Don't get excited about Democratic candidates — 2020 is up for grabs

Don't get excited about Democratic candidates — 2020 is up for grabs
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Along with the new year came the predictable onset of the 2020 presidential election cycle. With President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE as the presumptive GOP nominee, most of the action for now is taking place within the Democratic Party ranks. As usual, the early announcements feature mainstream Democrats seeking the nomination along traditional political trajectories. However, as new polling data emerges, it is clear that none of the current front-runners enjoys a clear advantage among American voters. Expect that to continue for several months.

One thing is certain: Candidates who are popular today likely will not be the Democrats’ 2020 nominee. The dance will shift dozens of times before a clear front-runner steps forth. And even then, I predict at least three strong candidates — that’s how fractured the Democratic base is right now. This is not a criticism, but merely a reflection of our healthy democratic process. The system has a way of testing even the sharpest politicos. We should welcome such debate.


It is still worth noting that among those who have announced, none is a clear favorite. The Democrat with the most “street cred” at this point is former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE, who hasn’t announced his candidacy. Typically someone with his experience would be the presumptive nominee. After all, the party’s last nominee, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff MORE, enjoyed all of the insider advantages that Biden possesses, minus today’s baggage of being a rich, white male.  

Of course, Clinton banked on being a rich, white, well-connected female — which ultimately failed to translate into a significant competitive advantage. She won the women’s vote quite impressively against Donald Trump, but she lost the white vote and, significantly, lost the white women’s vote to him by a margin of 47-45 percent, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. Though neither Trump nor Clinton won over a majority of white women, Clinton vastly outperformed Trump among nonwhite women, by a whopping majority of 82-16 percent.

All of this begs the question of whether a mainstream candidate such as Biden could attract the coalition of white and nonwhite women that could surpass Clinton’s totals. Biden has negatives — most significantly, his track record as a losing presidential candidate during four previous runs dating to the 1980s. In fact, he polled badly in the 2008 Democratic primary, coming in fifth in the Iowa caucuses before dropping out of the race. Despite Biden’s name recognition and statesmanlike status, he has yet to prove that he can move a significant portion of even the Democratic Party, not to mention the broader electorate.

And even with high name recognition among Democrats who have announced or may announce their candidacy for 2020, Biden is probably the least capable campaigner. Other contenders, such as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), are formidable political players.

Harris gained a higher profile last year from her memorable grilling of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious confirmation hearings. A former federal prosecutor who hails from one of the largest states and a woman of color, she stands out among the field. Booker is a naturally talented politician, but his poor record on urban renewal as mayor of Newark haunt him in the withering competition of primary season.

Other potential nominees — former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPentagon charts its own course on COVID-19, risking Trump's ire Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation Democrats introduce legislation to protect children from online exploitation MORE (D-N.Y.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic Biden wins all-mail Kansas primary MORE (D-Hawaii) — are potentially formidable. Any one of them, especially Gabbard, potentially could be dark horses. But can any of them beat President Trump?

Although Trump’s term in office has been tumultuous — with controversies that include, but aren’t limited to, the special counsel’s Russia influence investigation, immigration and border security, the recent lengthy government shutdown, and now, new investigations by House Democrats — his base seems to remain firmly committed to him. The fact that Trump has been getting relatively low marks in recent polls belies the fact that he won in 2016 despite a consensus among politicos that his negatives were too high to earn him the Republican nomination, much less the presidency.

As things stand now, early in the game, neither the Democrats’ potentially strong candidates nor Trump’s failure to extend his base are reliable auguries for Election Day 2020. By last fall, Trump already had raised an incredible $100 million for his reelection campaign. At this point it appears the Democratic nomination is anyone’s to win, and the party’s eventual nominee may not yet be in that race.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”