The first phases of the long trek to election night 2020 have been
passed with a series of candidate entry declarations, followed by the
first TV debate between the aspirants of the challenging party.
So what do we now know?
Barring a gigantic surprise, we know the name of the next president
of the U.S. --- but we do not know which party he or she belongs to,
or the specific name of the ultimate winning candidate.
We know the names of those Democrats who are getting most notable
numbers in the early polling, i.e., Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders,
Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro and Kamala Harris.
They will be in the next (July) debate --- and likely in the third debate.
The remaining names from the first debate will also be in the second
one, but as of now we don’t know how many of them will make it to
the third debate, or even remain in the contest. The five candidates
who did not qualify for the first debate have an uncertain 2020 future.
The punditry have weighed in, brandishing widely varied and perhaps
dubious polls, declaring winners and losers. In particular, they cite the
“decline” in support for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the hitherto
frontrunners. With the national TV exposure, I have previously
suggested poll numbers would change somewhat after the first debate,
but also cautioned about reading too much into them, especially those
of Biden and Sanders whose bases are strong and resilient.
It was inevitable that attention would turn to one or two of the woman
candidates --- and to least one or two of the candidates with diversity
bases. Beyond that, it would take an extraordinary TV performance by
a candidate to excite genuine interest. I don’t think we saw that,
especially from one of the 14 “minor” candidates. At least not so far.
The first caucus and primary are more than six months from now, so I
think we have to be careful about declaring trends --- much less winners
Biden and Sanders have run for president before, and been politicians
for a long time. They have indelible public images, and they have
presumably some strong cards yet to play. Other candidates have also
begun to raise some serious campaign funds --- ensuring they will be
able to survive until the primary voting begins.
The tendency of Democrats, both running for president and for other
offices, to advocate more controversial or radical policies has
continued from the 2018 mid-term election cycle, but it remains to
be seen whether this can be a winning strategy even among
Democratic Party voters - especially with Biden in the race.
There is also a heavy presumption that the eventual vice presidential
nominee will be chosen by the Democratic nominee from among his
or her losing rivals. Perhaps that will happen, but considering the
unusual cycle, perhaps not. In the autumn of 2020, a surprise might
be in order.
With President Trump still able to turn out huge crowds, and
apparently so far holding on to his base, the Republican 2020 ticket
remains formidable --- especially if it can make inroads into the
previously reliably Democratic black, Hispanic and Jewish voters.
On the other hand, Democrat have the opportunity in 2020 to retain
and enlarge their share of suburban women voters they gained in 2018.
Two more debates, more reliable polls, and some current candidate
retirements from the field should provide us another report card on
the 2020 presidential contest, but as usual, I caution against
second-guessing the voters --- and I note the possibility of the
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.