The argument of former vice president Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill that he is the most electable Democrat running puts the emphasis on what is an increasingly trivial concern. Recent polls show all of the front-running candidates beating Trumpty-Dumpty.
Trump has energized minorities, women, sexual minorities and those offended by racism by his statements and actions to campaign and vote against him no matter what. The threat of an imminent and deep recession caused primarily by his tariff actions will hurt Trump’s chances for reelection. Now that they have their tax cut and the gutting of thousands of environmental, safety, labor and other regulations, the moneyed classes have nothing more to extract from Trump and may no longer be willing to hold their noses and vote for their useful, and cunning, fool. The tar from the Epstein scandal won’t wash off as easily as that from the “Access Hollywood” tape and the accusations by 19 different women of harassment or assault by Trump. When it’s children under the age of 18, people are not so forgiving of the powerful male perpetrator.
Moreover, while Trump and his factotums will try to sling personal and political mud at whomever the Dems select, none of the current candidates carries the long-time baggage that Hillary Clinton had to tote around.
But beyond these secular concerns is the simple fact that the Electoral College has suddenly tilted against the Trumpster. In 2016, Trump always had a narrow path to victory, based on a number of unlikely occurrences such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan all voting red by miniscule margins. Everything broke right for Trump in 2016. As the results of the 2018 mid-term elections demonstrated, political and social changes have made it much less likely, if not impossible, for Trump to follow the same path to victory in the Electoral College.
Trump’s losing hand in 2020 plays out in six states. Three consist of the former blue wall of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. They are all now in the hands of Democratic governors, meaning that it will be much harder for minority voter suppression activity to occur in those states, all won by very narrow margins by Trump in 2016. The Democrats completely ignored Wisconsin in 2016, and that won’t happen again. The various trade wars are having a particularly adverse effect on the manufacturing sectors so important to workers in these three states. Trump should lose at least one and maybe all three of these states.
A battleground state that the Republicans usually seem to win is Florida. In 2018 Florida voters voted by an overwhelming margin to restore voting rights to ex-convicts, adding more than a million potential voters to the Florida voting rolls, most of whom are expected to lean Democratic. The Republican-controlled state legislature passed a de facto poll tax law mandating that, before getting voting rights back, ex-cons had to repay all court fees owed to the government. People are now assuming that the ex-con effect won’t tip Florida to the Democrats. This analysis, however, ignores the fact that 200,000 ex-cons have already paid off these fees and are eligible to vote. If every Floridian votes as she or he did in 2016, only 57% of these new voters will have to vote Democratic to place Florida’s 29 electoral votes in the blue column in 2020.
The final two states spelling doom for Trump are Georgia and Texas. An influx of minorities and educated young people is inexorably turning both states purple. And in 2020 the voter turnout efforts by Democrats in both states figure to be aggressive. Latinx, women, sexual minorities, African-Americans and environmentalists all have strong reasons to vote for any Democrat over Trump and most of those populations are growing rapidly in Texas and Georgia. The Dems don’t need Texas or Georgia: if the Democratic nominee takes Florida and only one of the old “blue wall,” she or he wins the Electoral College. But the fact that Dems now have excellent chances in these two former bastions of the Confederacy will cause the GOP to dissipate resources there and increase the Dems odds of winning the Electoral College.
In short, Trump needs another series of miracles to win reelection. Virtually any Democrat should beat Trump. Biden’s electability—based more on his name recognition than on his policies—doesn’t really matter, since in the vast scheme of things, Warren, Bernie, Harris and Buttigieg are all equally as electable, and perhaps Booker and several others as well.
Instead of focusing on electability, the Dems should focus on these criteria:
- Who has the best vision and the most realistic plans?
- Who is the best campaigner?
- Who is most likely to stand up to Trump and any hostile moderators (such as Matt Lauer was in 2016) in debates?
- Who is willing to devote the most resources to registering Democrats and getting out the vote?
- Who is most willing to campaign everywhere to help all the downcard candidates so that Dems can keep the House, take back the Senate and make inroads in many state legislatures?
On at least two of these criteria, campaigning and debating, Biden rates among the worst of all the Democrats currently in the race. His positions are about as rightwing as a Democrat gets, which may prove to dampen support among millennial progressives. I really don’t think Dems need to pander to any-one-but-Trump centrists-who-lean-right, which Biden appears to be doing. These voters will have nowhere to go but blue in 2020 and will likely only be scared off by the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders. Trump showed everyone the importance of strengthening your base (a principle he probably did not pick up from the chess genius Nimzowitsch, for whom strengthening your strength was a key strategy). Virtually every Democratic candidate speaks more to the Democratic base of minorities, millennials and the educated than Biden, except Delaney and perhaps Mayor Pete. My own choice is Elizabeth Warren, who to my mind rates first or tied for first in all five criteria I listed. But really, any Democrat. Which I believe is the mood of the country. Anyone but Trump, which in the United States means any Democrat!
Let’s close with what I predict will be the enormous irony of the 2020 elections. If my analysis is correct, the only way that Trump can win in the Electoral College in 2020 is if he cheats—if someone like the Russians hack into the voting machines in closely-fought swing states, as many conspiracy theorists think happened in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2016. But let’s assume that Russian interference does not unfairly give the election to Trump and the Democrats triumph. In that case, Trump has given every indication that he will call into question the legitimacy of the election. Thus, while the only way for the cheater-in-chief to win is to cheat (again), if the cheater loses, he will call the winners cheaters. And that could lead to a constitutional crisis.