From my analysis of the race, my personal prediction is that Biden will win both the primary and the general elections. Let’s start with the primary: Biden is currently polling at around 30-35%, depending on which pollster you ask. This is a huge percentage in a ~24-person race, where the mathematical expected value for each individual candidate is ~4%. Moreover, Biden’s current lead over his next closest competitor is ~15% on average, which is three points greater than Donald Trump’s lead over the closest Republican competitor at this stage of the 2016 race. After the first debates, when Biden got owned epic style by Kamala Harris on the issue of busing, there were some fears (or hopes) that Biden’s polling averages would fall; instead, they dipped for a bit but then quickly rose back up to their original equilibrium. Additionally, in the next debates, Biden came prepared for just about every possible attack from the other Democrats, and seemingly survived: His poll numbers rose after the second debates. Moreover, if you take a closer look at Biden’s polling numbers, you’ll see that his seemingly insurmountable lead is due in large part to his support levels among African-Americans. Among this demographic, Biden polls around 50%, and these numbers are no different after the attacks by his various Democratic opponents on his racial controversies than they were before. Biden reaches similar highs with older and middle-aged Democratic primary voters; the reason is the same — much of Biden’s popularity is explained by his association with president Obama. Indeed, in the popular psyche, Biden is remembered as Obama’s avuncular sidekick, which is why attacks on him in regard to racist comments from decades ago will not succeed in the long-run. If Democrats want to defeat Biden, they would need to attack the record of the Obama-Biden administration instead; so far, few, if any, Democrats have been willing to do this in a meaningful way. If nothing changes, Biden is on his way to becoming the Democratic nominee; if this happens, he’ll probably win the general election. My ultra-heuristic, unscientific analysis is that if the Democratic nominee is a white man, then the Democrats will win, but if the Democratic nominee is a PoC, then Trump will win. This is because Americans will vote against whichever candidate they dislike, or fear, more; in the 2016 election, Trump polled well at points in the news cycle when Hillary Clinton’s scandals dominated the news cycle, but at points when Trump’s scandals were the main focus, Clinton polled well ahead — it just so happened to be that at the last week of the election there was some controversy about James Comey and Hillary Clinton’s emails, and that story dominated the airwaves. The voters decided they disliked Clinton more than they disliked Trump, so they voted for Trump. This can easily be replicated in 2020 if the Democrat nominee is someone like Cory Booker or Julian Castro, both of whom can easily be portrayed as Identity Politics -crazed socialists, causing the voters to fear them more than they fear Trump. The same can’t be replicated with Biden — at this point, most Americans have nostalgia for the Obama administration, and with Biden as a boring northeastern white ambassador of it, I can easily see voters choosing him as a “safer” option over Trump. Biden also polls really well in the states that both Obama and Trump won — should he become the Democrat nominee, he’ll probably win back every midwestern state with the exception of Ohio and Iowa, and also pick up Arizona, thus winning the 2020 election.
Sanders is one of the more interesting candidates running, in that he’s the only line of continuity from the 2016 election to the 2020 election. This is a double-edged sword. It is to his disadvantage for several reasons: First, there is still a non-zero constituency of the Democratic party which holds him (at least partially) responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. The argument from most #TheResistance types goes along the lines of “by campaigning long after his loss was inevitable, Sanders exacerbated divisions in the Democratic party, falsely spread the narrative that ‘Clinton stole the nomination’ and subsequently lots of his supporters refused to support Clinton in the general election.” Though demonstrably false, this narrative is still prominent among some older boomer (possibly because the media has spread, or at least refused to refute, it) Democratic voters, even among those initially sympathetic to Sanders’ views (which might explain why he’s bleeding support to Elizabeth Warren). Additionally, times have changed drastically since 2015 when Sanders announced his previous run — his “occupy wall street” style economic rhetoric is increasingly declining in relevance to the Democratic party, which is rapidly becoming more concerned with identity and “racial justice” topics. To the extent that his economic issues are important, candidates like Warren, Harris and Castro — among others — have virtually copied his positions on issues like healthcare, taxation, etc.; this leaves Sanders in an awkward situation wherein candidates who are above him on the identity politics totem pole are preaching virtually the exact same economic rhetoric as he does, and based on the current dynamics of the Democratic party, he doesn’t have much of an argument for why voters should choose him over them. That being said, Sanders also carries over several advantages from 2016. For instance, he has a huge ground game and activist network which supported him in the previous election, and is just as committed to him now. Because of this organizational advantage, it may be reasonable to add ~3-5% to Sanders’ polling averages in caucus primary states. In addition to activists, many of his supporters from 2016 still like him, and would likely be willing to vote for him again ultimately — if only 2/3 of the people who voted for him in 2016 vote for him again in 2020, Sanders wins the Democratic primary by default just due to the sheer number of candidates running. Additionally, he is probably the only Democratic candidate who publicly identifies himself as a socialist; at present, even in the Democrat party, this likely puts him at a disadvantage, but should the economy take a turn for the worse (as several prominent economists suggest will happen before January 2020), this identification will be to his advantage — socialism prospers most when economic anxieties, unrest and troubles are abound. In a similar vein, should Sanders become the Democrats’ nominee, he would do best in a general election if the economy takes a turn for the worse. In an economy that is doing relatively well for most voters (as it is at the current moment) it would be easy for Trump to frame him as a scary communist who will take American taxpayers’ wealth, thus making them more afraid of him than they are of Trump, and securing Trump’s reelection.
