A Way-Too-Early Handicapping of the 2020 Presidential Race

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

A cigarette, martini, a staircase and Bette Davis — the 2020 election in a nutshell

There are two groups of candidates in the Democratic candidate field. The first group contains people like Bernie Sanders. The second group contains all other candidates whom corporate Democratic power brokers will find acceptable.

That makes handicapping this field pretty easy, at least so far. Note that it’s very early days still, so this is a way-too-early set of predictions.

Characterizing the Pool of Voters

Before we begin, however, the pool of voters must also be grouped, since they have a role in the coming drama. The three main groups of voters are:

  1. Rebels against the pre-Trump status quo (2020 “change” voters).
  2. Those comfortable with the pre-Trump status quo (“Obama was just fine”).
  3. Trump-and-Trump-only voters

There’s a certain overlap between groups one and three, but group three rules out all who might vote for any non-Trump candidate. That is, group three isn’t all Trump supporters, just his most rabid ones. There could be plenty of Trump voters in the first two groups.

According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump’s overall approval is at 39%. The percentage of Republicans, from the same poll, who think the country is on the wrong track is 29%, with 10% not sure. That is, only 60% of Republicans think the country is on the right track, though almost all of them would consider voting for Trump in 2020.

So let’s take a guess at the percentage of “Trump and Trump only” voters in the electorate. The latest Gallup poll divides the electorate this way:
That is:

  • Independents: 42%
  • Democrats: 30%
  • Republicans: 26%

This means that perhaps 15% of the electorate (60% of 26%) is in group three, with the rest, or 85% of the electorate, in the other two groups. That’s a lot of people who might vote for someone other than Trump.

Whom Will the Democratic Nominate in the General Election?

Let’s go back to our grouping of Democratic candidates. A recent Morning Consult poll lists the leaders this way:

I would put Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (unless she spins herself out of this group by a terrible misstep) in the “like-Sanders” group — real threats to the status quo, at least on economic policy. Let’s call these “actual change candidates,” people who don’t just preach change, but whom voters can count on to deliver it.

I would put each of the others:

  • Joe Biden
  • Kamala Harris
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Cory Booker
  • Amy Klobuchar (who has no chance at all)
  • Somebody Else

in the second category. Let’s call them “status quo ante” or “next Obama” candidates — people who want to return to the pre-Trump years when they thought everything was just fine — or at least fine enough — in America. This group may preach “change,” but it will clearly be change at the margins of a reasonably OK system. And they will signal that either advertently or inadvertently.

To take the case of Amy Klobuchar, for example, she signaled that inadvertently just recently with her student loan proposals.

For the following, let’s assume that (a) Trump is the Republican nominee and (b) all Democratic candidates get all Democratic voters (according to the Gallup division) to vote for them.

Case 1: If one of the Democratic “actual change” candidates — someone who espouses broad Sanders-like Democratic Socialist policies and is believed to be credible by the majority of Sanders most eager supporters — is nominated by the Democrats, that person could easily capture not just all of the Democratic voter pool, but a very large percentage of the independent voter pool and a good chunk of those 29% of Republicans who think the country is on the wrong path.

If that person got the 30% who identify as Democratic, most of the “wrong track” independents, and just some of the 29% of dissatisfied Republicans (remember that much of Trump support came from change voters in a change year), that person could command perhaps 56% of the electorate, if not more:

  • 30% among self-identified Democrats
  • 22% or more among independents
  • 4% among “change” Republicans who think Trump is on the wrong track

That puts a Democratic Socialist in the White House. Remember, the total percentage of “wrong track” independents is 62%, or a full 26% of the electorate — assuming they all vote.

Case 2: If one of the “status quo” candidates is nominated, however, things look different. A true status quo candidate will have to sell him- or herself to independent voters using a small set of appeals. These are:

1. “The Obama status quo is plenty good enough. Don’t be scared by all this change-making.”

2. “I’m really a change candidate, though my past belies that. I’m just not as change-y as those I like to call ‘ radicals’.”

3. “I have so much charm, you don’t care what I think.”

About the latter appeal, Joe Biden himself espoused something like that in the 1970s (quoted here): “I don’t think the issues mean a great deal in terms of whether you win or lose,” Biden told Washingtonian back in 1974. “I think the issues are merely a vehicle to portray your intellectual capacity to the voters . . . a vehicle by which the voters will determine your honesty and candor.”

By “honesty and candor” he meant “charm and charisma,” since honesty he had none of, even back then.

If he runs, Joe Biden will sell himself as keeper of the Obama status quo, plus folksy charm. Harris, Booker and Klobuchar (before she drops out) will each use the second appeal: “Despite my past, I’m change-y enough.” O’Rourke’s primary sell is eager charisma; none of his past looks remotely like change, despite the inexplicable addition to his campaign organization of some of the 2016 Sanders alums.

Where Does That Put Them in the General Election?

Again, each will get the 30% of the electorate that identifies as Democratic. Very few staunch Party supporters will withhold their votes from any Democratic nominee in 2020.

Because none of them is a credible change candidate in Republican eyes, very few Republican voters will switch sides if any of these candidates is the Democratic nominee. That puts 26% of the voters against them.

How will independent voters split? According to Reuters/Ipsos, 21% of independents think the country is on the right track, with another 17% unsure. If Trump picks up all of the “right track” independents and a little more than half of the not-sures, his vote totals so far look like this:

  • 26% among self-identified Republicans
  • 9% among “right track” independents
  • 5% among “not sure” independents

With 40% of the electorate already in his pocket, Trump has to win just 17% of the “wrong track” independents to cross 50% of the electorate as a whole.

Again, 62% of the independent voters in America think the country is on the wrong track. Will they vote for Trump, a status quo Democrat, or stay home? They didn’t vote for Clinton in enough numbers to guarantee her a sure win. Will they stay home in sufficient numbers twice?

