the left would drain much from Sanders, as well as the grumbling about “centrist democrats”–a straw man construct that online lefties like whip for their (legitimate) gripes with the Democrats–masks the fact that the center among Democrats is actually pretty big swath of difference in policy positions if you are going to count Warren as a “centrist” when Democrats like Bloomberg are getting the vote take they are.