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Can Democrats Nominate A Radical Leftist And Defeat Trump? It’s Unlikely


The latest 2020 polls released by the New York Times and Siena College indicate that the country may not be so ready for socialism as the Left’s base believes. The polls indicate not only that Trump is still very much a competitor in the six battleground states he captured in 2016—including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina—but also that “wokeness” is having a tough time selling itself in fairly contentious purple states.

As the New York Times reports, these latest polls, when combined with other data, indicate that Trump’s advantage in the electoral college (as opposed to the popular vote) hasn’t diminished and may have even increased, leading to the possibility of Trump being re-elected without winning the popular vote. When this scenario unfolded in November of 2016, Democrats predictably responded to the loss with calls to eliminate the electoral college.

While each of the discrepancies discussed here are within the margin of error for the individual state polls, the polls may provide a valuable indication about where attitudes in battleground states may be headed.

Among likely voters, Trump loses to Biden in five of the six states, the average margin of victory among those five states being 1.5 points. However, he comfortably sweeps both Sanders and Warren. In the four states in which he edges out Sanders, Trump wins on average by almost 3 points. In the case of Warren, Trump defeats her in every state by an average of over 3 points except in one state (where she manages to break even).

Among registered voters, Trump comes out less competitive against Biden, and Trump’s trouncing of Sanders and Warren is not so universally definitive. Trump loses to Biden by an average of 3.25 points in every state except North Carolina, where he edges out Biden by 2 points. But against the socialist contenders, Trump fares far better. He defeats Bernie in half the states, polling an average victory margin of just over 1.5 points. In the three states where Trump defeats Warren, he beats her on average by over 4 points. The only state in which Warren defeats Trump is in Arizona and by 2 points.

In order to win the electoral college, it’s likely that Democrats would have to capture three of the six battleground states focused on in this poll. They represent the closest states that went to the GOP in the 2016 election. And as the polling results indicate, it seems further left candidates are less equipped to ensure such victories. While the electability of Biden has been something both fabled about and polled upon frequently, these recent polls further buttress claims that the socialism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren render them more unelectable in parts of the country that the Democrats must win in order to secure the necessary electoral college victory.

The numbers also suggest that Biden’s edge over Trump in battleground states is slim. Indeed, his margin of victory in the six individual state polls among likely voters is limited to one or two points. In individual state polls with a margin of error of 4.4 points in all states except Michigan (where the margin of error is 5.1 points), Biden’s victories over Trump are not very inspiring. As Nate Cohn of the New York Times noted, Biden’s appeal rests on the fact that he’s the most electable in a matchup against Trump, but as indicated here, that electability may be rather fragile.

Cohn also provides an analysis of the roughly 200 polled voters in the six battleground states who support Biden but not Warren, finding that by a margin of 74 to 24 percent, such voters “would prefer a more moderate Democrat nominee to a more liberal one.” Cohn also found that a majority of voters found Warren to “be too far to the left for them to feel comfortable supporting her for president.”

The Biden-Warren chasm will likely continue to be source of painful contention for the Democratic Party, who seems torn between wanting to nominate a radical leftist and wanting to defeat Trump. Given the recent numbers, it is becoming increasingly apparent that they likely cannot have both.

There’s a strong movement within the Democratic Party, led by the so-called Squad, to pull the party leftward towards socialist policies, such as Medicare-for-All and “free” college. However, in the regions of the country still “in play” for the purposes of the electoral college, these radical policies don’t seem to carry a tremendous amount of political currency.

Given the uncompromising nature of the Left’s increasingly radical base, it’s becoming harder to imagine a scenario in which the nomination of a more moderate Democrat like Biden wouldn’t be interpreted as a capitulation or “selling out” by the Left’s base.

Up to this point, Democratic leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have encouraged and cajoled the far-left of the party, providing a platform for the frequently emboldened Squad and often defending their more radical policy proposals. However, that game of political footsie is coming home to roost. It is likely too soon to translate the potential anger of the Left’s radical base into hard numbers, but it’s worth keeping such indignation in mind, should Biden win the nomination.

As the election nears, Democrats will be forced to determine whether the “moral victory” of nominating a radical leftist is worth another four years of Trump. In the case of the Democrats’ increasingly radical base, it might very well be.