2020 Presidential Outcomes

It comes down to this. If the Democrats nominate a genuine change candidate, she or he will likely win comfortably. I could easily see a 55-45% popular vote split, with an even greater margin in the Electoral College.

If the Democrats nominate a “status quo” or “change-y enough” candidate, on the other hand, the race could be tight, as it was in 2016.

The key is the “wrong track” independents. Will they vote for Trump, vote just to vote against Trump, or stay home? Remember, shrinking the voting pool means shrinking the number of “wrong track” independents who actually vote; many of those lost votes will be lost by the Democrat.

To show you what I mean, if all independents stayed home, the split between Democratic and Republican voters is just 4%. But 9-14% of independents are likely Trump voters. If only they vote, Trump has a 10% cushion among independents that the Democrats must make up. Can a status quo, change-y enough, or charisma-only candidate do inspire them to  vote?

45% of all U.S. voters stayed home in 2016, a 20-year low. While all of them weren’t independents, that’s ironically the percentage of independent voters in 2018.

What Will Democrats Do?

What follows is even more speculative than the rest of this piece, but there’s some history to back it up.

1. Unless Sanders or a Sanders-like candidate has such a large lead that the race can’t be stolen, the “status quo” (pro-corporate) leaders of the Democratic Party, with media help, will try to steal it.

2. If the theft is so obvious that even NPR news watchers notice, it will drive down Democratic support among independents, who are largely a pro-change group if they see someone they like, and non-voters if they don’t.

3. That won’t matter to Party leaders. Assuming there hasn’t been a palace coup that replaces them, they will run an even more strident version of the 2016 campaign: “Trump?! You want to leave Trump in office?!”

(This is where “Someone Else” comes in, by the way. If each of the other not-Sanders candidates stumbles, Someone Else will be put forward. There are some interesting names in this list.)

4. If a non-Sanders-like candidate is nominated, the 2020 election will be a squeaker, as was 2016, with the incumbent (because this time there is one) likely winning.

5. If the incumbent is Pence, the same applies.

Of the standard-issue Democrats, the most likely nominees at this point, and also the most vulnerable to attack in the eyes of independents and millennials, are Joe Biden (see here for a very long list of his sins) and Kamala Harris, the aggressive, anti-pot pot-smoking prosecutor.

Of course, something surprising could happen between here and there — this is a way-too-early handicapping of the race. And frankly, I hope something surprising does happen; for example, I would love to see the palace coup I mentioned above, though I’m not holding my breath.

The wild card seems to be the amount of support the Sanders-like candidate gets. If that person’s support is wildly off the charts, if she or he is ahead by miles, the refs can’t steal the primary. Otherwise, it’s going to be bumpy ride all the way into November.

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  1. WheresOurTeddy

    Same as 2016 – Sanders in a landslide or Trump in a squeaker if they fix the democratic nom
    Dem Establishment would rather Kamala/Biden/Beto lose than Bernie win.

    1. johnnygl

      Beto and harris are not off to good starts. It’s becoming harder to see the upside for them as they seem determined to prove true every single thing critics say about them.

      Biden is a proven flop. Bernie may win this by default.

    2. redleg

      Dem oligarchs seem to measure election success in dollars instead of votes. Losing the election means keeping the lucre and not having to take any responsibility for governing.
      My prediction: no Sanders type will be permitted to ruin the gravy train. If any of those candidates starts running away with the nomination too early, that threat will be removed.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The DemParty does not have sole power over who gets nominated. If there are so many SanderVoters in so many primaries and so many caucuses that they can elect so many delegates that the SanderDelegates win it for Sanders on the First Ballot, then the DemParty can do nothing honest or aboveboard to stop it.

        Will there be so many SanderVoters that they can actually reach the Delegate First Ballot Victory threshhold? If there are, then they should be able to cram Sanders down the DemParty’s throat, just on the organized and focused numbers.

  2. Mike

    This is a good overview but that party identification chart is depressing. Republican identification falls after 2004 but Democratic identification spikes and drops more sharply after 2008—excitement about candidate Obama vs. disillusionment with President Obama. Party identification has yet to recover to even 1998 Clinton impeachment levels.

    Meanwhile Trump has a 90% approval rating among Republicans. 90%! Overall he’s an unpopular president but he’s impossible to primary.

    1. a different chris

      Yes Trump’s approval, and what’s behind it, makes this phrase (good article in general, just nitpicking) tonally off:

      That is, only 60% of Republicans think the country is on the right track, though almost all of them would consider voting for Trump in 2020.

      They don’t think Trump is the problem! They thought “DC” was the problem, so they voted for an outsider. And they may or may not have expected instant gratification, but they are more than ready to double down on this.

      So I would replace “though almost all of them would consider voting for Trump” with “… and almost all of them will vote again for Trump”.

  3. dcrane

    For the following, let’s assume that… (b) all Democratic candidates get all Democratic voters (according to the Gallup division) to vote for them.

    I have to wonder about this assumption. Many core Democrats deeply resent the fact that Sanders tried to topple Hillary in 2016, when in their eyes it was her turn. They still think he’s cheating somehow by running as a Democrat without “joining” the party, whatever that is supposed to mean. Might some of them just stay home if he’s the nominee, especially if the party has been fighting to put in someone else like Biden or Beto or Harris? I guess it boils down to whether “Trump derangement” necessarily overrides “Sanders derangement”.

    Maybe it won’t be enough to make a real difference.

