Support the candidate you like best

This from Paul Waldman is so spot-on and so needed right now:

If you talk to the reporters who are following Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail, they’ll tell you that, while the race is extremely fluid and voters express interest in lots of the candidates, the one generating the most passionate excitement is unquestionably Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Yet in most polls she comes in second or third, close to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) but still well behind Joe Biden.

Why? Here’s a New York Times report that summarizes it well:

Few candidates inspire as much enthusiasm as she does among party voters, too, from the thousands who turned out for her speech at the Iowa State Fair last weekend to the supporters in this western Iowa city who repeat her catchphrases, wear her buttons and describe themselves as dazzled by her intellect and liberal ideas. …

These Democrats worry that her uncompromising liberalism would alienate moderates in battleground states who are otherwise willing to oppose the president. Many fear Ms. Warren’s past claims of Native American ancestry would allow Mr. Trump to drown out her policy message with his attacks and slurs against her. They cite her professorial style and Harvard background to argue that she might struggle to connect with voters from more modest circumstances than hers, even though she grew up in a financially strained home in Oklahoma.

And there are Democrats who, chastened by Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, believe that a woman cannot win in 2020.

What follows are a bunch of quotes from voters attesting to how much they love Warren but worry that other people might not like her. [emphasis mine] And so we witness the vicious cycle of ”electability,” one almost immune to facts and experience, in which both savvy journalists and ordinary voters convince themselves that general elections are won by candidates who don’t turn off the mythical average voter, achieving that majority appeal that can be heard when the electorate cries as one, “He’s okay, I guess. I mean, could be worse.”

Like President Mitt Romney. Or President John F. Kerry. Or President Al Gore…

There are a whole set of unspoken assumptions at play when we call a particular candidate “electable.” First, we assume that an electable candidate is one who can reach across the middle to persuade not just independents but people who belong to the other party. That leads journalists and pundits — people who are deeply immersed in politics and have a clear understanding of ideological differences — to conclude that ideological moderation is what makes someone electable, as opposed to charisma or persuasive messaging or anything else.

Next, we assume that to be electable, a candidate will have to appeal to a voter with a particular demographic profile. And who is that voter? After the approximately 12 trillion “In Trump Country, Trump Supporters Support Trump” articles that have been published in major news outlets over the past 2½ years, we’ve come to assume that the voters who matter to electability are middle-aged white men in the Midwest. Appeal to them, and you’re electable; if you’re not the type of candidate we think they’ll be attracted to, you must not be.

What nobody suggests is that electability might be a function of getting your own party’s voters excited and engaged. That’s despite the fact that we’ve seen one election after another in recent decades in which a candidate who excited his party defeated a candidate whose own voters were lukewarm about their nominee. Barack Obama was not electable by any of the standards we’re applying to the 2020 candidates, but he won twice, and by substantial margins. Donald Trump was not remotely electable, but he won, too.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Support the candidate you like best

  1. homeys44 says:

    “Own party’s voters”? And who does Warren fire up there? Blacks or Hispanics for Warren? She might do worse than Hillary there. Democrats are still in denial about how they can’t recreate the Obama coalition without Obama….and how they really need the suburban vote……which Warren will scare to Trump.

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