The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump is the one with the ‘electability’ problem

President Trump speaks during a "Keep America Great Rally" at Southern New Hampshire University Arena on Aug 15. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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The latest Fox News poll has some hair-raising news for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and for Republicans. Beginning with the Democratic race, “[Joe] Biden continues to lead the nomination race with the support of 31 percent of Democratic primary voters. Next is Elizabeth Warren at 20 percent, Bernie Sanders at 10 percent, and Kamala Harris at 8 percent.” There is some bad news for other familiar names: “Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang stand at 3 percent apiece, and Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke are each at 2 percent.” (The poll goes through Aug. 13, so it does not include reaction-time following O’Rourke’s announcement that he is formally rejoining the campaign.)

Sanders, who has been lashing out at the media, has dropped 13 points since March and is danger of being passed by Harris. At the other extreme, Warren has gained 16 points during the same time. Biden and Harris have held even since March (despite all the media chatter).

This confirms the “feel” of the race — big crowds for Warren, Sanders on his second “reset.” Sanders is saying and doing almost exactly what he did in 2016, but there are fresher faces on the left for strong progressives. (“Warren’s gains come at Sanders’ expense, as she’s now the favorite among primary voters under age 45 as well as those who identify as ‘very’ liberal. Since last month, Warren is up 12 points among the under 45 crowd, while Sanders lost 10. And her support increased 18 points among very liberal voters, as backing for Sanders dropped 16.”) There is one old white guy who is failing, and it’s not Biden.

Now, here’s the horrible news for the Republicans who continue to cling to President Trump, as a dying man grabs an anvil falling to the bottom of the sea: “Each of the [four top] Democratic candidates tested in the poll beats Donald Trump in possible 2020 matchups — and each makes gains compared to July.” Even worse, Trump does not break 40 percent. (“Trump trails Biden by 12 points (50-38 percent), Sanders by 9 (48-39), and Warren by 7 (46-39). Those leads are outside the poll’s margin of error.”) Harris leads by 6 points, which is right at the margin of error. It seems that the only candidate at or near the top of his party’s primary race who looks unelectable at this stage is Trump.

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A few items pop out.

First, Biden’s lock on African American voters continues for now. He has 37 percent of the African American vote, with Sanders next at 18 percent. If there is an obvious weak spot for Warren, it is that she draws only 8 percent of black voters.

Second, by a stunning margin (46-15), voters think Trump has made us less safe from domestic terrorists. Worse, 34 percent think he has a great deal of blame and 22 percent think he has some responsibility for mass shootings. Wait. What?!? Yes, 56 percent of Americans think Trump is to blame to some extent for mass murders. (That includes 22 percent of Republicans.) Sixty-eight percent of voters think voicing white nationalist beliefs can be blamed for the mass killings. It’s stunning, however, that some percentage of people who hold these views still approve of Trump’s job performance and/or would vote for him. (White nationalist terrorism? But tax cuts! Really, Republicans?)

Third, Trump is doing horribly with white women, 52 percent of whom voted for him in 2016, in a match-up against Biden (41-48). Trump loses suburban women (34-52). Among white college-educated women, Biden leads 57-35. If one needed further proof that Trump’s racism, bullying, xenophobia, misogyny and cruelty have cost him dearly with women, look no further than these numbers. (The other three top contenders do well with these categories but not as well as Biden.)

Rather than obsessing over white, rural, non-college-educated men who are unlikely to vote for any Democrat, the Democrats’ primary electorate should keep its eye on these groups of women, who helped deliver the House majority to Democrats in 2018. Win them by a big margin, and Trump’s a goner.

Read more:

Paul Waldman: Why Democratic voters need to stop thinking about ‘electability’

Jennifer Rubin: Dumping the ‘electability’ canard is liberating

Paul Waldman: We’re finally inching toward a smarter understanding of ‘electability’

Alexandra Petri: You have to think about electability