Day 53: The state of the race


There’s no sure-fire way to know the mind of the electorate, but this map from 270 to Win expresses where pollsters and other experts think the race for the White House is going, based on the information on hand now.

To win, Donald Trump will have to hold the states of Texas and Iowa and swing all the toss-up states (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Arizona) into his column.  In addition, he must recapture pivotal northern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that he narrowly won last time but that are trending for Biden now.

Trump is a shrewd campaigner, but, as president, he has alienated and outraged so many Americans that it is hard to imagine him winning their votes.  He’s likely to do poorly anywhere with sizable minority communities.  The black population, in particular, is highly energized against Trump and eager to destroy him at the polls.  His predatory and retrograde treatment of women dooms him with this crucial demographic, too.  From day one, Trump has treated his political opponents as enemies, spoiling any hope now of making new “friends.”

Underneath Trump is a Republican party that is rotting away.  The compromises its leaders have made for Trump’s sake have driven thousands of reputable and influential followers away.  Hundreds of high-ranking Republicans have washed their hands of Trump, declared their support for Biden, and counseled rank-and-file voters to do the same.

This discord isn’t free-floating.  It’s playing out in states.  Former governors and legislators are actually working to defeat their own party’s leader.  Trump’s funding is drying up.  Many Republicans up for election are shaky.  As Trump continues to war against his own party’s establishment, he risks a victory that may doom him, too.

RELATED:
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Co-opt and Corrupt: How Trump Bent and Broke the GOP” (NYR)
Jacob Greber, “James and Kathryn Murdoch Become Some of Biggest Anti-Trump Donors(AFR).
“Trump’s August Fundraising Lags Biden’s By 150 Million” (NPR)


Image:
from this source.

The Democrats’ Winnowing Process

On Monday, a depleted Cory Booker dropped out of the presidential race, three weeks before the Iowa caucus.  He had been running for president for nearly a year.  The senator’s departure leaves a dozen Democrats still in the race.  In the incredibly silly yet arduous process used to sift through presidential contenders, sixteen Democrats who were running have already failed.

Yes, they recruited campaign staffs, solicited donations, spoke at rallies, sought friends in wine caves, and pontificated on debate stages, only to gnash their teeth in despair over low statistics gathered through doubtful methods but taken as proof that they wouldn’t catch on.  The reasons remain mysterious, but the polls “say” that these candidates are not what the American Tigger likes.

So Marianne Williamson, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio,  Eric Swalwell, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, Joe Sestak, Richard Ojeda, Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, and now Cory Booker, have all dropped out—beaten before even a single vote has been cast.

Meanwhile, likely voters (and donors) are being looked to determine what the Democratic Party needs.  The Democratic National Committee  is being decidedly hands-off when it comes to the all-important matter of picking a standard-bearer who can beat Trump.  Given the divide that has opened up between progressives and moderates, the candidate who wins the nomination will fatefully determine the tilt of the entire party.

It’s left to the voters to judge the vast assemblage that has shown up in response to what is essentially an open casting call.  The debate stage is an audition for the presidency (a crude test, given what being an effective president actually involves).  Not surprisingly, many voters are holding off in picking a favorite, until they can see what other people think.  Who is a winner?  This is what ordinary voters expect someone else to decide.

Am I a typical voter, I who could imagine voting for Sanders, or Steyer, or Bullock, or Bloomberg?  Even very well-informed voters may well yet be holding fire.  Which makes me wonder about the meaning, at present, of those all-important opinion polls that sites like FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics keep track of for us, and which have caused so many interesting Democratic talents to drop out.

Image: from this source.
Joseph Keppler’s 1884 “An Unpleasant Ride through the Presidential Haunted Forest,” shows Uncle Sam and Dame Democracy riding in terror through a woods haunted with the ghosts of some twenty “dead” presidential hopefuls. Click to enlarge.


WHY NOT GIVE TO AMERICAN INQUIRY?

Your contributions ensure that American Inquiry can continue to delight and inform readers across the globe. Contributions can be made in $10 increments, using the quantity button. Your total will appear on the subsequent payment page.

$10.00

The Second of Two Thoughts (Bernie Sanders and Turnout)

I watched Judy Woodruff interview Bernie Sanders on the PBS Newshour last night and saw something different in his demeanor.  His speech was just as direct as ever, just as ardent, but he was unusually composed and calm.  Maybe it was the heart attack that changed him, or maybe it has occurred to him, “I can win this thing.”

New public opinion polling shows Sanders’ popularity among likely Democratic voters beginning to exceed that of moderate front-runner Joe Biden.  In addition, Sanders is an unmatched powerhouse among Dems when it comes to fund-raising.  He is estimated to have raised $100 million in 2019, roughly forty million dollars more than Biden, and far surpassing even the enthusiastically backed Pete Buttigieg, who reportedly raised about $75 million last year.

After years of being a long-shot candidate, Bernie suddenly seems a lot more viable—even more mainstream.   His talking points haven’t changed, but the political atmosphere and the wishes of the American people have.  To a citizenry weary of the bizarre outbursts and imbroglios President Trump is so fond of, Sanders’ consistency and plain speech are almost soothing.  He comes across as an aging hippy uncle who has mellowed and acquired good manners over the decades by rubbing elbows with people of wildly different persuasions on Capitol Hill.  His views are reassuringly humane and, from his having repeated them over and over, no longer sound as crazy as they did at first.  He is a peacenik who believes that the US can figure out how to be fairer and deliver national health care and education more affordably.

His remarks on the Newshour zeroed in on the issue of voter turnout and political energy.  Sanders argues that he is the Democratic candidate best suited to oppose Trump because he’s most capable of energizing voters, especially young voters, and getting them to turn out.  “To beat Trump,” he was saying, “you’re going to need a massive  voter  turnout. And the only way you do that is through a campaign of energy, of excitement. You have got to bring working people. You have got to bring young people into the political process.”  In short, the nominee must inspire voters to get involved.

A crucial point.  Candidates’ varying ability to galvanize voters in the general election is a factor completely left to the side in primary polling.  A positive excitement, a charismatic appeal: precisely the ingredients missing in the Hillary debacle.  This time around, I hope to God Democrats will refrain from choosing a “meh” candidate who can’t rouse the electorate to go to the polls.  If the Dems make this mistake again—a mistake they have made innumerable times, as they did with Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary—Trump and the Republicans will almost certainly prevail.  Then a disappointed nation will be feeling the burn.