    1. Geo

      Considering all the “PUMA’s” that voted against Obama in ‘08 (25% of Clinton supporters according to polling) I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar exodus this time around. Whether they’d vote for Trump I find unlikely, but that Starbucks guy might get a lot of their votes. Or, Biden might pull a Lieberman and run third party. :)

      A long way to go, as is often said here, but would be a fascinating test of that “party loyalty” we hear so much about if Sanders were to get the nomination.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Biden wouldn’t have the option. As a Democrat, he’s never been so virulently anti-Team Blue. Lieberman openly betrayed Gore during the recount and was the leading attack dog during the impeachment saga. His glee over our Islamic crusades (Apologies if I upset anyone given recent events but I want to be honest) was particularly galling. Don’t forget Lieberman was part of the anti-Black music (I’m sorry “naughty language”. Its just African Americans seemed to be the targets) trio of HRC and Tipper Gore.

        Biden might be popular with Canadian rejects such as #resistance member David Frum.

        Like Crowley, Lieberman wasn’t keeping an ear to the ground in Connecticut. Yes, the wealthy liked him, but most people aren’t. He needed every Republican vote to keep his seat. Biden on the other hand is “Uncle Joe” in Delaware. I don’t know how close to the ground he is now, but he kept an eye on the state. Biden was definitely on the s**t list of progressive types in the 00’s, but he was ignored as he was too hard too unseat and not as virulent as others either in a vacuum or their individual state.

        As bad as the Team Blue caucus was, the “powerless” Obama had to intervene to help Joe keep his committee assignments. Team Blue was ready to dump him then.

        1. John k

          If I’d been paying attention I’d have realized that big o support for Biden was all I needed to know.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            There was another way to read this. Delaware had a Democratic Governor, and Obama had come off a contentious primary. Giving the slot to HRC was a no no. Edwards had his troubles.

            Who is left? Who hurts or helps the ticket or is removed from an important job or the Senate? Kaine is a doofus. Bayh? Ha! We should have been worried they were on the short list. I was told by people in the campaign it was Kaine at one point. Sebelius? Well, maybe she didn’t come off so good. After all, we saw her in action during the ACA rollout. Dodd is so slimy. He practically oozes. I feel like Richardson is too close to the Clintons to be viable.

            With Obama’s age and new majorities, I’m not sure a young VP nomination was the way to go. Leave 2016 open to legislators looking to make a name.

            Who is a thoroughly useless or monstrous Senator? The answer is Joe Biden. This is in many ways the best thing Obama did.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        They will use threats of that to try blackmailing Sanders out of the race and nomination. They will say that Sanders is unelectable because too many of themselves will vote against a Candidate Sanders to permit Sanders to win.

        They will hope that veiled threats and oily blackmail of that sort will scare SanderBackers like me into voting for some Clintobama-figure instead, so that “we” can “beat Trump.”

        As a Bitter Berner, I have already factored in the Clintonites’ extortionate threats and political blackmail and have decided to back Sanders no matter how many Clintonites promise to vote against Sanders if he gets nominated. I don’t care about beating Trump. I care about electing Sanders. “Beating Trump” would be a side effect of electing Sanders.

    2. Mark Gisleson

      I’d like to know how you define “core Democrats.” I was formerly so core I was an officer of the Democratic party in Des Moines. I worked with advance teams on a Presidential election, staffed two US Senate and one Congressional campaign.

      The people in charge are so devoid of nuts and bolts common sense, they could lose to Trump twice after he’s dead. Harold Stassen could beat this party. Their brain trust is either completely clueless as to the rank and file, or simply unqualified by any measure.

      How do you win a campaign?

      • The lights are on from at least 7am to 10pm at least five days a week.
      • The campaign is in a visible location, not hidden in an office building.
      • The doors are always open.
      • There are always staff/volunteers to greet every @#$! person who walks in the door.
      • Volunteers are given meaningful tasks that as much as possible involve interacting w/general electorate.
      • Volunteers are promoted to supervise other volunteers growing your invested base.
      • Staff work overtime for too little money which is OK because they have no time to spend it anyway.
      • When someone on the street says something interesting to a volunteer, that information can make it to the top of the campaign in less than a day. Currently that time lag is FOREVER.

      OK, I’m old and most likely out of touch on a lot of things (I’ve been on social media since it was invented, did my first blog in the 1990s). But the people now in charge understand nothing about growing movements. They think you can buy [airtime/social media] because people are suckers for soothing ads/angry ads/propaganda.

      They look at how Republicans won last time, and think they can steal that game plan and then kick butt.

      They still think Lakoff is a genius (Noam Chomsky in early 1970s: “He does not know what he’s talking about.”)

      Bernie has a clue. I trust Bernie to sort this all out and (I hope) he will give the Pumas a kick in the pussyhat as they defect to the Greens (where else can they go?!!). People are smarter than we realize. They don’t know why they distrust certain ads, but they can smell the lies and we have to stop lying to them.

      Cities will burn to the ground long before the floodwaters come if we do not fix this corrupt mess starting yesterday. As of today, we still lack that kind of leadership.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        ” Where else can the Pussyhat Pumas go except the Greens?” Well, they could stay home. Or they could leave “President” unvoted for. Or they could vote for Trump himself to try guaranteeing Sanders’s defeat, if they are spiteful enough.

        Let them do it. Let them be seen to do it. Let them be seen for what they truly are.

  4. Clive

    “Joe Biden folksy charm”


    Not that I doubt for a single second that’s how many perceive him when he does his particular act in front of a US audience. But crikey, do people there really get taken in by this sort of stuff?

    Then again, this probably goes back to when we were roaming the Great Plains of the Serengeti. The Neanderthal ancestors must have let the rot set in when Great Hunter Ugg Ugg drew a cave painting of him catching the mightiest bison that ever did roam and feeding the entire tribe for a whole season. Only a few would have had the nous to scratch their animal fur loincloth and say out loud “huh, that Great Hunter Ugg Ugg never caught so much as a lame aardvark and even if he did, he’d eat the best bits for himself then only share the rest with the rest of the tribe after pronouncing that we all have to tighten our belts and live within our means”.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think Joe Biden is a classic example of the sort of politician that wealthy insiders think appeals to ‘regular folks’ as opposed to a politician that actually does appeal to ‘regular folks’.

