Friday, September 20, 2019

Is Warren Electable?

Well, if Trump is in bad enough shape next November, sure she is. So might any Democrat. But there are certainly reasons to wonder how well she'd fare if Trump is only in his average amount of hot water.
Right now, Biden is running a smile-inducing 12 points ahead of Trump in RCP's running average of trial heats. Warren is running a less exciting 5 points ahead of Trump in the same average.
One reason is that she shows persistent weakness among white noncollege voters. This is nothing new as Paul Starobin recently pointed out in a Times article:
"The problem is that she has a relatively weak standing in Massachusetts with non-college-educated working-class voters, and especially white workers. These voters are critical, especially in the Midwest and in states crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
You might call it the Warren Paradox. Her core message as a politician — that America has become rigged in favor of the very wealthy, and the rich get richer as the rest of us get shafted — is very much aimed at the working class. What’s more, her personal narrative, of her rise from “the ragged edge of the middle class” in her native Oklahoma, as she has put it, to professional success and acclaim in the fields of education and government might seem to embody a character trait of grit that appeals to blue-collar workers....
In Massachusetts, the Warren Paradox can be glimpsed in towns like Rockland, population near 18,000, a suburb about 20 miles south of Boston, overwhelmingly white and working class. In her November 2018 Senate race against a pro-Trump Republican, Ms. Warren won 60 percent of the vote statewide but only 44 percent of the vote in Rockland. By contrast, northwest of Boston, in the upscale suburb of Lexington, where the median home value is $1.15 million, (compared with $340,000 in Rockland), Ms. Warren took 74 percent of the vote."
David Leonhardt adds in a different piece:
"In her 2012 and 2018 Senate races, Warren struggled in other blue-collar parts of Massachusetts, like the areas around Springfield and Worcester. And in most state polls asking voters to choose between Trump and potential Democratic nominees, Warren looks considerably weaker than Joe Biden.
She is tied with Trump in Wisconsin, while Biden led by nine percentage points, according to a recent Marquette University poll. In New Hampshire — which borders parts of the North Shore — Biden leads Trump by 10 points, while Warren trails by two, according to an Emerson College poll."
All that said, I do like Warren and think she'd make a very good president--perhaps the best of the lot currently running for the nomination. But to govern, you gotta win the darn election. Jonathan Chait explains some of my frustration, as well s some cautious optimism that she could turn things around:
"Warren has joined most of the field in embracing broadly unpopular stances that play well with progressive activists, like decriminalizing immigration enforcement, abolishing the death penalty, and providing health coverage to undocumented immigrants. Trump’s campaign clearly grasps that his only chance of success is to present the opposition as unacceptably radical, and the Democratic primary is giving him plenty of ammunition to make this case....
Does this mean the Democratic Party in general, or Warren in particular, is doomed? Not at all. If the economy goes into recession or slows significantly, almost any Democrat would be expected to defeat Trump. It is also possible Warren can successfully pivot from the primary to the general election.
The outlines of such a pivot can be discerned already. Her recent campaign message targeting political corruption reprises her original theme, which simultaneously indicts the malfeasance of the Trump administration, presents Warren as a good-government outsider, and moves the debate away from tax-and-spend liberalism and onto more popular, anti-corporate grounds. Her recent plan to jack up Social Security benefits — yes, it is another budget item — gives her a selling point that polls incredibly well.
One can imagine other steps Warren can take to shore up her vulnerabilities in the coming months. She could produce her own health-care plan, one that leaves the option of employer-sponsored insurance in place. She could promise not to raise middle-class taxes, and that such a promise would take priority over enacting the full panoply of her domestic agenda. And, without breaking faith with core liberal values, she could think of some conciliatory gestures toward social traditionalists of the sort that worked well for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and which Hillary Clinton largely dispensed with).
Here is another thing about Warren that is impossible to measure, but which ought to count nonetheless: She is a compelling orator with a sympathetic life story and a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple terms. Yet she has spent most of the last year positioning herself as if the general election will never happen. At the moment, I’d feel very nervous betting the future of American democracy on Warren’s ability to defeat Trump. But a lot can change in a year, and it’s not hard to imagine the Warren of 2020 as a potent challenger."
Well said, both the bad and the good. Let's hope she and her campaign team are thinking long and hard about how to shore up these weak points, particularly with white working class voters. Without that, all her great plans could come to naught.
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She has struggled with white, working-class voters like those important to winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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