A New Poll


Yesterday, the respectedQuinnipiac Poll took another whack at the piñata. Here is how they describe some of their key findings:

Among all registered voters, Democratic candidates lead President Trump in general election matchups by between 4 and 9 percentage points, with Bloomberg claiming the biggest numerical lead against Trump:

    • Bloomberg tops Trump 51 – 42 percent;
    • Sanders defeats Trump 51 – 43 percent;
    • Biden beats Trump 50 – 43 percent;
    • Klobuchar defeats Trump 49 – 43 percent;
    • Warren wins narrowly over Trump 48 – 44 percent;
    • Buttigieg is also slightly ahead of Trump 47 – 43 percent.

President Trump’s favorability rating is underwater, as 42 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of him, while 55 percent have an unfavorable view of him. However, it is his best favorability rating since a March 7 , 2017 poll, when his favorability rating was a negative 43 – 53 percent.

Like President Trump, the top four Democratic candidates in the primary are viewed more unfavorably than favorably. Warren has the worst net score (favorable minus unfavorable) among all registered voters, with Biden close behind. Biden’s favorability numbers have been declining over the last year since his positive 53 – 33 percent favorability rating in a December 19 , 2018 poll. In today’s poll:

    • Warren gets a negative 39 – 47 percent favorability rating;
    • Biden gets a negative 43 – 50 percent;
    • Bloomberg gets a negative 34 – 40 percent, with 25 percent who haven’t heard enough about him;
    • Sanders gets a negative 44 – 49 percent;
    • Buttigieg gets a positive 36 – 32 percent, and 31 percent haven’t heard enough about him;
    • Klobuchar gets a positive 32 – 22 percent, with 44 percent who haven’t heard enough about her.

So, that means any Democratic candidate could beat Trump?

That’s what simplistic and misleading headlines are likely to say. The literal answer to the question is yes, they all get more actual votes than Trump, as, by the way, did Hillary Clinton. In fact, however, the margin of the popular vote victory is what will make the difference in the Electoral College.

Isn’t it very odd that Sanders and Bloomberg, who are so different, are the topmost in their electability, and are polling about the same on that score?

Yes, ladies and germs, it is passing strange.

What about the Richie Richies who say that can stomach Biden, and maybe some of the others, but if we nominate Sanders, they will just take their marbles and go home?

Yesterday’s poll says they represent about one percent of the registered voters. Bloomberg beats Trump by nine points, with seven percent undecided. Sanders beats Trump by only eight points, because one percent of registered voters switch from undecided to Trump. The tax cuts, don’t you know?

What do the new numbers tell us about Trump’s ceiling and about his floor?

They tell us that his ceiling is 44 percent and his floor is 42 percent—exactly, exactly what almost every other poll tells us.

Who is the one possible Democratic candidate who drives Trump down to his floor of support?

That would be Michael Bloomberg.

Trump is apparently urging his peeps to go vote in the Democratic primary and to cast their franchise for Sanders. Is that a wise move on his part.

I am happy to say that no, it is not a wise move on the Trumpster’s part.

He is pumping up the second most electable among the top six candidates, and a candidate who whips his ass by eight points in the general election.





Vox Populi Iowae: Charisma, Anyone?

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 6.07.40 AM

Finally, the returns from Iowa are almost complete, and the Washington Post nicely lays them out for you. Lots of information here, but I want to focus on the above graph.

It turns out that, when given a binary choice, only 61 percent of Iowa caucus goers picked “rather nominate a candidate who can beat Donald Trump” rather than the single alternative, “rather nominate a candidate who agrees with you on major issues.”

Let’s look at the preferences of the 61 percent who placed highest value on electability. Within that group, one of the insurgent candidates, Crazy Bernie, garnered the support of only 15 percent of the population—a huge difference from his 36 percent share among voters who cared most about issues. Conclusion: the good people of Iowa are really skeptical that Crazy Bernie could be elected.

