Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Thinking about Electability

Nate Cohn continues to milk the Times' battleground surveys for more insights. Of course, it's just one set of surveys and I do hope that other polling operations start running similar analyses as a check on Cohn's findings. But Cohn's findings are still interesting and worth discussing, with that proviso.
Today's Cohn article concerned "Five Polling Results That May Change the Way You Think about Electability". My take on each of the five.
1. Joe Biden has no special strength with white voters without a college degree.
Well, it depends on how you look at it. It's true that Sanders tends to run pretty close to Biden among this demographic in swing Midwestern states, with Warren lagging a bit behind both of them. But Cohn's point seemed to be that Biden was running no better than Clinton did in 2016 among these voters. However, Biden's Times survey-based average of a 17 point deficit in the three states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is actually significantly better than the States of Change estimate for Clinton's deficit in those three states (23 points) in the actual election. So perhaps not quite fair to dismiss Biden's potential appeal to these voters.
2. Elizabeth Warren’s problem isn’t the white working class.
It's more true to say she has several problems--not just among the white working class but but in some educated areas as well and among nonwhites generally.
3. There is not much difference between a strategy based on turnout and persuasion.
The idea there's a big tradeoff between turnout and persuasion and you really need to choose between the two has never seemed right to me. Cohn agrees, it is quite possible to do both.
4. The president can keep pace in a higher-turnout election.
I've written about this. I think Cohn is on solid ground here; the data--and just his own data--support this proposition.
5. The Sun Belt opportunity is real, but it is hard to see it as a safe choice.
I agree; the Sun Belt opportunity is indeed real but in this universe at least it cannot be substituted for the Rust Belt path. That would be quite risky. But the Sun Belt path is certainly an essential supplement to Democrats' efforts in the north.
For more on electability, see Perry Bacon, Jr.'s useful discussion of the term and how it's being used on 538.
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Our battleground surveys had some outcomes that upended the conventional wisdom.

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