The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the 2020 presidential race is eminently winnable for the Democrats, unless they do something foolish — such as nominate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Here’s the good news for Democrats:
Overall, half of registered voters say they are “very uncomfortable” with [President Trump’s] candidacy while an additional 9 percent say they have “some reservations.”
Among those saying they’re “very uncomfortable” are at least half of several traditional swing voter groups, such as independents (50 percent saying they are “very uncomfortable”), suburban women (56 percent) and moderates (57 percent).
However, not all candidates are equally capable of seizing the opportunity. “A combined 58 percent of voters are either uncomfortable (37 percent) or have reservations about (21 percent) Bernie Sanders’ 2020 bid. For Elizabeth Warren, it’s a combined 53 percent. And for Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke, it’s 41 percent of voters expressing either reservations or discomfort.” Given that the overwhelming number of voters know who Sanders is, there is no excuse — as there is for other candidates — that they have insufficient information to decide whether to vote for him. Sanders is about as well known as former vice president Joe Biden, yet the poll shows that Biden’s comfortable/uncomfortable rating (48/48) clearly outpaces Sanders’s (37/58).
Now, plenty of media chatter has been directed at voters’ concerns about Warren’s electability. Hardly any has looked at Sanders’s electability. Even among Democrats, more voters are uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with Sanders (36 percent) than with Warren (33 percent).
Sanders’s age, the “socialist” moniker he embraces and his 2016 campaign problem with women are not going to change during the race. It’s unlikely his personality or his familiarity with foreign policy will improve, either. (The guy is 77, and if we have learned anything from Trump, it is that septuagenarians don’t change their personalities nor attend to habitual deficits in knowledge.) Oh, and on Sunday he again promised to release his tax returns, which he promised over a month ago would be “soon.”
There are no perfect candidates, to be sure. Biden is dealing with the first of likely many stories about his inappropriate touching of women. However, he has a very deep well of goodwill. Beto O’Rourke doesn’t have much experience, but he is learning the issues and to his credit has stuck to his guns on keeping private health insurance (a popular position). Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) — you can go down the list. However, Sanders is unique in that so many voters — and so many Democrats — have misgivings about him. If Democrats really are serious about booting out Trump, they’d better get serious about selecting someone who hasn’t already turned off more than half of voters.