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Which Democratic presidential candidate would benefit by winning the New Hampshire primary but would also be a weak candidate in the November election against Trump? Please avoid opinion-based answers and refer to actual poll results in support of your answer if possible.

Registered Democrats and Republicans are about equally represented in New Hampshire (28% and 29% respectively) but the single biggest voting bloc is “Undeclared” voters at 42% as of Feb 4, 2020. Under New Hampshire voting law, Undeclared voters may temporarily register with either party at the polls on primary day, and then may revoke their party affiliation as soon as their vote is cast, becoming once again Undeclared. The process is quick and easy and is a completely normal and expected part of New Hampshire primary day.

Republican-leaning Undeclared voters of New Hampshire have little practical reason to vote Republican in Tuesday’s primary, since Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. But these Republican-leaning Undeclared voters could vote in the Democratic primary with the intention of boosting a candidate who would be weak against Trump. This only makes Machiavellian sense if the candidate has a reasonable chance of winning the nationwide Democratic candidacy for president.

So who, among all the Democratic candidates, would that be? I expect that candidate to do better than the polls are predicting due to Republican-leaning Undeclared Machiavellian voters.

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  • I would vote to close as a dupe of politics.stackexchange.com/questions/47385/… but if I do that it could a little controversial since I have US-dupe-hammer... You could search for more up-to-date polling... Feb 8, 2020 at 21:16
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    Well, if you're asking for opinions about "electability" then that's primarily opinion-based. Find your favorite newspaper and there's probably a column on that topic in it. Google finds aplenty. Feb 8, 2020 at 21:27
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    The premise is flawed. The voter who tries to mess up the other party by voting for their weak candidate may get what he wished for. Conservatives who tried it got President Obama. Dems who tried it got President Trump.
    – Damila
    Feb 9, 2020 at 5:24
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    @Damila Excellent point, and once again those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We'll see how the numbers turn out in a few days.
    – MTA
    Feb 9, 2020 at 14:29

1 Answer 1

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Basically the polls that really matter and in the (likely) battleground states. There was such a poll in November by NYT Sierra.

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Fox News has more recently released similar polls but in rather piecemeal fashion, so you might have to track them down individually. A summary of 3 states I found:

Nevada GE @foxnewspoll:

Biden 47% (+8) Trump 39%

Sanders 46% (+5) Trump 41%

Warren 43% (+1) Trump 42%

Buttigieg 41% (+1) Trump 40%


Wisconsin GE @foxnewspoll

Biden 46% (+5) Trump 41%

Sanders 46% (+4) Trump 42%

Warren 44% (+2) Trump 42%

Buttigieg 42% (+1) Trump 41%


Michigan General Election:

Biden 50% (+7) Trump 43%

Bloomberg 47% (+6) Trump 41%

Sanders 49% (+4) Trump 45%

Warren 46% (+2) Trump 44%

Buttigieg 45% (+2) Trump 43%

Keep in mind that those polls are from January and Buttigieg's position (vs. Trump) might have improved given his Iowa [near] win. So YMMV if you can still really bet Buttigieg will do substantially worse than the others vs. Trump.

As for guessing if he really has a shot at the nomination (despite Iowa), that's another kettle of uncertainty. Fivethirtyeight has a page on that, not terribly helpful at the moment.

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I guess you could pick Sanders if you don't want long odds on the primary (as he still trails Biden a little in vs. Trump contests.) Good luck with your Machiavellian bet.

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  • They should add Bloomberg to these head to head matchups, now that he's polling 3rd nationally. Feb 8, 2020 at 22:22
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    This is the problem with the full-on progressive "if we start left-enough we'll get some of what we want" position. POTUS election is a winner takes all and it doesn't matter how close you came. Some of these folk, by poll at least, get Trumped everywhere. If Dems don't pick someone with sufficient appeal to the average US voter, not to one's own echo chamber, Trump indeed will look like a "safer" alternative come Nov. The Obama and Trump comparisons are bad - Hillary was unlikeable in 2016 and in 2008 people direly wanted a non-Republican after years of conflict in Iraq/Afghanistan. Feb 9, 2020 at 20:16
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    while people find flaws in this Machiavellian idea, I bet Trump has his list of preferred candidates he would like to be facing in Nov. but overall a good answer, based on precisely what folk should be assessing. Feb 9, 2020 at 20:21

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