Why Democrats must nominate a moderate presidential candidate

Why Democrats must nominate a moderate presidential candidate
© Greg Nash

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Biden to host 'virtual fireside chat' with donors Esper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander 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 SandersCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Cuomo's been good, but he's not going to be the Democratic nominee Does Joe Biden really want to be president? 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 ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession 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 Devi HarrisWhy Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Enlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats 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 PenceWatch Live: White House coronavirus task force holds press briefing Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump, GOP on coronavirus Religious groups battle orders to close services 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 ObamaBooze, peanut butter and guns: Why Americans' shopping lists changed during coronavirus Cuomo's been good, but he's not going to be the Democratic nominee The Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention 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 TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' 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.”