Looking Ahead to 2020


Morning Consult reported the results of a survey of approximately 13k individuals who indicated that they were likely to vote in the democratic primaries.

The horse race data is what you would expect. Table entries are percentages of likely Democratic primary voters.

Candidate Very Favorable Somewhat Favorable No Opinion, Unknown Somewhat Unfavorable Very Unfavorable
Biden 45 33 9 9 4
Sanders 34 41 8 9 6
Warren 19 36 28 12 5
Harris 18 30 40 8 5
Booker 16 26 44 9 4
O’Rourke 17 27 44 6 5
Gillibrand 7 24 56 9 4
Castro 8 20 61 7 4
Klobuchar 7 20 61 8 4


Jolting Joe has the most intense support. He is the only candidate for whom Very Favorable far outweighs Somewhat Favorable. Unfavorables (given sampling error) are roughly the same for all, though Castro and O’Rourke have the lowest (11%) and Warren has the highest (17%). For everyone, except Biden, Sanders, and Warren, the modal response was “WHO?.”

In the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada give you the same basic picture — Biden (39%) and Sanders (28%) with no one else in double digits.

The survey also gave us insight into how well a few candidates play to different segments of the primary electorate in term of their ideology

Voters Very Liberal

Or Liberal

Slightly Liberal

Or Moderate

Slightly to Very Conservative
All Voters 44 40 16
Biden Voters 40 44 16
Sanders Voters 46 39 16
Harris Voters 58 32 10
O’Rourke Voters 48 41 11


Though most of the differences are minimal, they may merit some comment.  As one expects, Biden voters are slightly more moderate than all Democratic primary voters. The voters for the other three candidates are somewhat more liberal and less conservative.  Harris voters are the most intensely liberal (58%) with both Harris voters and O’Rourke voters are the least conservative.




Morning Consult’s poll asked whom voters would support if their first choice was unsuccessful in acquiring the nomination. Sanders, Harris, and O’Rourke voters chose Biden as their second choice. Biden and Warren supporters chose Sanders. Interestingly, Sanders supporters preferred Biden over the other most progressive candidate, Warren.




Biden (the leader in support) voters mirrors the ideological profile of potential Democratic primary voters quite well.  Assuming he is the nominee, then the question becomes how well he mirrors the profile of potential Democratic or Independent general election voters. Given that primary voters are usually more ideologically committed than general election voters, Biden should do well in the general election. His support is high among slightly liberal or moderate Democratic voters. That may also bode well for his acceptance by Independents or disgruntled Rs.

However, two questions that loom large for Biden.  He has a long career that, under the spotlight of the primaries, may make his less attractive to more liberal voters, though he will probably still play well with the less liberal general election D voters.

The question then becomes how can he mobilize the women, young voters and voters of color who drove the Democratic Party to its gains in 2018? I believe the prescription for that is too choose a more liberal person of color for his running mate.

My own PROVISIONAL choice would be Kamala Harris. I can hear the questions now.

Question: But she is a person of color. Are Americans ready for that?

Response: Barack Obama was a person of color.

Question: But he is a woman. Are Americans ready for a woman?

Response:  Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by millions of votes, and a lot of people really disliked her.

Question: What about her record as a prosecutor?

Response: She opposes the death penalty, which is positive.  I think her errors take one more deeply into the weeds of prosecutorial policy than most voters want to go.

Question:  But she is a woman of color.  Can someone with those characteristics be successful in a presidential race?

Response:  Put crudely, I think of her as a “twofer.” She can make inroads among women disgusted with Trump AND people of color.  The mobilization of both constituencies is crucial for 2020. Also, we would do good to remember that, currently, the most popular woman in America is Michelle Obama, a woman of color.

Biden and Stacy Abrams as a Ticket in the Primaries

Oh, hell no, Joe.  Makes you seem desperate, Joe.  Also, you automatically rule out all other presidential candidates who may have built up strong supporting coalitions during the primaries.  Also, the other candidates will have proven their resilience by slogging through the primaries. Abrams can still be considered after and if you win the nomination.

Biden and Beto

I like Beto. I am a native Texan, and he is a breath of fresh air in stale conservatism and right-wing craziness that is Texas politics. He also has the greatest measure of charisma of anybody in the race, and he probably has the least policy chops. There is no doubt that he can be a star.  His “let’s all come together” message is great. It played well against a sniveling snake like Ted Cruz.  As I understand it, during his first debate with Lyin’ Ted, Beto did not go aggressive.  He did in the second debate, and he said that it didn’t feel right. He didn’t feel like It wasn’t him being true to himself.

I fear that attitude is “pie in the sky” during this era when Rs are turning more and more conservative to protect themselves from more conservative challengers in their primaries. I think that many Dem and Dem leaning Independents want someone on the ticket who will have and demonstrate the ability to kick the ass of all those Trumplodytes who cheer as the nation falls about their ears.

Biden and Someone Else

Biden has a record of working across the aisle.  He can capture moderates, Never Trump Rs, and some of the non-college educated white males who HRC lost. So, I think that Biden needs a running mate who will jazz up the more progressive elements of the electorate.  They are there, and they are Democrats. But they must be excited enough to go to the polls.

They weren’t excited about HRC, and she lost key sections of the country because those voters didn’t turn out for her. If they had turned out for her like they did for Obama, she would likely be president today.

Joe is too old

If elected, I think Joe would be 81 by the end of his first term.  That would be a first in American politics.  It seems, however, that most Ds don’t focus on his age.  Instead, they see him as the most experienced of the potential D candidates. Two-Thirds of Ds want a candidate with decades of experience in politics and government, and Joe fits the bill.




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