The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A majority of Democrats think a woman or minority can beat Trump. But almost half of them think Biden has the best shot of doing it.

The latest Washington Post-ABC poll shows Democrats are not afraid of choosing a person of color or a woman to be their nominee

Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) participate in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN in the Fox Theatre in Detroit in July. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election — one in which the first woman nominated to lead a major party presidential ticket lost to a candidate some people thought had no chance of winning — was attributed to many factors, but many of her supporters thought sexism was chief among them. So as Democrats gear up to try again to defeat Donald Trump, some of them expressed fears that defeating the president could be a nearly impossible task for a woman in 2020.

Lauren Leader, co-founder and CEO of All in Together, an organization that encourages women to get involved in civic life, said her nonprofit regularly came in contact with women who were discouraged after the 2016 election.

“When you look at the Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement, all the different movements over the last few years, part of what has driven all of that is a growing understanding among women that sexism remains,” she told The Fix.

“Even if you recognize that Hillary made mistakes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman — certainly on the left — that wouldn’t say that there was some amount of gender bias in the campaign,” Leader added.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll suggests that those fears, if they still exist, won’t cow a majority of Democrats when picking their nominee. When asked what kind of candidate (man or woman) you think would be more likely to defeat Trump in November 2020, or whether it matters, nearly 70 percent of Democrats said it doesn’t matter. But nearly a quarter still said a man would be more likely to defeat Trump.

Even fewer Democrats were worried that a nonwhite nominee would hurt their chances against Trump. When asked whether a person who is white or a person who is a racial or ethnic minority would be more likely to defeat Trump or whether it matters, 78 percent of Democrats said it doesn’t matter. Only 15 percent said a white candidate would be more likely to win.

Openness to a person of color may not necessarily translate to votes, and this poll did not connect the two. Former vice president Joe Biden, a white man in his late 70s, is maintaining a lead over a field that includes more women and people of color than voters have ever had the option to pick from in a presidential primary. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats surveyed said he’d be their choice for the nomination. An even bigger share of them — 45 percent — said Biden stands the best chance of beating Trump. Biden’s lead has held in almost every poll since he announced his candidacy.

The Post’s Cleve Wootson spent time talking to black voters in Michigan this spring and reported in May that their approach to 2020 will be rooted in pragmatism. Here’s what he wrote:

In addition to regional and generational divides, voters’ perceptions are further muddied by the fact that there are nearly two dozen major candidates, including six women and two black senators — minority candidates who have to contend with the disappointment of some black voters who feel the first black president didn’t do enough for them.
Some said the best choice is the most pragmatic one: Support the candidate with the best chance of ousting Trump, even if that means passing on African American candidates or others who might do more to affect the fortunes of black Americans.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is the woman receiving the most support in the new Post-ABC poll. And Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is the person of color polling highest among Democratic voters, at 7 percent. Only 12 percent and 2 percent of Democrats said Warren and Harris, respectively, stood the best chance of beating Trump.

Trump’s one good 2020 poll just turned against him

These numbers seem to reflect that a sizable percentage of voters have bought into Biden’s argument that he’s the best-positioned candidate to end Trump’s presidency after one term. His claims about his experience in lawmaking, willingness to work with Republicans and affiliation with a popular president appear to be attractive to voters looking to oust Trump in the next election.