What about Pocahontas? Among the electability-concerned 61 percent population, Warren got only 16 percent (only a tiny difference from the 17 percent of the issue-concerned voters who favored Warren). Conclusion: the good people of Iowa are very skeptical about Pocahontas’s electability and  they are not too keen on her, on the issues, either.

Like Sanders, there was a whopping big difference in Biden’s support among the issues-concerned voters, where he had five percent support, and among the electability-concerned set, where his support jumped almost five times, to 23 percent.

However, among the electability-minded, Biden still came in second to Buttigieg, who garnered 24 percent support, the largest figure for any candidate.

Why Do Iowans Think Buttigieg is More Electable than Biden?

For sure, it isn’t because of the national polling data.

And, for sure, it isn’t because of Buttigieg’s resume.

Part of it likely has to do with Ukraine.

But my instinct tells me it’s mainly because Iowans don’t think an insurgent is electable, and they don’t think a generic, well-spoken, presentable Democratic politician is electable.

I think it’s because the Iowa voters’ guts tell them that we need Something Else.

Charisma, anyone?

And, right now, Mayor Pete is the only seemingly viable Something Else on offer.


For a more comprehensive perspective, check out William Saletan, How Pete Won: His success in Iowa is a template for victory in November.


Greetings to yesterday’s readers from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Jordan, Kenya, India, Mauritius, Peru, and the United States. Readers in the US were most numerous, but Kenya placed a strong second. So, let’s all enjoy some music.


most electable

David Atkins’ observations on electability—titled Your Theory of Electability is Probably Wrong—provokes thought and is worth a read. His bottom line: “The actual evidence suggests that Democrats should vote for the candidate they would like to be president [at least when choosing among Biden, Warren, and Sanders], and leave the electability arguments at the door.”

Atkins wants us to be very careful about the assumptions we make on electability, and with that I agree. It really is hard to reverse engineer the thinking of someone who obviously does not think at all like you, and to try to figure out what will make some of the Trump crowd peel off and vote for your guy or gal.

However, I don’t agree that the actual evidence—including the evidence presented in the piece—supports the conclusion that Biden, Sanders, and Warren are equally electable. Particularly when you stop staring at the numbers in polls and step back to think about why kind of country are living in today.

First, as Atkins says,

The RealClearPolitics average for Biden, Sanders and Warren against Trump show Biden leading by 5.4%, Sanders by 3.7% and Warren by 1.8% (those numbers for all candidates would look quite rosier if you discarded the IBD/TIPP poll, which appears to be a significant outlier in favor for Trump.) For months the numbers have shown the same thing: Biden leads Sanders by a point or two against Trump, Sanders leads Warren by a point or two, Warren leads other candidates. But all three defeat Trump.

Now, we hope the election won’t be close, but that hope may well be disappointed. If the election is close, then Biden’s small but persistent lead in electability, as measured by the polls, could make the difference between winning or losing.

Second point: I, for one, don’t dismiss out of hand the fond hope that either Sanders or Warren might lead the unwashed messes, including lots of the previously Trumpian unwashed masses, in a revolution against the economic elite. Could happen. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did. But the fact is we don’t understand the Trumpian unwashed masses all that well. So the prospect that a whole bunch of uneducated white men might suddenly discover the joy of socialism is not a possibility on which I plan to bet the mortgage money.

By contrast, here is an important thing I believe we know to a high degree of certainty. It is that a Biden candidacy would pick off some of the plutocrats, while a Sanders or Warren candidacy would scare them shitless.

Ladies and germs, we really need to get the more rational of the plutocrats to switch sides in 2020, and to put their votes, their money, their power, and their influence on the side of their long-term enlightened self-interest. Biden would help. Warren or Sanders would hurt.

Put that thought together with what the polling data show, and I think you may form a reasoned judgment as to who is probably more electable than whom.





unwashed masses

Paul Waldman, Joe Biden is still ahead. But Elizabeth Warren is closing in.

Jennifer Rubin, Who is being naïve here?

Park MacDougald, Is Tucker Carlson the Most Important Pundit in America?