      Unless I’m mistaken, there is no evidence from his political career that he does have genuine mass appeal. I know he comes top on some early polls, but that’s surely a simple function of name recognition.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        I heard that Newt Gingrich is what a stupid person thinks a smart person sounds like. Interesting Biden twist. I like it.

      2. KLG

        The Senator from MBNA will be as successful this time as in his past feeble attempts.

        The Democrat Party has one chance: Sanders-Gabbard/Warren. Especially since the likely course of events includes: Russia fading into the nothingness it is, Trump continuing to tack witlessly but stirring up his base enough to make them believe, and then finally going all-in on M4A when his prospects are dire in early 2020. No, he won’t mean the latter, but drowning people grasp at straws. If Mr. Market cooperates, only Sanders can run against his transparent MAGA bombast without harm. Will the Democrat Party take that one chance? Not in this millennium. Better to maintain your position in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

        1. Alex Cox

          I second that. Gabbard doesn’t even feature in the article but I believe a Sanders-Gabbard team would be unbeatable. Sanders is very very weak regarding the MIC and has little foreign policy credibility. Gabbard, on the other hand, qualifies as a Heinlein/Starship Troopers candidate (“She served”!) who actually seems to know that war is atrocious.

          1. Jus’Thinkin

            Tulsi Gabbard is being maginalized now. However she has a great message, military chops, and is not an old white fart. I’ve already contributed and so should you even if it is a buck so she can be in the debates.
            I’m an independent and will go with Bernie if he is the nominee but we really need some younger people and Tulsi looks like a great candidate.
            Under no circumstances will I vote or give money to a “traditional” democrat.
            You may think Trump is an idiot but he has proven to be a tough campaigner. Remember he mopped up all his Rethuglicans opponents even Jeb Bush with 100 million war chest. He won’t be a pushover.

            Get out your popcorn. This should be interesting.

          2. Cal2

            Gabbard is the most intellectual, the most progressive, the youngest, healthiest, most attractive, candidate out there. Gee, also a female and a combat veteran, thus harvesting women’s and veteran’s votes.

            That is why she terrifies the Democrats and the Republicans.
            That’s why she should be in the Democratic debates.

            She will not be on that stage unless she gets donations from at least
            65,000 unique voters.

            If you want president Trump re-elected, encourage Kamala.

            If you want president Trump defeated, send a donation to Tulsi
            and demand that she be either The candidate,
            or a vice presidential candidate with Bernie.

            To contribute by mail, please send a personal check made payable to:

            Tulsi Now
            PO Box 75255
            Kapolei, HI 96707

            I carry a stack of per-addressed stamped envelopes so that lively cafe conversations about defeating Trump and the state of politics lead to checks being pulled out of purses and wallets, filled out and dropped into the nearest mailbox instead of being something people may or may not get around to.

            41 and counting so far.

            Smartphone details at https://www.tulsi2020.com/

  5. The Rev Kev

    I see that there are now 599 days left until the next US Presidential elections and there is a lot that can happen between now and then. Was Donald Trump even in consideration at all for President 599 days before the 2016 elections for example? That is a great clip that from “All about Eve” but I am thinking here of a different movie. “Star Wars”. No, seriously. Here is a clip from that film showing the trench run scene-


    So you have the Democrat hopefuls diving into the trench and where what they say cannot veer too far to the left or too far to the right. They have the MSM laser cannons hammering them from out in front and if that was not enough, they have Clintonite TIE fighters trying to shoot them down from behind. Most of them are crappy candidates anyway so they are the ones in the doomed Y-Wing fighters but the real ones to watch for are the better candidates like Sanders and Gabbard who get the better X-Wing fighters. All want to get a slam dunk into the exhaust port of the Electoral College but all must be aware of Darth Trump zooming in on them.

    1. Foomarks

      I ❤️ this anology. Also, I hope to see more movie analogies for the 2020 race in order to keep me sane!

    2. DonCoyote

      Who is in the Millenium Falcon to swat away the better TIE/DV fighters? Millenials (we can rename it the Millenial Falcon!)? Lefty blogs and podcasts?

      But seriously–at least this article talks about the fact that the largest voting block is independent–that Vanity Fair article linked yesterday claimed it was about who could win in the general and then spent the rest of the article blathering about what Democratic voters thought. Um…you don’t realize you’re only talking about 30% of the general voters there?

  6. Jim

    How does the analysis change if a recession hits? Trump has declared his ownership of the economy and micromanaged enough that he won’t be able to Teflon don his way out of it. The right track numbers are pretty amazing considering the top-line nationwide numbers. I wonder how many republicans thought we were on the right track in 2008 and believed Cheney’s mental recession garbage.

    Why don’t budget projections ever include a recession? They trend things like the deficit without ever considering shocks that lower revenue and spike expenses.

    1. johnnygl

      Trump’s approval rating took a substantial hit in dec when the stock market wobbled. The fed quickly got the message to lay off tapping the brakes. His approval rating has since popped back up.

      I’m not sure how to disentangle that from the shutdown mess, which was clearly a bad look for trump.

  7. John A

    As a non-American who would have favoured Bernie in 2016, never H Clinton and either abstain or better Trump than HRC, I wonder why Tulsi Gabbard is not in the above analysis?

    She is anti-war but with a patriotic background and not only argues that Iraq, Libya and Syria etc., were wrong, but also that all those trillions wasted on war could have been used for healthcare, repairing crumbling infrastructure, education etc.
    To me, she seems a far better candidate than Warren.
    Any explanations as to her omission?

