Like most primaries, the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential election has ebbed and flowed, often going through new “phases” — candidates experience a rise and fall.
Up to this point, we’ve seen a brief spike in the prospects of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, who, after famously confronting former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the issue of bussing in the first presidential debate, has since petered out.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, after a rather rocky start to her presidential campaign, saw her numbers start to swing upward as she became the woman known as having a plan for just about everything. Since then, she’s hit a plateau, and much of the party wonders if she’s too far to the “left” to win in a general election.
There’s Vice President Biden, who has surprisingly remained steady during the primary season, despite rough debates where he often meanders in his thoughts and struggles to put together sentences — leaving us wondering if he can go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump on the debate stage.
The current darling of the primaries in South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and while he still polls behind Biden, Warren, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the national level, he’s seen his polls skyrocket him to the front of the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire — the two states that will be kicking off the primaries.
In a twist of irony, despite the largest field of presidential candidates ever, the Democratic establishment is terrified that no one running has what it takes to defeat Trump next November. Biden is too prone to gaffes, while Warren and Sanders are too far to the left to win Independents and moderate Republicans dissatisfied with Trump; the fear, or lack of confidence, has been so high that it’s been integral to two people jumping into the presidential race, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Both have entered the race so late into the process that they’ll be skipping the Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina primaries and, as such, both are unlikely to gain traction or momentum. Both seem as if they’re, as such, merely adding to what’s already been a chaotic primary season riddled with anxiety. It isn’t unusual for voters or the establishment to feel uneasy about a pool of candidates, but this election cycle, those feelings are exacerbated by the unique situation on hand — namely, the urgent need to defeat the destructive president we currently have.
Voters have shown throughout the season that what they care most about is picking someone who is best-equipped to beat Trump, and through that question, some debate arises. Is the person best fit to win a general election someone who is more moderate, and can win back Independents and center-right Republicans? Or, conversely, is it best to go with someone stumping for bold, structural change, to galvanize people and inspire high voter turnout?
I see pros and cons to both, and don’t necessarily think there’s a “one size fits all” answer, unfortunately. Presumably, the best candidate is someone who can marry the two trains of thought in a seamless way that comforts both sides of the Democratic base: the progressive and the moderate wings. Someone who is more moderate will inevitably cause a fraction of people who identify as staunchly progressive to stay home (or perhaps vote the third party), while someone deemed too liberal may lose votes from people who are on the fence. It’s all part of the high-risk game of politics, and we’re still too far out from the election to say with certainty what the right approach is.
As the uncertainty over the Democratic primaries whirls in the ether, the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s abuse of power regarding Ukraine has resulted in damning testimonies over the past few weeks. Objectively, much of what came out doesn’t look too good for the President, as all signs point to Ukranian policy hinging on whether Ukraine would announce an investigation into Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Most national polls show the current Democratic front runners beating Donald Trump, but the distinction between national and state-level polling is important. When looking at polling of battleground states (Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida, and North Carolina, just to name a few), it’s a much closer race. In theory, it’s possible for the Democratic candidate to win by a larger margin in the popular vote than 2016 (where Hillary Clinton won by nearly three million votes), yet still, lose the Electoral College. In that sense, I understand the scrambling and the sense of urgency within the Democratic Party to find some type of savior. Looking at the Governor races in Kentucky and in Louisiana, what that tells us is that Democrats are still viable in deeply red states. Their messaging just has to be right, and something that the general populace can digest.