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Why Democrats must nominate a moderate presidential candidate

Why Democrats must nominate a moderate presidential candidate
© Greg Nash

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE has now officially declared his candidacy for president, making him the 20th candidate to enter the Democratic primary race. He enters the race as a moderate center of left candidate in a crowded party field of mostly progressive contenders, many of whom champion reforms such as “Medicare for All” and free college tuition. While Biden is the current frontrunner and is joined by a handful of other moderate candidates, it is undeniable that members of the Democratic Party, and especially those who vote in primaries, have shifted further to the left and become increasingly more liberal. Indeed, any center of left candidate will face an uphill battle in the fight to clinch the nomination.

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The need for a moderate Democratic presidential candidate has never been greater. Regardless of whether Biden is the Democratic nominee, it is critical that the party nominates a moderate to face Donald Trump in 2020, or else it risks a permanent Republican majority for years to come. While the new media tends to focus on the surge of several left wing candidates, including Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Trump's debate performance was too little, too late Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE of Vermont, who describes himself as a socialist and trails Biden by more than 6 points according to the Real Clear Politics average, there is also a clear interest in certain sects of the Democratic Party for a more moderate choice.

Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE of South Bend, Indiana, has slowly but surely risen from obscurity to national prominence and is now polling in fourth place, behind Biden, Sanders, and Senator Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Watch live: Biden participates in HBCU homecoming Jennifer Aniston: 'It's not funny to vote for Kanye' MORE of California. Buttigieg, who has made a name for himself as Mayor Pete, hails from the same state as Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE. He is gay, 38 years old, graduated from Harvard, served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve, and was deployed during his time as mayor to Afghanistan, where he earned a Joint Service Commendation medal. In addition to his respected military background, religious faith, and Midwestern roots, Buttigieg diverges from the more liberal candidates by touting the upsides of capitalism and taking more moderate stances on hot button issues such health care.

While many of the more progressive candidates have called for “Medicare for All” immediately, Buttigieg has said that he is for first implementing an all payer rate setting, which is a system that does not eliminate private insurance companies but still mitigates inflation in health care costs. It is also notable that Buttigieg has shown his ability to fundraise from the grassroots base of the party and has held numerous sold out fundraisers across the country with tickets starting at $25. This is a clear indication of his grassroots level potential. Buttigieg has also seen interest from top Democratic donors, many of whom are former donors to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump hits Biden as 'disrespectful' to Obama Is America ready to return to the Obama-Biden foreign policy? Trump's debate performance was too little, too late MORE.

Ultimately, this momentum reveals a true interest within the Democratic Party for a more moderate candidate. This interest is perhaps most acute in Midwestern states, which are essential if Democrats want to recapture the White House in 2020. To be sure, I am not endorsing Buttigieg, Biden, or any other candidate for the moment. But what I know is the powerful momentum that Buttigieg has seen on the trail is telling of the hidden desire for a center of left Democratic candidate who indicates that he or she can work across the aisle and build a consensus with Republicans.

While the far left wing of the party forms a much more cohesive coalition than moderates or conservatives do, they nearly comprise the same portion of Democratic voters. A Gallup Poll conducted earlier this year found 47 percent of Democrats identify as moderates or conservatives, compared to the 51 percent of Democrats who identify as liberals. Still, this is not to say that more liberal Democrats would not be interested in nominating a more moderate candidate so that the party has the best chance to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE in 2020. The same Gallup Poll revealed that Americans who identify as conservatives still outnumber those who identify as liberals by 35 percent to 26 percent, with moderates making up the same portion of the population as conservatives. This is striking.

Regardless of the liabilities of Trump and the controversy engulfing his administration, a striking 70 percent of the country identifies as either conservatives or moderates. Put simply, if the Democrats nominate a starkly liberal candidate, they will lose the White House and solidify a permanent Republican majority. A Democratic candidate who appeals to working class voters and centrists, and puts forth a moderate message of an economy that fosters growth, reasonable health care reform, and compromise on immigration, will carry the Democrats to victory in 2020 and solidify their position as the party of the people for years to come.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”