    1. Shonde

      Same thought as I read the article. I would see her as more viable than Klobuchar and I say that as a Minnesotan.

    2. Jessica

      I like Tulsi Gabbard much more than Warren myself. I am grateful that Tulsi is saying the things about foreign policy that Bernie doesn’t. However, Tulsi is comparatively new and not nearly well-known enough to have much of a chance. Right now, she is third in line to be the real left’s candidate.

      I don’t think Klobuchar is viable myself but the case can be made that because she is a “centrist”, her situation is different. The status quo faction is going to audition a number of pro-oligarchy candidates and line up with whichever one catches on. If any of them do, they will have the media wind at their backs.
      If Tulsi starts catching on, she will have that same wind in her face.
      I know that I am not the only one for whom Bernie-Tulsi would be the dream ticket.

      1. carycat

        i like to see a Sanders / Gabbard ticket (in either order) as the MIC or Banksters will resist a regime change because the VP will be worse for their flavor of grifting.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking that! I think that if Bernie was foolish enough to pick someone more ‘acceptable’ to the establishment as VP, some sort of ‘accident’ would be inevitable. He would of course, as Lambert would no doubt point out, have to ensure he and Gabbard never shared a flight.

            1. Cal2

              Like Al Gore shackling himself to Eeyore Lieberman?

              What a disastrous “choice” that was.
              I’m sure he was forced to accept that by party insiders.

              Gore would have won without Lieberman.

            2. drumlin woodchuckles

              And Gabbard would have to live in her own version of Cheney’s “undisclosed secure location”.

          2. John k

            I see tulsi as his insurance policy… but he should stay away from her until he gets the nom to avoid an early accident.
            She’s nowhere in the polls, I guess that’s why Yves didn’t include her. She’s not a natural progressive, but she’s learning. If he wins and picks her it will give me great hope on foreign policy and Russia.

            Biden still polling first… a little scary, and he will get bump when he gets in… hopefully polls are again missing the young… or that the people not willing to spend time on the phone with pollsters tend to support Bernie, like me.

            1. Arizona Slim

              I have read that polling by phone is quite difficult, given the growing number of people who screen calls.

    3. Paul Art

      Gabbard has very strong ties to the India BJP party. The BJP trace their roots to the same sewer that begat Nathuram Godse the Hindu nationalist cretin who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP has been in power in India since 2014 and have been systematically killing off journalists and muzzling the press when they are not busy killing Muslims and Christians under one pretext or another. Tulsi has played the mute about everything BJP and Narender Modi (current PM of India). As someone from India, this is more than enough for me to brand her as a Right Wing apologist if not a stealth fascist. Her record in Hawaii is also not progressive by any means unless you define identity politics as progressive. It is my hope that some publication here will do a thorough expose of her ties to the BJP and Hindu nationalism.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, this is one of the oddities about Gabbard – her connections with the most extreme brand of Hinduism is a bit concerning.

        Having said that, I really wonder how much the average voter knows or cares about who Modi is and what he represents in India. I suspect this is one reason her opponents haven’t so far as I know tried to use it against her.

        1. Hepativore

          One thing I would like to see about Tulsi Gabbard is if her position on torture evolved, because she did seem to agree with the idea that torture was justified under the flawed logic of the “ticking time bomb” scenario.

          Has anybody heard anything about this, or does she still think that torture should be legal in some circumstances? If she still would allow torture, this would give her a major black eye in terms of being an advocate for progressive policy positions.

          1. False Solace

            This is a valid criticism of Gabbard in my opinion (“it’s a difficult issue but torture is maybe OK if the world turns into an episode of 24”). AFAIK she hasn’t clarified it since the original interview several years ago. Kyle Kulinski has a video about it on youtube where he discusses many of the criticisms of her and the evidence he sees for/against.

            1. Hepativore

              I saw that, and Mike Figurado of the Humanist Report also talked about it. He send his concerns to Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign team, and they did say that Gabbard has backed off on her previous stances on gay rights but I am not sure if he ever got a response back on the issue of torture Modi

        2. Cal2

          As an American, I don’t give a damn about Indian politics or her connections to it.
          She’s the best thing to reform the Democratic Party that we have.
          I am interested in my own country.

      2. False Solace

        Gabbard clearly, openly supports M4A, and it’s not the wishy washy psuedo-support of candidates like Harris. She has distanced herself from the BJP so to say that she has been “mute” about these issues is just plain false. Gabbard has met with members of multiple parties in India, does that mean she supports all of them? Is it necessary for her to ritually criticize every bad person in every single country to assure you she doesn’t have “strong ties” to them and isn’t a “stealth fascist” (seriously??)?

        The reason smears like this keep circulating about Gabbard is obvious — she is one of the most credible anti-war voices in government — but it’s not obvious what remedy commenters like this expect of her beyond what she’s done already. It’s a doublebind. Gabbard can’t win, which is more than a little dishonest.

        1. Anarcissie

          Regardless of whether she can win, if Ms Gabbard gets a certain amount of support in the form of even small donations, she will get into the debates where she can raise opposition to empire and imperial war to public consciousness and respectability. Not only will this advance antiwar efforts, but it may also undercut the conservatives who still have a stranglehold on the Democratic Party, as they seem devoted to neocon foreign and military policy.