In almost every reputable poll after the second set of debates, Warren is polling at either second or third place interchangeably, thus securing her spot on the “top-tier” of candidates running. It is not hard to see her appeal — the conceit of her campaign is that she is an “educated person’s Bernie Sanders.” Indeed, her campaign’s policy proposals and plans, despite being comprehensive and verbose, aren’t really that much different from Sanders’ plans in any meaningful way. Similarly, during the second debate, she and Sanders acted as a sort-of “tag team” against the more moderate Democrats they were debating with on the stage, precisely because her views and Sanders’ views are more similar than dissimilar — if there are any meaningful dissimilarities to speak of. However, because Elizabeth Warren is an “educated person’s Bernie Sanders,” or more specifically a corporate/media/mainstream -approved version of Bernie Sanders, her voting base is more similar to the types of people who you’d expect to support, or even seek out, corporate/media/mainstream -approved candidates. While Sanders’ base is made up of working-class and rural Democrats, Warren draws from wealthier, suburban and urban demographics; while Sanders appeals to younger voters, non-college educated voters and voters who are still enrolled in a college, Warren appeals to college-educated, middle-aged voters (often the more degrees a voter has, the more likely they are to support Warren over Sanders). Sanders draws from men, Warren draws from women. But aside from the economic status and identities of Sanders and Warren supporters, they likely believe the same things and there is certainly crossover appeal among the two candidates. My personal, unverified take is that Warren is a plant from the more moderate wing of the Democrat Party in order to split Sanders’ base and thus prevent him from achieving the nomination. In any event, Sanders’ presence on the ticket will likely prevent Warren from achieving the nomination either, thus paving the way for a more “mainstream candidate” like Biden or Harris to become the real nominee. In either way, should Warren win the nomination, she would be the candidate Trump would most likely win against. In addition to being generally unlikeable among non-Democrats, she is also plagued by cringeworthy scandals like her fake Native American heritage, and the questionable circumstances under which she got appointed to be a professor at Harvard. I predict that she while she won’t win the nomination, Biden will choose her as his vice-presidential nominee in order to appeal to women and the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic party.
Finally, if there was a candidate who had an unfortunate past few weeks, it would be Harris. First, it was revealed that despite her epic pwnage of Biden on the busing issue during the first debates, her own position on busing is not all too different from the position she vituperated Biden for having over 40 years ago. Next, at the second debates she failed to live up to and cary on her momentum — there were no noteworthy, memorable moments between her and Biden, and she failed to leave a lasting impact in any of her positive policy proposals. Furthermore, during that second debate, not only did she fail to own Biden epic style again, but also she got owned epic style herself, by Tulsi Gabbard, who ripped apart Harris’s alleged record as a “progressive prosecutor,” to which Harris had no coherent response. Likely as a result of these incidents, Harris’s polling numbers have dropped precipitously; most notably among the African American population — she is currently polling at 1% among African Americans, despite arguably structuring her campaign around Identity Politics aimed at this demographic. Nevertheless, she clearly has a strong establishment infrastructure and some clear support from the mainstream media. Going forward, it is unlikely, but she could dislodge Biden from his lane as the “moderate” Democrat, but what is more likely is that the other candidates will follow in Gabbard’s footsteps and attack Harris’s controversial prosecutorial record, and someone like Booker or Castro will instead take her place as the designated “PoC Identity Politics” candidate. Should Harris defy the odds and become the Democratic nominee, it would not be much better for her in the general election. Trump will portray her as a radical Identity Politics psycho, and use his own form of White Identity Politics to gin up fear of her in working-class, suburban and rural whites, and handily win the general election. As stated earlier, if the nominee is a white male, then Trump will probably lose, but if the nominee is a PoC — especially a PoC stereotyped to have a radical policy — Trump will handily win reelection.
And that concludes our analysis of the “top-tier” of Democratic primary as it stands now. Stay tuned for next week’s article about the middle-tier of candidates who probably won’t win, but still have a chance if one or more of the top-tier candidates suffers a major collapse in polling numbers for whatever reason. The following week, we will look at candidates who almost certainly won’t win, but have policy proposals or reasons for running which are noteworthy enough to have an article dedicated to them.