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Turning the electability argument on its head

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One of the major arguments for Joe Biden's candidacy for the Democratic nomination is that he would be most likely to beat Donald Trump.

There are various lines of argument used to support this. One is head-to-head polling where he often has the highest numbers. Another is a more common-sense argument that as the more centrist candidate of the top 3, he is best positioned to win over independents who might either sit out the general election or vote for Trump.

Yet, this line of argument is short-sighted. Most successful candidates have not 1 but 2 elections. The 2nd election is usually one where, as incumbent, they hold certain advantages and, historically, tend to win.

Yet, if there are concerns about Biden's age for a 2020 election, what will those concerns be like in 2024? Would he be a 1 term candidate?

In short, the real question from a Democratic perspective ought not to be 'Who can win 2020?' but 'Who can win 2020 and 2024?'

If that's the question, both Biden and Sanders' electability diminishes. Biden would be 82 at the start of a 2nd term, 86 at the completion of it. Sanders 83 and 87 by January 2029.

If there are concerns about either man's health now, what will they be like in 5 years? How will voters evaluate possible re-election of a President whose age during his term would when rounded put him at 90 years old? To what extent can Democrats expect these candidates to be 2 term Presidents?

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I think even if Biden or Sanders won in 2020 they would get primaried in 2024. 

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3 hours ago, admin_270 said:

One of the major arguments for Joe Biden's candidacy for the Democratic nomination is that he would be most likely to beat Donald Trump.

There are various lines of argument used to support this. One is head-to-head polling where he often has the highest numbers. Another is a more common-sense argument that as the more centrist candidate of the top 3, he is best positioned to win over independents who might either sit out the general election or vote for Trump.

Yet, this line of argument is short-sighted. Most successful candidates have not 1 but 2 elections. The 2nd election is usually one where, as incumbent, they hold certain advantages and, historically, tend to win.

Yet, if there are concerns about Biden's age for a 2020 election, what will those concerns be like in 2024? Would he be a 1 term candidate?

In short, the real question from a Democratic perspective ought not to be 'Who can win 2020?' but 'Who can win 2020 and 2024?'

If that's the question, both Biden and Sanders' electability diminishes. Biden would be 82 at the start of a 2nd term, 86 at the completion of it. Sanders 83 and 87 by January 2029.

If there are concerns about either man's health now, what will they be like in 5 years? How will voters evaluate possible re-election of a President whose age during his term would when rounded put him at 90 years old? To what extent can Democrats expect these candidates to be 2 term Presidents?

Very good post. 

Yeah, electability is very odd. Things don't always add up, and so much of it depends on the questioning sometimes. 

Who is the most electable? Biden. 

What must an candidate do to be considered electable in 2020? Have strong support in MI, PA, WI. 

Who had the best chance of beating Donald Trump? Sometimes you'll get Warren as the answer, even though Biden is polling landslides. 

What concerns you most about the Democratic candidates? Their age or they're too old. 

If you ask a historian which candidates are more electable-- establishment or change candidates, they'd say change candidates. 

If you ask data-based pundits and analysts who are most electable, they'd say the candidate that excites the base the most. 

Then there are questions about what makes a candidate electable? Answers might be "high integrity/no scandals," "experience" "likable" "makes the entire party happy" "has a unifying message." etc. 

The problem with the electability question is that people don't respond to it three-dimensionally.  Sound arguments can be made as to who is most electable for Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, etc, and I think as long as a strong argument can be made, then they are all electable.

However, the 2016 election sort of throws out the electability question. Trump won despite being composed primarily of traits that are not electable -- no relevant experience, a living a breathing corruption machine that lives off scandal, low approval and not likable, and he appeals to a base without even making attempts to be friendly with portions of his own party. This shouldn't be electable, but it was. 

It seems to me that based off 2016, the most electable qualities might be:

  • Energizes the base. 
  • Can do the above specifically in MI, PA, and WI. 
  • Are a change candidate. 

The above would be either Warren or Sanders, and they'd have to win by getting all those progressives that wouldn't vote for Clinton to vote. If moderates and centrists are concerned that Democrats will lose with a "radical" as the nominee, then they can look to radical Trump having won in 2016, both in the primaries and in the general elections by taking populists states. Warren and Sanders are more populist than establishment--much preferable to these states than Hillary Clinton. 

There's a 4th factor that should probably be added back in, and that's favorability/likability. Clinton and Trump were equally disliked and equally unfavorable, and the four Democrats I mention above are almost guaranteed to be much more likable than Clinton. When it gets down to Trump vs. _____ after the convention, that likability factor will become extremely important. Clinton was not likable or interesting. Trump was at least interesting; although, I'd argue his novelty has worn out significantly.  

So I'd pose an electability questions this way: Who is more likely to win back MI, PA, and WI--states with many independent, populists voters--and energize the base of the party by providing a clear message of substantial change and reform? Donald Trump? Joe Biden? Elizabeth Warren? Bernie Sanders? Pete Buttigieg? Andrew Yang? 

