What Primary Voters Are Looking For

By diderot

May 11, 2019


ith the arrival of a single candidacy, the Democratic presidential race seemed to turn from a free-for-all into Davids vs. Goliath—with Joe Biden playing the role of the big guy. In recent days, his initial lead has only expanded. Joltin’ Joe has at least doubled the support of his nearest rival. And at the same time, the overall measurement of “country on the right track” is polling between 17 and 20 points to the negative—not good news for Trump.

However, a CNN poll last week indicated five different Democrats could beat Trump— with the best bet being Beto O’Rourke. But O’Rourke’s individual support was falling to less than 5% on average. This, if anything, proves that putting too much faith in polling at this point is like figuring out whether it will rain a month from today.

Still, three points are coming into view:

(1) Coalescence. We may now be experiencing a Biden high point. Inevitably, the crowd of candidates will thin. Eventually, Biden and two or three further-left progressives seem destinated to be named “finalists”—but which ones?

In any case, Bernie Sanders is the wild card. If he fails to make the “finals”, how many of the venomous “Bernie Bros” would agree to wholeheartedly support a rival? And conversely, given Bernie’s slash-and-burn campaign, how many supporters of others who fall by the wayside would be willing to gladly back him? Either way, once again Bernie Sanders, a non-Democrat, constitutes the greatest threat to Democratic unity moving toward—and beyond—the party convention.

(2) Goals. A recent CNN poll asked Democratic voters the main factors motivating their current candidate preference. Nearly half—46%--said the ability to beat Trump was most decisive. The "electability" argument is not going away. Next came experience, at 31%. Substantially down the line was “progressive positions”, polling at 20%.

Those first two factors play strongly into Biden’s hands…and might not be subject to much change moving forward. He is what he is, and so far voters are indicating they like that.

(3) Issues. Here’s the shocker (to me). Is Medicare-for-All “extremely important” to Democratic voters? Absolutely, with 75% identifying it as such. After that comes gun control at 65%. But neither is #1. At the top—with 82%--is climate change.

This is the issue that has received little attention from most candidates (outside of Washington governor Jay Inslee)…and virtually none from the media. Look for that to change. (Our Scott Miller wrote a prescription for eco-friendlies some time ago—The Red Cape.)

Joe Biden is clearly the flavor of the month—and who knows, maybe the full campaign season. His proven appeal to the middle class gives him a strength none of his rivals has yet demonstrated.

And it also suggests a campaign slogan that would resonate with progressives, independents, and flagging Trump voters: “I’m a working-class guy—so I know how to take out the garbage.”

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