      3. ChrisS

        I’ve noticed that a lot of people who have never worried (or even thought about) Hindu nationalism in the past are suddenly clutching their pearls about it. (I am not slagging you, Paul Art, on this subject; I don’t know if you have connections to India or have been speaking about Hindu nationalism for awhile). And most of these people will forget all about Hindu nationalism once again after Tulsi loses the primary. Although I suppose that there are one or two Americans worried about brown people slapping the hamburgers out of their hands …

        Its the same with her former stance on gay rights. People who didn’t even bat an eye about gay rights when they voted for Obama or Clinton (either Clinton), are suddenly concerned with what a teenage Tulsi Gabbard said almost 20 years ago (despite having evolved on the subject much faster than either Obama [genuflects] or St. Hillary).

        These criticisms of Tulsi (in my opinion) are about discrediting her, and by association, discrediting her foreign policy views.

        1. Mark Gisleson

          I would like to know a lot more about Gabbard’s parents. That we have two candidates with a Tamil parent this cycle is unbelievable (at least as unexpected as the Cult of the Dead Cow resurfacing). I need to learn more about what that means in general, and what it means vis a vis Gabbard and Harris.

          1. Grebo

            Neither of Gabbard’s parents are Tamil if Wikipedia is to be believed. However, Wikipedia implies she attended a Christian missionary school in the Philippines. Other sources indicate it was in fact a Cult of Chris Butler ‘Hindu’ missionary school.

          2. richard

            I don’t want to know s*&^ about tulsi’s parents, or bernies or betos or kamalas or anybodies goddamn parents.
            No offense, but the further we step away from policy at this stage, the further we step toward madness. I don’t think I overspeak. Stick to the argument, not the wo(man).

          3. Cal2

            “I need to learn more about what that means in general, and what it means vis a vis Gabbard and Harris.”
            Here’s one fourth of your question answered:

            Donald Harris Slams His Daughter Senator Kamala Harris for Fraudulently Stereotyping Jamaicans and Accusing Her Of Playing Identity Politics Jamaica Global Online. The money quote:

            Professor [Donald] Harris has issued a statement to jamaicaglobalonline.com in which he declares:

            “My dear departed grandmothers as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics. Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.”

  8. Edward

    There is a political scientist who has devised a system for predicting presidential elections that has a good track record. He has something like 14 criteria he looks at to predict a winner. It is a different kind of analysis then that above.

    I think a wild card in the election is whether Trump will face criminal prosecution. If that happens, his supporters will feel cheated while his opponents will cheer.

    A way status-quo people could undermine “change” politicians is to cooperate with their election but then set them up for failure. There might be lessons from the 1972 McGovern campaign or from Britain’s Corbyn drama.

    1. John k

      Seems early. Presumably the state of the economy employment is an important input… trump is toast if recession.

  9. notabanker

    Good post, I agree with most of it in general terms. Another reader posted a link to Dore last night that was very interesting. He calls out Donny Deutsch who flat out said he’d rather vote for the “despicable human being Donald Trump” than a Socialist. Not that this is surprising, but that he actually said it on National TV was interesting.

    Beware of the Monmouth polls. “Democratic Primary Voters” is a very small group. This is the same propaganda trick MSM used with Clinton by including the superdelegate totals in her countdown to throne in 2016. Make it seem like their popularity is bigger than it really is.

    Sanders has to walk into the convention with more than 50% of the delegates just to have a chance. The calculations for awarding delegates are very complex and the 15% rules will play a very large role. Generally speaking, and it varies by state, the 15% rule will apply at the district level for 75% of the delegates and at the state level for 25%. I would expect some of these idpol candidates to focus on specific districts where they can capture delegates even if their statewide percentages are small.

    Watch Yang. He seems to me to be a lot like Perot, only young, smart and with a personality. Perot nabbed 19% of the vote after abandoning his campaign and choosing a former civil war general to be his running mate. He is going to appeal to a lot of people that think Sanders is too old. His campaign staff are all startup techies. His campaign manager is a former Investment Banking philanthropy salesman.

    1. False Solace

      > His campaign staff are all startup techies. His campaign manager is a former Investment Banking philanthropy salesman.

      This is not a point in Yang’s favor.

    2. QuarkfromDS9

      Yeah Yang’s no Ross Perot. I suspect he’ll get about as many votes as Martin O’Malley did. I think he’s polling at about 2% now? I have noticed there’s some effort in the media to prop him up, perhaps with the suspicion he’ll eat away at Bernie’s “Millennial” support? His support base seems to be largely young 4channer NEET types who are attracted to his promise of free money. But 4channer NEET types also like creating and posting racist memes, and I’ve already seen sites like “DailyStormer” start to make pro Yang memes, so this association is not likely to help him. A lot of them are also under 18 and even the ones that are over 18, I doubt they’re going to be able to donate much or go canvassing for him (as the vast majority of them are basement dwellers with social anxiety disorder).

      And honestly, he isn’t particularly “progressive” either. A quick look at his platform shows a neoliberal slant peppered with poached policy proposals from the left that I doubt are sincere convictions of his. Sure, there’s “basic income” (not necessarily a left wing policy) ,pardoning all non violent drug offenders, and Medicare for all (which I doubt is sincere). But then you get to other things like his higher education policy. He’s against tuition free university (on the grounds that not everyone should go to college…lol) and can’t even fully commit himself to tuition free community college. No policy on securing and expanding social security, there is a policy however to expand the use of defined contribution private retirement accounts though. He also supports “tort reform” and utilizes neoliberal myths like the “skills gap” in some of his policy proposals. He also wants to move to all digital voting via “blockchain”. No policies whatsoever on minimum wage (I did find a video where he said raising the minimum wage equates to job losses through automation, a claim debunked by countless studies) or labor rights. He does however have some interesting out of the box proposals, like creating a national “timebank” system, but none of these proposals are anything more than few paragraphs, no detailed policy proposals.

      I’ll take a hard pass.

      1. Rom

        I don’t know, if I had the choice between getting 1,000 dollars free a month, and starving to death in a gulag, then I think I would choose the 1,000 dollars…

  10. Jennifer Bran

    Tulsi should be in the “like-Sanders” group. She is getting a lot of traction with the Reddit following “no cable TV” crowd.

