I know it’s early. The 2020 election is more than 17 months away. History tells us that the current situation is very likely to change. Anything can happen and usually does. Some would say it’s useless to speculate at this early stage of the campaign. There are several debates yet to come, and the first primary, Iowa, will not take place until February. Nine months is a lifetime in politics. But, it’s fun to speculate. Therefore, I will do so.
In my opinion, the 2020 election will be pivotal to the country’s direction prospectively – politically, economically, and socially. Among the contenders are a Socialist, people of color, and women. Perhaps, one of them will make history as Barack Obama did in 2008. Furthermore, with Donald Trump in the picture the election will certainly be entertaining.
At the present time, there are 24 announced candidates for the Democratic nomination. 24! I don’t recall an election with even half of that amount. In my opinion only four of the 24 have any chance to win the nomination – Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris – and Warren and Harris are very long shots.
Presently, according to all the polls, Biden is the clear frontrunner. Bernie Sanders is a distant second followed by Warren and Harris. The other candidates are far behind, and some of their campaigns are on life support. According to the four most recent major polls – Monmouth University, Fox, Quinnipiac, and Morning Consult – Biden has a 2:1 lead on Sanders. Moreover, donors have been flocking to him. According to “The Hill,” he raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours after he announced. What is his appeal? Simple. As a relative centrist with extensive experience his appeal is broad, especially among independents. Furthermore, AAs like him for his loyal support of Obama as his VP. Additionally, he is perceived to have the best chance to defeat Donald Trump. I maintain that the Dems are so desperate to defeat Mr. Trump they would even nominate Kim Jong-un if they thought he could do so.
Biden has some negatives, however, which could prove problematic:
1. His long career contains some vulnerabilities, which his opponents are sure to bring up, such as his support for the Crime Bill of 1994, his treatment of Anita Hill and his propensity for being “handsy” with women.
2. He has a propensity for verbal gaffes, such as his recent identification of “Margaret Thatcher,” instead of Theresa May, as the prime minister of the UK. Supporters will try to downplay these gaffes, but opponents will attempt to tie them to his age and infer he is not competent to serve.
3. His rallies have drawn small crowds. This is puzzlingly inconsistent with his strong showing in the polls. For example, recently he drew a small crowd to a rally in Philadelphia (some estimates put the total attendance at under 1,000), whereas Mr. Trump drew a substantial crowd in Montoursville, a small town in the middle of nowhere.
In a recent rally in Iowa he drew fewer people than Warren. His crowds have been significantly smaller than Sanders’ and Harris’ as well. This has generated some concern among supporters. For instance, recently, Aimee Allison, president of “She the People,” a national group that supports women of color, told reporters “I started to think the polls were wrong about Biden because it’s not what we’re seeing on the ground.”
I think the size and enthusiasm of crowds is a reliable indicator, but others disagree. Supporters say there is no cause for concern. They say the small crowds are a reflection of the make-up of his supporters – older and moderate. Moreover, they point out that voters “know” him already. I’m not sure I buy that argument. Time will tell.
4. So far, Biden’s campaign schedule has been light, especially compared to that of Mr. Trump. Some observers, such as FL Republican Representative Matt Getz, question whether Biden has the “energy” for an intense 18 month campaign. He characterizes Biden’s campaign schedule to date as a “French workweek campaign.”
With respect to Sanders I feel he has a small hardcore following, but his Socialist program will not engender enough broad support for him to win the nomination, much less the election. Socialism may sound good at first glance (Who doesn’t like free stuff?), but eventually people will realize most of the programs are unrealistic and unworkable. Moreover, we have no way to pay for all his programs. He will, however, likely generate enough support to influence the Dem platform, dragging Biden so far to the left that he will need a GPS to find the middle to attract the moderate support he will need to win the election.
As I said, I don’t think Warren, Harris and the rest have much of a chance. Each of them has espoused far left/Socialist programs that do not have mainstream support, which I have discussed in previous blogs, and I can’t see them generating any significant support among the electorate. I think it is more likely that they will fall back into the pack after the early primaries, if not before.
“The Hill” has cited an editorial in the “NY Times” by Yale professor Steven Rattner that predicts Mr. Trump will win handily, based on two factors – his incumbency and the surging economy. History tells that absent an unusual situation, such as a war, people almost always vote their “pocketbooks.” The question, “are you better off today than you were four years ago” really resonates with voters. Rightly or wrongly, the current president always gets the credit or blame for the state of the economy on election day.
Although one-term presidencies were not unusual during the 19th century, it should be noted that only two elected presidents have lost re-election bids since 1932. Can you name them? (See answer below.) Moody’s Analytics chief economist, Mark Zandi, agrees that incumbency is a significant advantage. He cites the combined conclusions of a dozen models. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, most of the major polls show Mr. Trump narrowly trailing Biden, Sanders and even Warren. Interesting, but keep in mind these are popular vote polls, which are probably being skewed by the Dems’ wide margin in a few large states, such as NY, IL and CA. Of course, the election will be decided by the electoral college where Mr. Trump is likely to have an edge. Like I said, this election cycle is likely to be very interesting and entertaining.
Answer to quiz question: Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.