Bulletpoint No. 1: Actually, maybe the moderate Democrats are more popular with swing voters
Bulletpoint No. 2: High-information voters love Elizabeth Warren — and not Bernie Sanders
Silver’s points here all match up with common sense. Who is surprised that moderates are more popular with less partisan swing voters than more extreme, polemic candidates? Likewise, no one should be surprised that high-information voters prefer people who have sound, well-reasoned, and clearly outlined policy proposals to cranky populism.
Read Silver’s whole post rather than my glib reaction to it. It is worth your time.
Also, his tiers closely mirror my own. Really, I think it would be hard to group them any differently.
Let’s break these down in descending order.
Tier 3 is totally useless. If I were the DNC, I wouldn’t even let these folks on the ballot. They have no traction. No one wants them in this race. Especially Bill de Blasio.
Tier 2 is on borrowed time. Each of these candidates has name recognition. And each of them have been considered a rising star in the DNC over different moments in the last several years. But if you can tell me why Beto, Cory, Kristen, or Stacy are running for President you’d have done more than they or their media consultants have managed to do. Until one of them comes up with a serious reason that they are the right candidate they are mere cannon fodder. Just being non-white, a woman, or a weirdo who livestreams mundane everyday tasks is an insufficient narrative to justify why you imparticular should be President of the United States. A good candidate has several unique reasons that they are the right person for the job. A weak candidate might only have one strong claim they build their campaign around. These folks have given us nothing. This is how you end up being Jeb! (Looking at you, Beto– slick marketing, HBO documentaries, and the love of podcasters only goes so far)
Tier 1 is Joe Biden’s to lose. Bernie Sanders is in the Trump mold of preaching to his established choir and hoping that base is enough to get him over the hump. The only way this works is if the DNC lets the debates and primary become a clown show like the GOP did in 2016. As recent changes to the DNC debate qualification show, this is unlikely. Get ready Bernie Bros, the “man” is going to try to prevent a candidate who has never been an active or supportive member of their organization from representing them on a national ballot!
Kamala Harris and “Mayor” Pete Buttigieg are broadly popular. For good reason. They are both charismatic, smart, and talented political operatives. They look the part while campaigning. But like the group in tier 2, Harris and Buttigieg have given voters little reason to elevate them over Biden (but they have the fundraising, name recognition, and political savvy to turn this around).
Elizabeth Warren has the best platform by a lot. As Nate Silver showed us above, when you ask the higher information voters who they support it is the Senator from Massachusetts. In a vacuum, she is my favorite candidate too. Unfortunately, Warren also has almost zero charisma (maybe even negative charism) and sort of suspect political instincts or advisors– you couldn’t have done a poorer job of responding to the “Pocahontas” controversy than she did. That was the sort of brutal self-beat you just cannot afford to have in a high stakes, deep field race like this. Her best path forward has always been for Sanders to drop out and send his supporters over to Warren who could pair the enthusiasm that Bernie’s populism stirred up in 2016 with a pragmatic, educated, and policy-driven approach that appeals to high information voters who are turned off by the sexism of the bros and the clear disinterest in race or gender the Sanders campaign has long exhibited. When Bernie decided to run again Warren’s moment was probably over.
This is really just a two horse race unless something drastic happens. Joe Biden is the clear front runner, positioning himself as the heir to Obama, the champion of the moderate liberal, and the candidate who can bring the country back to “normalcy” (Warren G. Harding style?). If Warren, Harris and Buttigieg (and to a lesser extent Booker, Beto, Klobuchar, and Abrams) can’t find a similarly compelling narrative this race will come down to a choice between the moderate Obama-style politics of Biden or the pseudo-revolution of Bernie Sanders. The data (and common sense) tells us this is Biden’s to lose. Lord knows Joe has found ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory before, but at this moment it is really hard to see coming.