    1. DonCoyote

      Agreed–she just did not have high enough poll numbers to be individually considered by Neuburger. But she may continue to build momentum like Sanders did in 2016.

  11. Stillfeelinthebern

    The Wisconsin 2018 results are a likely model. It was the independents that turned on Guv Walker and he knew it. Once they are gone, it’s hard to get them back.

    Wisconsin is really a purple state because there are many independents.

    I believe the race was such a squeaker because Evers was a boring middle of the road candidate. Here is a good analysis from before the election.


  12. Oregoncharles

    So the party numbers are still where they were: around 30% for each “major” party, 42%, a very large plurality, for “independents” – everybody else. That I after Bernie’s name might actually be worth something.

    Since we don’t really have major parties any more, why are their remnants still allowed to control our elections?

  13. Ptb

    For the general election, you gotta do this kind of analysis state by state for the 8-12 states that are not locked in. The other states do not matter.

    The most important states: FL, PA, MI, AZ, WI. You would think OH also, but the big Dem super PAC apparently decided to triage it out. As it is, Trump can probably count on 45% or in these states against a generic opponent, and would have to somehow BS his way into another 5%.

    Sanders, he would accuse of being Lenin/Mao. Biden would be accused of being Obama 2.0. Plus playing the victim vs fake news media. Democrats, in turn, would accuse Trump of being Trump.

    Sanders, unlike Biden, has a positive message of something big and something new to offer. Biden offers the opportunity to return to a safer, more comforting past. Both could likely beat Trump, but if you look below the surface (the Trump campaign probably won’t) Biden’s policy record is awful, i.e. Republican Lite in way too many areas. The dangerous assumption is that a Republican Lite candidate can beat the full flavored version, going head to head in a purple state.

  14. Mac na Michomhairle

    Someone commented yesterday that the horde of democratic candidates has primarily one purpose–to draw off enough voters from Sanders so that his lead going into the convention is slender enough that the super delegates and party managers can choose their own candidate.

    The horde makes no sense otherwise, given the party establishment’s control of the process and need to focus energy on a suitable candidate early. The horde is like the Spice Girls, offering something for every taste (as it were); a candidate to draw off older voters; a candidate to draw off Texas voters; a candidate to draw off Californians; another to draw off Eastern college-educated who want orderly reform in good taste; etc. In general, to diffuse attention by filling the air with vaguely reformist talk so that the primaries process becomes merely a question of voters choosing their favorite brand of vague reform: surfer boy, or back slappin’ old guy, or slightly daring slightly black female Californian, etc..

    This may be a recent strategy shift, after having seen that Harris will not carry it, and after recognizing that no other hack candidate is strong enough to do it either.

    1. flora

      And where will the Dem estab and their super delegates do the deed? In Wisconsin! Of course! The state Hillary never visited and a state primary Bernie won in 2016. From an email from the DNC:

      Milwaukee [Wisconsin] will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, putting the political spotlight on Wisconsin in 2020.

      As the 2020 campaign shapes up, Wisconsin is in the best position to determine who the next President of the United States of America will be!

      No candidate will win the White House without Wisconsin, and we need your help now to ensure Wisconsin goes blue!

      The current Dem estab: A day late and a dollar short … again.

  15. John k

    The Clinton dems have tds, big majority would pick Bernie over trump even if they harbor resentment. Of course the rest of the dems, too.
    Indies overwhelmingly for Bernie… who else are they waiting for? Second coming?
    And the 1/5 of reps wanting M4a and 15/hr.
    55% imo conservative, probably high 50’s or 60, that’s an ec landslide. Certainly all the swings, Maybe Tx.
    Broad coattails. Bigger house majority, dems win senate partly because more reps up for election.
    Bernie has huge power to move agenda in honeymoon.
    And that’s if no 2020 recession.
    IMO oligarchs have done the math. Anybody but Bernie.

  16. PKMKII

    The other factor that has to be considered in handicapping/predicting is what electoral college outcome the candidate needs to pursue. Assuming the Democratic nominee wins the same states as Clinton did in 2016, that’s 232. So at least 38 electoral votes in addition to that to win.

    The berniecrat approach is clearly aimed at winning over disgruntled working class voters and youth voters. The path there would most likely be to flip Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (278 votes). The establishment approach would, if the special elections and the DCCC 2018 strategy are any indication, is to target affluent suburbs, win over the Meghan McCains of the world. The path there would most likely be flipping Florida and Pennsylvania (281).

    I see the latter strategy as faulty for two reasons. Long term, the strategy ceases to be effective once the spectacle of Trump is out of office. Second, while Pennsylvania was a squeaker and could easily be flipped with some mildly elevated turnout, Florida is a different story. The only Democratic candidates for president to get over 50% of the vote in the last 50 years were Obama in ’08 and Carter in ’76. No Democrat has won the governorship since 1994. Both current senators are Republicans, and the congressional delegation has a nearly 2:1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats. Florida should be thought of as not a swing state, but rather one that has the potential to go blue in landslide years (Obama, Carter, and Clinton did not need Florida in order to win in the years they won Florida), and the conditions going into 2020 are not landslide conditions. The Berniecrat states, on the other hand, were all squeakers in 2016 and had significant red-to-blue shifts/backlashes in 2018.

    Now that’s not the same as saying that the establishment strategy couldn’t get the Democratic candidate the majority of the votes. I could see it lessening the margins in places like Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, or the Carolinas. It could even win North Carolina, although that without Florida would not be enough. It’s just not going to flip any necessary states.

