The 2020 Democratic polls, through a different prism.

WMNF Community Radio / Flickr Joe Biden in Tampa 2011...
WMNF Community Radio / Flickr

You know, when you observe something for a long time, whether professionally, or out of perverse personal pleasure, after a while you start to get a kind of a deel for the object of your attention, a normal flow that tends to occur.

In presidential political campaigns, there is normally an almost formal dance, a kind of slow waltz to the affair. Polling tends to show what the most important issues are to the voters, who are what this whole exercise is really purported to be about, and then candidates start declaring that they have the best solutions to these issues, and then start jetting around the country, eating a lot of local delicacies, and expelling toxic amounts of greenhouse gas emissions explaining how they’ll fi everything for all of us rubes. But what if the driving force for the electorate isn’t an issue at all?

Right from the get-go,in poll after poll of Democratic and independent voters, the overriding factor in choosing a candidate for them was electablity. Namely, they’ll nominate anybody who can kick Trump’s scruffy ass out of our big white house. Electability i not an issue, it’s a concept. Voters have even said that they would support a candidate with whom they had moderate to major differences on particular issues, just so long as they knock Trumpty Dumpty off of the damn wall. That’s why Joe Biden led almost every single poll, even before he formally announced, people knew Biden, his experience, and his personality, and decided that he was the best shot to take down His Lowness.

Recently, Iowa polls have shown a little movement, a modest decline for Biden, but significant up swings for Warren and Buttigieg, along with a modest decline for Sanders. Remember two things about these polls. First, they are not an accurate arbiter of Biden’s popularity nationwide, mainly because Biden is cleaning up with African American voters, and those voters only make up 3% of the population of Iowa. And second, Iowa is a caucus state. If a candidate chosen does not make the cut, their supporters move over to another remaining candidate. And right now, Biden and warren are tied as second choice candidates.

But here’s the slightly different prism through which I’m looking at these polling results. Electability is still far and away the major selling point for voters when assessing these candidates, and Biden is still their favorite. But when candidates like Warren and Buttigieg start to climb the polls, that means that not only do voters like their messages and proposals, it also means that they think the candidate can beat Trump! warren’s “plans for everything” may give voters nocturnal emissions, but if they don’t think that she can beat Trump, they don’t do her a bit of good, since defeating Trump is the ultimate objective.

This is terrible news for Biden. Because, electaility is all he has to offer. His age is against him, especially with younger, more activist voters, as are his past and current positions on several key issues. People are willing to forgive those things for now, but if candidates like Warren or Buttigieg become seen as viable contenders against Trump, Biden will be hard pressed to woo them back into the fold again.

And this is even worse news for Bernie Sanders, for two reasons. First of all, Warren and Buttigieg seem to be eating into his popularity at a much higher rate than Biden’s. That’s concerning if you’re a front runner, but if you’re already in second place, it’s a recipe for disaster. And numero dos, at least in Iowa, Sanders isn’t even a majority of the voters second choice! If Biden and Warren continue to split the lions share of second choice votes, and the polling is accurate, then if Sanders doesn’t win it all, the best he can hope for is third place. This would be a stinging blow to a candidate that was within the margin of error with Biden not all that long ago, when Biden entered the race.

Y’all can do whatever you like of course. but with the odd dynamic of having a race where issues are not the top concern, electabilty is, I’m going to look at future polls, especially nationally, in both ways. First, how popular are the individual candidates. Amd second, when a candidate moves up or down, what does that say about peoples perception as to their electability? Until another issues overtakes it, I’m going to look at it as the deciding factor, and the polls reflect it.


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