2020 Democrats: state of the race (May 19th, 2019)

I was reminded of how much of a politics nerd I am this week when I got genuinely excited at seeing a Quinnipiac poll released of Democratic contenders versus Trump in the state of Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, Joe Biden performed best of the 2020 Dems that were included, boasting an 11-point lead over the current president (53%-42%).

As I noted on Twitter, I think this is where the electability argument gets real. If Biden can beat Trump in Pennsylvania, the odds of a Democrat winning in 2020 go up significantly. To be fair, most of the other Democrats did well against Trump in this poll as well, with Bernie Sanders up seven points (50%-43%), and Elizabeth Warren up three (47%-44%). Beto O’Rourke was the only polled candidate who was down versus Trump (44% for Beto versus 46% for Trump).

Harry Enten notes:

  • One thing that is interesting and the Q-Pac poll from PA shows is that there is a far larger divide in primary vote choice between very liberal and somewhat liberal Dems than somewhat liberal and moderate/conservative Dems.

At some other point I saw this from Enten, which is one of the more fascinating data points I’ve seen in some time:

  • Biden got up to about ~40% after announcing on average… Question is where does that settle… 30%? 35%? 40%?… Knowing nothing else 35% is about a 50% chance of winning the nom…

And I think therein lies why Biden’s post-announcement bump was underestimated. And at least thus far his lead is not deflating at all.

The more I think about the current state of the race (again, always subject to change pending lots of things, including next month’s initial Democratic debates), I see Biden, Sanders, and Warren as the only candidates drawing significant support, with Biden often doubling Sanders support and likewise Sanders coming close to doubling Warren’s in both national and key state polls. And then when you look at the huge and ever growing field coupled with the fact that Sanders and Warren are drawing from the more liberal side of the Democratic base (with some variables under the hood related to Warren drawing more college educated liberals whereas Sanders draws non-college educated liberals), this all plays towards Biden’s current commanding position.

Here’s an interesting dispatch covering Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail in the Rust Belt:

  • Sanders’ pitch to 60 million red-state voters is, Trump lied to you. He believes many of Trump’s supporters are denizens of a pissed-off working class who bought Trump’s promises of better jobs, benefits and security after decades of betrayal from both parties.

And as for Warren, she’s heading into the “heart of MAGA country,” continuing to strengthen her claim as a courageous and pugnacious potential opponent to the current president. 
From Matt Grossman:

  • The pre-entering Biden strengths I noted remain 1) many Dems are not ideologues & identify with Obama 2) other candidates splitting young voters, leaving older voters 3) women & minority voters not consolidating behind women & minority candidates 4) Dems prioritizing electability

It’s an interesting, open question of whether Biden’s long history in public service — through decades of massive change in American politics and culture, and countless decisions and statements and votes — will ultimately “help” or “hurt” him in securing the Democratic nomination for president. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll reports that a full 40% of people ages 18-29 are less likely to vote for Biden based on his Iraq War vote, for example. This could potentially play into Biden’s overall weakness with younger voters (not to mention that, you know, he’s kind of old and stuff), yet however his current overall standing as a legitimate sole front runner at this (as yet very early) point in the nominating process remains. 
Dave Wasserman on Biden:

  • Three best things going for Biden, atm: 1) Bernie/Warren both in, splitting the left 2) Neither Harris/Booker catching fire w/ African-Americans, esp. in the South 3) Dems’ *perception* a mod/mainstream nominee = best bet vs. Trump If any of these change, Dem race will change.

If Biden does snag the nomination, some are starting to beat the drum for a Biden/Harris ticket.

Even with the “it’s super early” caveat aside, we are far enough along in the 2020 cycle that candidates who aren’t “breaking out” (which are, let’s see… almost all of them?) are already looking to recalibrate:

  • “Beto O’Rourke is really the canary in the coal mine here,” said Mathew Littman, a Democratic strategist and former Joe Biden speechwriter. “What Beto is going through now is that he’s been surpassed by Mayor Pete [Buttigieg], maybe Elizabeth Warren, in terms of attention. It’s going to happen to everybody in the race. … Joe Biden today is flying high in the polls. But Joe Biden’s not going to be able to go six months without explaining everything on policy.”

Speaking of Beto, here’s Vanity Fair on how the media “fell out of love with him.”  And on that note, we seem to be in the midst of a full on Beto backlash.

We’ve got yet more 2020 Dems, people! Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is now in the race, joining the Western governor cohort (note: there are many cohorts already) that includes Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. All three are touting their bipartisan get-things-done bonafides, with Bullock presumably trying to throw in the part about doing so while in charge of a pretty deep red state, at least when it comes to presidential politics (moderate Sen. Jon Tester, often talked about as a potential presidential candidate himself, also hails from the Big Sky country).

And oh yeah, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also jumped in the race.  It’s… not going that well so far.

On a related note, Five Thirty Eight looks at why “Some of Today’s Candidates Probably Won’t Make It To Iowa“:

  • Some Democratic candidates will likely drop out even before the Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled to kick off the voting process on Feb. 3, 2020. And large candidate fields have historically winnowed pretty quickly a month or so after Iowa, though there are reasons to wonder if 2020 could be different.

Nate Silver:

  • My working theory is that the sheer number of candidates running is helpful on balance to the big name brands (Biden especially, probably Bernie, maybe Warren, Harris) and really unhelpful to the well-credentialed candidates in the next tier down (e.g. Booker, Klobuchar, Castro).

I caught an interview with Cory Booker on The Axe Files podcast, and was impressed with his story, his intellect, and his seriousness of purpose. He’s basing his candidacy on justice and inclusiveness, and is attempting to highlight some completely baffling and serious injustices in American society, such as the thousands of prisoners locked up for years on end for marijuana-related charges. In such a crowded field and with middling (at best) poll numbers to date, I’m not sure if Booker will be able to have a “breakout moment,” but I do hope he does get an opportunity to get a closer look from early primary/caucus state voters.

Here’s a good news / bad news thing that I pulled out of a UVA Center for Politics-Ipsos poll:

  • Just 7% of respondents said that if Trump loses the 2020 election, he should ignore the results and stay in office.

That’s good… I guess? But then you put that together with this little gem:

  • About two-fifths of all respondents (41%) — and over three-quarters of Republicans (77%) — agreed that a “deep state” is “trying to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.”

In terms of the Senate, Democrats May Need a Big Presidential Win to Flip it:

  • There is a flip side to this straight-ticket-voting reality: If Democrats win the presidential race decisively, some of those presidential red states could turn blue. In particular, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina are states with 2020 Senate races against Republican incumbents where Democrats think they have a decent chance of beating Trump this time. Add in two states Trump lost last time that have Republican senators up in 2020 (Colorado and Maine), and the odds of liberating the upper chamber from Mitch McConnell’s death grip look a lot better. That means a strong Democratic investment in purplish states with Senate races could pay off doubly.

Speaking of Arizona, from Josh Kraushaar:

  • New polling has Joe Biden leading Trump by 5 (!) in ARIZONA. Trump campaign (and Senate Rs) getting nervous that a huge Sun Belt battleground turning blue.

Finally, a Mayor Pete update! Pete Buttigieg is keeping busy, what with running for president and all, but he found the time to stop by Jimmy Fallon to get some slow jamming on.  Best pull quote:

He’s ready and prepared for a primary battle
His name is worth 800 points in Scrabble 

This post originally appeared in The Berlin Files e-mail newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s