  17. Lambert Strether

    > 1. Unless Sanders or a Sanders-like candidate has such a large lead that the race can’t be stolen, the “status quo” (pro-corporate) leaders of the Democratic Party, with media help, will try to steal it.

    That’s been clear since all the Sanders supporters were purged from the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC, which would adjudicate any disputes of this.

  18. Seamus Padraig

    Bernie has one big advantage in the primaries this time around that he didn’t have in 2016: the superdelegate system has been scaled back to prevent them from voting in the first round at the convention. They only get to vote in the second round in the event that the convention failed to pick a candidate in the first:

    On August 25, 2018, the Democratic National Committee agreed to reduce the influence of superdelegates by generally preventing them from voting on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, allowing their votes only in a contested nomination.


  19. Sanxi

    Clearly, a lot of hard work and thought in this post. For me as bad as Hillary was she still won the popular vote so in reading your analysis I feel the need to apply to the Midwest and Pennsylvania which she lost. As the house elections show there is strong support for democratic candidates but I have a different take on the what you have defined as ‘change’, Obama’, and pre Obama, as it applies to the above mentioned areas.

    Change. In a sense your right, but it’s more like people bought a car that isn’t working right that they now want it fixed. Meaning America is not supposed to be some kind of rigged game. Worse, government, Main Stream Media, are suppose to at least pretend they care but guess what they don’t and worse they lie to me about the circumstances of my own life, I know what’s true. What I want is for this to stop. I want what is broken to be fixed. I have rights and I want them back. I want the lying to stop. Before the Green Deal and Med for All, I first need to hear the basics.

    Obama. Change we can believe in. Obama was a creature of the Pritzker family who in turn had one mission for him save the banks and after that you can do what you want. They had the right guy at the right time. Obama was a one off, accomplished very little other than we wasn’t a republican. There are no lessons to be drawn unless you are a one off and AOC is not old enough.

    Pre-Obama. What’s that? I sit and stare at the screen, it seems sense Kennedy got shot nothing has been good. Not saying if he lived his impact would of been so great. Who knows, all we have is what happened. When Republicans rule it seems like a foreign occupation. Democrats epically devolve into tragedy, even Obama- there was no change to believe in. I was proud of my country that he was elected, but beyond that…all I have are tears. What could have been. Well, what will be.

    Back to now. Sanders problem is that if you have ever talked to him is that he tends to talk thru people. Trump got that psychopath thing going for him where you think his really talking to you. It’s going to be a problem no matter what the message or need. Sanders is the right guy but the communication thing is going to kill him and Trump, Sanders, Biden, el al, are all too old. Not the right thing to say but the true thing to say. In an emergency these guys/gals aren’t going to cut it, that’s the science.

  20. Clyde

    It’s Joe. One thing everybody is overlooking might be called “Trump fatigue”. Meaning many Republicans voted for him out of disgust with Hillary or Obama or simply because he was the Republican candidate. I think many of them never liked Trump but they would be leery of a true change candidate. They would go with Joe though. Joe hasn’t made any enemies and would appeal to Reagan Democrats. Take the Hillary vote, add some Reagan Democrats and the Romney “Never Trump” crowd. Point out that compared to the President, Joe is “normal” and “reasonable”. Tack on a progressive proposal or two and that equals landslide. I think after four years of Trump a career politician would be enormously appealing.

  21. Jack Parsons

    Y’all don’t understand the primaries at all.

    Primaries are not about policy. Primaries are about competence. The President is expected to assemble a team that handles a zillion crazy situations every day, and always dominates each one. Primaries are about selecting a competent cage-fighter.

    A bunch of mean vicious cage fighters go into the primaries and one comes out alive. Anything goes, as long as you don’t get caught. Ratfucking? Does the President not ratfuck in order to win against China? Printing the wrong time on a caucus invitation so everyone else’s delegates get there after the doors are locked? Oho! Nice cage-fighter trick, as long as you don’t get caught.

    The primaries are about who can dominate a series of weird situations- and that’s why the elections should be staggered, none of the Super Tuesday garbage, and why each caucus state should have different caucusing rules. Each situation should be different, because the candidates need to flex their muscles at dominating unique situations.

    After the cage fights are over, each side picks a champion and pretends to be honest and clean. Then we have an honest and clean election and elect a President with the aura of legitimacy. The election should be a clear choice on policies.

    But the primaries are about competence.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your claim does not explain Trump’s win or Sanders’ coming as close as he did to beating Clinton in 2016. Clinton had the entire party behind her, huge name recognition, big bucks, and cheated like hell in CA (multiple mini documentaries from poll workers on this).l

  22. Cal2

    Allow me to re-post what I think is a brilliant N.C. comment from a while ago. This is the succinct language needed to convey what’s going on to the general electorate.
    Apologies, the author’s name got clipped off in the save process.

    “[Beto’s] job is to take delegates from Sanders in Tx.
    Harris’ job is to take delegates from Sanders in CA and (hopefully) the “deep south.”
    Biden’s job is to take delegates from Sanders in Florida and the eastern corridor (VA, MA, PA). Warren’s job is to take delegates from Sanders here and there all over but esp like Biden in the eastern corridor.”

    “The aim is to flood the race and to prevent Sanders from winning enough delegates to be nominated in the first round of voting at the convention. Then the superdelegates will pick a “compromise” candidate. This way the Democrats can be assured of losing again and keeping their donor $ and consulting gigs.”

  23. Thomas Neuburger

    About Cal2’s comment just above, credit where credit is due:


    And yes, the commenter nailed it. Note that Warren doesn’t have to know she’s doing this for her to have that effect.

    Note also that a pre-announced Sanders/Warren ticket cancels her negative effect on Sanders.

    Finally, keep thinking about who that “compromise candidate” might be. There are some interesting names on the list if you give it just a little thought. (Yes, that’s a tease.)


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