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Susan MacManus: Bernie Sanders Never Had A Chance In Florida

Bernie Sanders at podium
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

Political Scientist Susan MacManus said few people really expected Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to do well in Florida's presidential primary, with the state's mix of older, more conservative voters and Hispanics who are well versed with the effects of socialism in places like Cuba and Venezuela.

"It’s not surprising here, because the pattern is the same," she said. "Bernie Sanders has had difficulty appealing to black voters, had difficulty appealing to older voters and moderates, and suburban women. And even Florida’s Hispanic voters after his socialism comment. So it was just not a good place to expect him to clean up on delegates."

She says the timing of Florida’s primary didn’t work to Sanders’ advantage, either.

"He resonates well with young people, the revolution. You know when you’re young, something new and different, and a lot of young people feel very alienated from the two parties as we know them today," she said. "Of course, having this vote in spring break and around spring break and the coronavirus kept the young vote down in Florida that might have been there in a little bit higher percentage for Bernie, but it was still an uphill battle from the get-go."

And why didn’t young people flock to the polls?

Susan MacManus
Credit Twitter
Susan MacManus

"I’ve talked with some of my former USF students and they’ve explained it to me like this," said the University of South Florida Professor Emerita. "They really like him, but they just don’t think he can win, and they don’t want to throw their vote away. So there’s some of that – they’re pragmatic voters."

But MacManus expects Sanders to stay in the campaign, despite his mathematically slim chance of becoming the Democratic nomineee. That's because of his large number of small donors and the message he wants to get across.

Despite Florida not having a featured role in picking the next Democratic nominee, MacManus says the importance of the state has not diminished at all.

"The bottom line is we’re still the state with the fourth-largest number of delegates to the national convention," she said. "We’re still a state where you see Democrats giving loads of money to presidential campaigns. And we’re still a state where we’re considered a toss-up – a half-percent state – and candidates will be here, you can be sure."

"This state is still an important decider for Democratic candidates, up and down the line."

She mentioned Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings as a potential vice presidential nominee. Demings played a prominent role in the Trump impeachment hearings. 

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.