The reality check Democrats need to win in 2020


Democrats may not get everything they want in a 2020 nominee but they will get the candidate they need to beat President Trump — if they get a grip on reality.

If a Democratic candidate wins the presidential race next year, die hard 2016 supporters of Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWomen's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz to The Atlantic: Do not violate Constitution to safeguard it Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated GOP Rep. Tom Marino resigns from Congress MORE will have to get down off their high horses and accept the fact that the 2020 campaign is not about them. It's about the damage that Trump has inflicted on the nation since he became president. Attempts to re-litigate the 2016 Democratic presidential campaign are obstacles to a Democratic victory in 2020.


The reaction to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story MORE's (D-Mass.) New Year's Day announcement dramatically illustrates a major obstacle that stands between the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and the White House in 2020. Judging from the reaction of many Sanders' supporters to Warren's announcement, you would think that the progressive senator from the Bay State is to the right of Genghis Khan and Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity.

This is the same EWarren who beat up on Wall Street financial interests before economic populism became cool. She was so aggressively militant against Wall Street that President Obama pointedly passed her over to run the financial industry regulatory agency that was her idea. The senior senator from Massachusetts senator also co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Medicare for All legislation. But that's not enough for some Sanders supporters. Her major sin appears to be she's not Bernie or that she will cut into his base in during the presidential primary campaign. 

The Hillary Clinton die-hards left over from her disastrous 2016 campaign are just as bad. There are still Clinton acolytes who blame Bernie Sanders for her defeat and even want the 2016 nominee to run again. The cold hard reality is that Clinton ran an inept campaign that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The former first lady made a hash of her mishandling of top-secret emails and she failed to aggressively address the meat and potato economic issues that would have secured the electoral votes she needed in the industrial Midwest.

Democrats need to thread the needle to win next year. The party needs a nominee who is acceptable to both groups but not perfectly acceptable to either. This won't be easy but no one ever said winning a presidential race is or should be easy. It will be easier for a fresh face, a candidate without baggage to defeat Trump than it would be for a nominee that is perfectly acceptable to either the Sanders or the Clinton camps to win the White House.

This criterion excludes the two Democratic front-runners, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenLosing the fight against corruption and narco-trafficking in Guatemala Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated MORE and Sanders from consideration. It's hard to imagine Biden being acceptable to the insurgent wing or the senator from Vermont grading out with establishment Democrats. But there might be a two dozen Democratic candidates, so Democrats still will have plenty of great progressive choices. 

One of the lesser-known Democrats will come out of the dust and seriously challenge the two big boys for the Democratic nod if history is any guide. Few political analysts saw Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton5 myths about William Barr Dems should follow Bill Clinton's lead on minimum wage hike Feehery: Current shutdown impasse is a fight over peanuts MORE in 1992 or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBarack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' NY Times prints special section featuring women of the 116th Congress Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE in 2008 coming from nowhere to beat party heavyweights and win their nominations. 

Eight of the possible Democratic candidates are members of the U.S. Senate and they all are liberals. The only one who is close to being a moderate is Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' Grandson's note to Barr during confirmation hearing goes viral MORE. This analysis is based on an ideological rating created by of all 100 senators based on the bills they sponsored or co-sponsored in 2017. 


The most liberal of the eight potential candidates according to the YouGov rating was Sanders who was second behind Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenGillibrand announces exploratory committee to run for president on Colbert The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Overnight Health Care: House Dems launch major drug pricing investigation | Judge blocks Trump contraception rule rollback | Booker tries to shake doubts about pharmaceutical ties ahead of 2020 | FDA to resume high-risk food inspections MORE of Minnesota on the progressive hit parade. Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyTrump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest partial shutdown Democrats plan to jam up Senate over shutdown fight MORE of Oregon, Kristin Gillibrand of New York and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOcasio-Cortez's first House floor speech becomes C-SPAN's most-viewed Twitter video Kamala Harris says her New Year's resolution is to 'cook more' Harris to oppose Trump's attorney general nominee MORE of California weren't far behind. So if ardent Sanders supporters think their guy is the only progressive in the mix, they're wrong. The same goes for Clinton zealots who think Sanders is too liberal. If they think Sanders is too liberal, then so are the other seven other Democrats in the same boat. 

Reality sucks but it's a necessary ingredient for successful presidential campaigns. The sooner Democrats face reality, the better off the party and the nation will be. There are plenty of progressive Democrats out there and one of them will beat Trump and become the 46th president of the United States of America.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at, a social media network for politics.