Four months before the 2018 midterm elections, Bitecofer boldly predicted that Democrats would retake the House of Representatives. She even flatly stated that they would do so by gaining 42 seats. Bitecofer was only off by one. Democrats took 41 seats, the largest seat-gain ever in a midterm election. With the 2020 presidential election on the horizon, Bitecofer forecasts that Democrats will retake the White House, and it all boils down to turnout. The surge of voters in the primaries, particularly on Super Tuesday, bodes well for Biden in the general election.
“What happened is the Democratic Party’s voter base basically asserted itself, putting forward a strong brick wall against nominating a fairly extreme nominee,” Bitecofer told me, alluding to Biden’s decisive wins against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries. “Going with a full-blown, out-and-out socialist is kind of like ripping off your clothes and going skinny dipping when you don’t even know how to swim. So it’s a little bit extreme. And in terms of Sanders, that socialism problem is a big problem.” In short, Bitecofer said, the “electorate has asserted itself as a risk-averse electorate.”
Sanders had long argued that his was the campaign that would drive turnout in the primaries and power him to the nomination and the White House. But Bitecofer argues that the surge in turnout has nothing to do with him or Biden or any policy prescriptions offered.
“Turnout is going up for one reason. … It’s going up because Donald Trump is in office and Democrats are terrified, and so are independent leaners, and they are showing up in droves,” Bitecofer said. “And where they’re showing up is predominantly suburban America where millennials have been. … They own houses now. They’re 40 years old. Some of them are going bald, they have beer guts, they have kids, they have mortgages, their kids are going into college now. And they have not been great voters because they were fat and happy with [President Barack] Obama in office.”
They are part of the reason Bitecofer believes there is no swing voter. What matters is not the candidate running but the person who is voting. Trump’s election is proof of it. “In a political system that’s healthy, an American democracy that’s in a healthy, good place, Donald Trump is not electable. He breaks every single rule of electability. … He’s definitely not a cause; he’s a symptom of a sick system,” noted Bitecofer. “But, yeah, the fact that he is sitting in the White House is, every day, a walking, talking … proof that something is different about the electorate, about American politics and about this moment of time that we’re living in.”
Thus, the Trump presidency has been a big wake-up call for those Bitecofer said had grown fat and happy during the Obama years. “They never knew a world really where they were the opposition party, where they were looking at policies getting passed that they hated, and certainly not one in which they were looking at American institutions and norms getting betrayed every day,” explained Bitecofer. “And now, they are massively motivated to vote.”
It might not be enough to flip the Senate to Democratic control. “It’s going to be really close,” Bitecofer noted. But she pointed out who she thinks is toast. “Colorado and Maine are basically sure things to flip. And I think so, too, [is] Arizona,” Bitecofer said about the seats occupied by Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). Bitecofer was so pessimistic of Gardner’s prospects that she said, “[He] should have retired because it’s like, he’s so doomed that he shouldn’t even have run.”
Also massively motivated to vote were African American voters. Bitecofer told me that she “suspected” Sanders would not improve on his 2016 standing with them this time around. “I kept saying, ‘He’s going to hit a wall,’” she said. Because of the massive amounts of ad money being spent by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and the small sample sizes of African Americans in polling, there was no real visibility into how strong the black vote would be on Super Tuesday.
Despite Sanders’s attempts to make inroads and Bloomberg’s ad campaign that garnered him a look-see, Biden ran away with the black vote throughout the Southern states on Super Tuesday. The first indication were the results out of Virginia, which was called for the former vice president immediately after the polls closed.
“As soon as those Virginia polls closed, it was pretty obvious that Bloomberg’s investment was not going to pay off, and that Biden’s surge was going to be real and that also, once again, black Americans are saving America from itself,” Bitecofer said.
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