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DANIEL VAUGHAN: Democrats intent on destroying their one chance at beating Trump
Don’t look now — but it seems like Democrats are intent on destroying their only chance to beat Donald Trump in 2020.
The latest polls for the presidential election reveal that after Joe Biden, the Democratic field is fundamentally weak, underperforming on the generic ballot, and far more likely to lose than pundits are giving them credit for. And while it’s obviously far too early be looking at polls and projecting forward, these figures still offer a snapshot into the overall strengths and weaknesses in the Democratic field versus Trump.
The latest poll comes from The Washington Post and ABC News, who showed Trump’s approval rating rising to the highest point of his presidency, with 44% of respondents approving of him, while 47% of registered voters supported his performance as president overall.
But perhaps more interesting were the results of polling matchups. The Washington Post-ABC News team set out to ask respondents who they would choose among various matchups. They found that between Trump and the top five candidates in the Democratic primaries, only Biden had an edge against Trump.
The Washington Post reported:
Among registered voters, only Biden emerges with a clear advantage, leading Trump by 53 percent to 43 percent. Trump runs very close against Harris (46 percent Trump, 48 percent Harris) and Sanders (48 percent Trump, 49 percent Sanders), and he runs even against Warren (both at 48 percent) and Buttigieg (both at 47 percent).
The margin of error for the poll sample was +/- 3.5%, which means that aside from Biden, Trump is in a statistical tie with the rest of the primary field.
This also means that while voters like Biden more than Trump, those same voters don’t support the rest of the Democratic field anywhere near as much.
After Biden, Democrats are underperforming the most critical metric for election prognostication: the generic ballot. Why should this raise alarms for Democrats? FiveThirtyEight found that in midterm elections, the generic ballot was the most predictive indicator of which party would win an election. They ran that same analysis for presidential years and found “generic ballot polling is just as predictive.”
If you glance at FiveThirtyEight’s adjusted generic ballot tracker, Democrats hold around a six-point lead in the generic ballot over Republicans. RealClearPolitics‘ poll average shows that Democrats hold an eight to nine-point lead. But of the candidates in the primary, only Biden matches or exceeds that advantage for Democrats.
What this metric tells us is that the rest of the field is underperforming in the straightforward metric: how would a generic Democrat fair against a generic Republican? Outside of Biden, they’re underperforming by 6-8 points, depending on which tracking site you use.
Voters view the Democratic field as worse than a garden variety Democrat in the country. This result does not show a robust Democratic primary — it’s a weak one.
The concern, if you’re a Democrat, and the joy, if you’re a Republican: Biden is losing his commanding lead in the early primary states.
Biden, who once held a double-digit lead in Iowa, now has an average of an eight-point edge. When the USA Today poll of Iowa voters forced people to choose the top two, they found Biden held a 35% lead to Kamala Harris’ 33% support. Overall, 21% of voters in Iowa were undecided.
The last poll in New Hampshire showed Biden with a similar weakness, with Bernie Sanders holding a slim four-point lead in the state.
Indeed, a FiveThirtyEight analysis found that the bulk of Biden’s supporters jumped to Harris after the first debate:
About one in 10 Biden supporters switched to Harris after the debate. That made Harris the biggest single beneficiary of Biden’s loss of support. But about twice as many people — about one in five Biden supporters — switched from Biden to a non-Harris candidate or became undecided.
The tepid debate performance [from Biden] inspired little confidence among Iowa Democrats who are evaluating which Democratic contender is best suited to go toe-to-toe with Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 election. And it also reinforced persistent questions about one of Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities — whether at age 76 he is too old for the game.
“I had been wavering on Biden, but the debate took him off my list,” said Karen Wiesemann, 74, of West Des Moines, who now, too, is taking a fresh look at Harris and some others. “It’s time for new leadership.”
Democrats may believe they need new leadership — and if that’s the case, Trump stands to benefit from the crop of extremists running from the far left. Harris can’t decide if she supports mandated school busing or forcing people off their private health insurance plans. Sanders is an old crank. And Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg turn off every black voter they come into contact with on the trail.
Biden remains Democrats’ best — and perhaps only — hope to beat Trump in 2020. Fortunately for Trump, Democrats seem determined to destroy the strongest challenger to his 2020 repeat odds.
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