Tuesday, May 21, 2019


I think Michelle Goldberg is right to be concerned about this:
What worries me about Biden — above and beyond policy disagreements — is that, in contemporary politics, the quest to find an electable candidate hasn’t resulted in candidates that actually win....

“My heart still belongs to Howard Dean because of his passion, but my head says Kerry is the one who can get elected,” a voter told The New York Times in 2004....

Four years later ... Republicans ... went with John McCain, who’d often infuriated the party’s base, but whose campaign emphasized his general election viability. A poll in January 2008 showed that he was seen as the most electable of the Republican candidates, and one of his advertisements claimed that he could “rally the conservative Reagan coalition while appealing to independent voters to win in November.” ...

“The only reason I’m supporting Romney is because he can win the election,” a conservative voter in Iowa told The Washington Post in 2011.
None of those candidates really were electable. Barack Obama didn't seem electable, but he was. The same was true for Donald Trump.

Democratic voters think Joe Biden is the most electable. But is he? Do they really like him? If he's not the candidate they really want, will he inspire enough enthusiasm to win?
On Saturday afternoon, at Joe Biden’s official campaign kickoff rally in Philadelphia, I asked every attendee I met why they were supporting, or at least considering supporting, the former vice president. Often, they mentioned other people whom they thought Biden might appeal to. Again and again, they said they cared about beating Donald Trump above all else.

“On my list of 10 things, 1 to 10 is beat Donald,” said Shyvette Brown, 63. “Health care is 11. And everything else comes after that.” Brown said that she likes Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, but 2016 made her think that Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman. “I don’t like it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.” But given the stakes, she wants the surest possible bet. “We can’t play. This is all or nothing. This is the end game right here.” ...

“There’s two parts of me,” said Shelby Ferguson, a 22-year-old who just graduated from Temple University. “The political science major part of me that is trying to be as rational as possible,” and figure out who can rally Middle America to beat Trump, she said. “That part of me is saying Joe.” But she’s also someone who just left school and is worried about student loans and health care, and that side of her thrills to Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Is it possible to poll this phenomenon? After asking Democrats which candidate they'd vote for, could a pollster please ask them who their favorite candidate is? Or find some other way to determine their preferences if they weren't trying to second-guess everyone else?

Is there unacknowledged support for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders? For Kamala Harris or Cory Booker? Is support for Biden passionate or pragmatic? Can't we find answers to these questions?

It might not matter -- the debates are coming up, then voter interest will increase as the first contests approach. Someone new might break through.

But it would be nice to challenge the narrative that Biden has this in the bag, because the longer we say that, the truer it'll be. That's a problem if he's not really the most electable.

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