One final note, the electability questions are usually done with the General Election in mind. So one first has to ask, who is the most electable primary candidate?

1. Of the 20 or so candidates, which of these are likely to win IA or NH or if not, can survive a likely momentum drop to come back and win SC and NV? 

2. Of those that remain from question 1. Who is likely going to satisfy the voters of Super Tuesday most? 

3. Of the few that should be remaining after questions 1 and 2, which of the remaining candidates are likely to appeal to the voters whose candidates have dropped out?

Naturally, the above doesn't consider shifts in a candidates platform to widen their umbrella. Can Biden move left? Can Warren move to the center? Can Buttigieg move left? Can Yang move to the center? Can Sanders move at all? Of these, we know Biden is malleable. We know Warren has already moved to the center enough to take some of those votes. Buttigieg is sort of still trying to make his message, and so hasn't even moved. Yang is kind of in the same place as Buttigieg. Sanders, like most purists (Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Ted Cruz, etc.), don't really budge. 

 

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3 hours ago, SilentLiberty said:

I think even if Biden or Sanders won in 2020 they would get primaried in 2024. 

I think you're right. If Biden wins, AOC will primary him. If Sanders wins, then Bullock, Delaney, Hickenlooper, and all these old, boring white guys with no ideas challenge Sanders. 

However, I think primary challenges should occur. I wouldn't be upset if they did happen. I think the GOP should embrace the challenges by Weld, Sanford, and Walsh, too. 

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2 minutes ago, Jayavarman said:

This guy was once considered electable:

Image result for jeb bush

Well, he got humiliated by a loud-mouthed schoolyard bully, and actually showed weakness, and bowed down. That's a no-no in politics.

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To better answer @admin_270 specific questions, which I ignored in my long post. 

I think Warren, Buttigieg, and Yang are the ones most likely to win in both 2020 and 2024. I think Biden and Sanders are too old for 2024, if they aren't too old already. 

In regards to incumbency, it's hard to see how this plays out historically, because we've never had an incumbent like Trump---one that can't even once hit 50% approval despite a strongish economy. One could also say we are due for a one-term president. It's been almost 30 years. We've only had two instances of three two-terms presidents in a row. We've never had four two-termers in a row, although there's always a chance for a first time. 

Here are other questions that aren't often asked:

  • Is Trump more electable in 2016 than in 2020? If yes, why. If no, why. Then to play devil's advocate argue the opposing view on this question. 
  • Is Trump more electable than Biden? Why or why not? Argue for the side you initially disagree with. 
  • Is Trump more electable than Warren? Why or why not? Argue for the side you initially disagree with. 
  • Is Trump more electable than Sanders? Why or why not? Argue for the side you initially disagree with. 
  • Was Trump electable in 2016 even though he was elected? Why or why not? Argue for the side you initially disagree with. 

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2 minutes ago, vcczar said:

I think Warren, Buttigieg, and Yang are the ones most likely to win in both 2020 and 2024

I think Warren is young enough to, barring any significant health issues, avoid major concerns about her age in 2020 or 2024. She's pushing it, like Reagan (who perhaps did have some kind of dementia near the end of his second term) and Trump are, but adding an extra 5 years (as with Biden or Bernie) really pushes it.

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26 minutes ago, Jayavarman said:

This guy was once considered electable

Ya, electability can be fickle. That's why I take these head-to-head polls way out with a grain of salt.

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14 minutes ago, admin_270 said:

I think Warren is young enough to, barring any significant health issues, avoid major concerns about her age in 2020 or 2024. She's pushing it, like Reagan (who perhaps did have some kind of dementia near the end of his second term) and Trump are, but adding an extra 5 years (as with Biden or Bernie) really pushes it.

I agree. 

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10 minutes ago, pilight said:

Everybody said Hillary Clinton was electable in 2016

She was. She would have won if the U.S. had a modern, equitable, and responsible method of electing it's head-of-state, and not an anachronistic relic of a late-18th Century Convention of wealthy elitists who had contempt and distrust for their common voters and a desire to keep the Slave States from seceding from the get go. Of course, if the U.S. had such a modern mechanism of election, the main and biggest reason holding the two main parties together as "parties" or forced coalitions, and not breaking into their component camps as separate parties, and the suppression of "Third Parties and Independents" would no longer exist anyways, and who knows who might have won...

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18 hours ago, Patine said:

if the U.S. had such a modern mechanism of election [...] who knows who might have won

Trump would have won. 😉

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Just now, admin_270 said:

Trump would have won. 😉

I don't know. If you theoretically had Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Paul, Bush, Cruz, Kasich, Johnson, Stein, Castle, La Riva, and De La Fuente in an actual GE with a runoff election (like, say the French or Brazilian system), and each had their own party with their own targeted constituency and their own ideology, it's not easy at all to say who would have ended up winning...

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