First, a Gut Check, to Provide Context

I am among the 91 percent—I believe that’s the correct number—of Democratic primary voters who have not yet made up their minds. Right now, my instinct is that the safest, and therefore the wisest, course would be to nominate someone from the moderate center-left wing, get him or her elected, return the country back to something resembling normality, fix Obamacare, and then try to have something like a rational conversation on where we go from there.

But, in and of itself, knowledge about my gut is of no use to you. I mention it only to give some context to what I’ll say next.

Three Key Points about Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren may or may not be The One. See paragraphs immediately above. But let us, nevertheless, bite the bullet, grasp the nettle, and pay due attention to the various elephants in the room.

Yesterday, I saw some talking heads on the teevee bloviating about how Senator Warren is a “disrupter,” just like Donald Trump is a “disrupter,” and how the country needs someone who can let us all relax a little. The discussion made me angry, because “disrupter” is, IMHO, an extremely misleadingly incomplete description of Elizabeth Warren.

First of all, economic inequality is growing dramatically. And, when Elizabeth Warren says the system is rigged in favor of the plutocracy, she is saying no more and no less than the God’s honest truth.

And, before I move to my second point, please let me add this parenthetical observation. If you are an advocate you can definitely fool some of the people some of the time. That said, it is a marvel how much it helps if you are telling the truth–about a subject that’s important to your audience–while your adversary is trying to spin a fairy tale.

Second, growing inequality not only prejudices those of us who are not plutocrats, but it also poses, in the long run, a grave threat to the plutocrats themselves. Some of them, blinded by greed, don’t recognize their long-term risk. Some do recognize it.

Elizabeth Warren does not emphasize that she is, in fact, the plutocrats’ true friend—the one who offers them an opportunity to protect themselves from their own worst impulses. But though she chooses not to emphasize the point, it’s true, nonetheless.

Third, there are lots and lots of Trump voters who also understand that the plutocrats are not their friends, and are rigging the system against them. (See the piece by Park MacDougald, cited above.) These folks have an inherent predisposition to heed a key part of Warren’s message. And she has the personality and the potential to break through with some of the Trump base.

And, may I add, she is just the person to tell the unwashed masses what a con man Donald Trump is.

Electability: the Bottom Line

My bottom line: Keep on watching those polls matching Trump against various Democratic possibilities. If my “three key points” are borne out, it will show up in the polling.

And be guided by evidence and reason, not by gut instincts about how electable Elizabeth Warren will seem to a bunch of people who think very differently from you.

As the Rough Beast Slouches Slowly Away from Bethlehem

The First Tweet of the Day

Very Stable Genius

That, no shit Sherlock, was the first tweet of the day.

Not a Well Man

Peter Wehner, Trump Is Not Well: Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. A whole bunch of French fries short of a Happy Meal.

Slip Slidin’ Away

Bill Kristol hangs out over at thebulwark.com. Kristol’s smarmy face would be the perfect illustration for a poster bearing the legend OFTEN IN ERROR BUT NEVER IN DOUBT. So, when reading thebulkwark, I understand that you need to consider the source and take everything with a grain of salt.

All that said, let me recommend Bruce Gyory, No Man Is an Island (But Trump Is Getting Kind of Lonely): The polls show the president grew more unpopular over the summer. After diving deeply into the data, Gyory sums up,

The media ought to pay particular attention to the percentage of registered voters who think Trump does not deserve re-election and how crucial subsets like independents, suburban residents, and white women with less than a college education feel about the economy, given how strongly opposed other groups are to Trump’s re-election( i.e., millennials, college educated white women and minority voters, especially minority women). Moreover, if a majority of the electorate comes to lose faith that Trump is advancing an economic recovery, given their long held mistrust of his handling of foreign policy and race relations, then Trump will be adrift in harsh political waters heading into next November.

Of course things can change. Trump can right his ship politically and events tied to Democratic mistakes can change the current pattern. But there is nothing verifiable in the most recent polling data to make the case that Trump is on the cusp of turning things around.  Yet, too many pundits remain all too traumatized by Trump having won an inside straight in the Electoral College, when that result was actually predicated upon the harsh de facto anti-incumbent rejection of Hillary Clinton. This anti-incumbent wind remains at gale force heading into 2020, but its wrath appears to be directed at political ship of President Trump, not the vessel of his Democratic opponents.

One wonders if Donald Trump has ever read John Donne. If this September swoon locks in as an enduring measurement of public opinion, perhaps the president ought to  familiarize himself with that poet’s classic admonition. Donne wrote that “No man is an island” before posing the real judgment, “For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Give It a Rest, Maureen

Maureen Dowd,Let’s Debate: Are Democrats Doomed? Trump changed the game forever.

Maureen, it would appear, shares one key characteristic with The Donald: she trusts her gut more than she trusts the data. Having watched the Democratic debate, which failed to inspire her, Maureen has concluded that Trump is going to win again.

As for me, I don’t trust my gut, I don’t trust Maureen’s gut, and I don’t trust Trump’s gut. I trust the data.


I conclude with Ronald Brownstein, How Pundits May Be Getting Electability All WrongDemocrats are obsessing over which candidate is most capable of beating Trump. But how voters gauge that is far more complicated than it may seem.

This lengthy thumb sucker is not especially well served by the headline someone wrote for it. Its gist is that pretty much everyone on our side of the aisle places electability as the first priority, but that our primary voters think about electability in ways that are quite different from professional political consultants and politicians. It’s interesting, but provides no definitive insights on who is really right about what qualities a Democratic nominee needs to ensure his or her electability.

There is about the piece the whiff of a suggestion that the unwashed masses of Democratic voters are going to screw things up because they are not experts on who is electable and who isn’t. In principle, that could certainly be the case. But, right now, the unwashed masses of Democratic voters are placing their trust in the candidate who polls best against Trump among all voters. That doesn’t sound like a screwup to me. It sounds like the unwashed masses are following the data, and correctly applying the evidence to think about who is best likely to beat Trump.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

unbearable lightness

Eric Kaufmann, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities

Isaac Chotiner, A Political Scientist Defends White Identity Politics

Jonathan M. Metzi, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland

The Plum Line, We’re finally inching toward a smarter understanding of ‘electability’

As Jennifer Rubin lays out very well, Democratic voters are mainly concerned with electability. It’s pretty clear from the early polls that the nominee, whoever she or he may be, will be the person perceived by Democratic primary voters as the person most likely to win in the general election.

So, that much we know. But that leaves a host of intertwined questions, including

  • Is it more important to focus on African-Americans and progressives, or it more important to try to win back white voters, especially in the Midwest?
  • Is there, indeed, a tension between those two goals, or are they largely consistent with one another?
  • Given the increasing weight of evidence that Trump voters groove to white identity politics, is there any way to compromise with, or accommodate, their white identity?
  • Are there in fact two distinct forms of white identity: a racist putdown of others, and a relatively benign celebration of ethnic heritage?
  • Should Democrats focus, as Obama did, on telling an inclusive story of “American” identity, while eschewing white identity as well as black identity?
  • Where affirmative action criteria are based on race, not factors like income and social class, do poor white have at least some case to be made that they are being treated unfairly?
  • Can Democrats improve their chances by just talking about health care—and, when racial identity is raised, just change the subject back to health care?

I find this whole conversation troubling and distasteful, and would rather think about something else. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true of you, as well. But whether we like it or not, these things need to be addressed.

I’ll just say this for now. I don’t think a celebration of “whiteness,” as such, makes much sense. I’m descended from Scotchmen, Englishmen (not a few of whom were Quakers, in the seventeenth century), and Frenchmen (not a few of whom were Huguenots). I can celebrate the English for inventing constitutional government. I can celebrate the Quakers and the Huguenots for standing up to religious persecution. And I can celebrate the Scots for … I suppose, really nice kilts and interesting musical instruments. Whiteness as such? I don’t think so.