Now that we have a better idea about where all the Democratic candidates for President stand on the issues, I can say without any fear of contradiction that all of them are far better than President Trump. I can also say that all of them that have any chance at being the nominee want racial and gender equity, fairer distribution of wealth and income, healthcare for all, education for all, housing for all, food for all, an immigration system that reflects our values as a country of immigrants, a living wage for all, etc. I certainly have my favorites as a result of their positions on the issues, but I am focused on which one has the best chance of winning the election. I would say electability, but I have already done a post on that subject so in this post I will refer to how to win and who can win.
I have been reading articles and studies on the 2016 voter turnout and related issues. There are three that I would recommend to you. A Pew Research Center article from May 2017 about black voter turnout falling here, an article from the Wisconsin State Journal in November 2017 about black voter turnout in Wisconsin here, and a study from the Center for American Progress (CAP) entitled "Voter Trends in 2016" from November 2017 here. The report from the CAP is excellent but long and very detailed. I will quote extensively from its conclusions below and then attempt to answer the how to win and who can win questions.
The CAP report focuses on four things:
Voter composition - the percentage of actual voters from various demographic groups
Turnout rates - the percentage of eligible voters in those demographic groups who are eligible to vote and did
Support rates - the support for the Democratic or Republican candidate from each of the demographic groups
Shifts - the shifts in these factors between the 2012 election and the 2016 election
The study considered 32 demographic groups
Racial - white, black, latino and asian/other
Age - 18-29, 30-44, 45-64, and 65+
Education - four year college degree and no four year college degree
As background here are some findings that are important as you consider the conclusions.
The voters in 2016 were
73.7% white down 0.3 points from 2012
12% black down 1.1 points from 2012
8.9% latino up 0.9 points from 2012
5.5% asian/other up 0.5 points from 2012
White voter share dropped by only 0.3 points between 2016 and 2012 even though white share of eligible voters dropped by 1.7 points. Black voter share dropped by 1 point even though black eligible voters rose 0.2 points because black turnout fell by more than 4 points (62.1% to 57.7%)
White non-college degree voter turnout was up 3 points while white college degree voter turnout was up only 2 points.
As we all know too well, Presidential elections are not decided by majority vote of the country but by state. The CAP report had the following conclusions for the three rust belt states that were supposed to stop Trump but instead went for him - Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Here are the conclusions:
Our estimates indicate that if black turnout [in Michigan] had remained at its 2012 level, Clinton would have carried the state. For that matter, she also would have carried the state if white non-college-educated turnout had remained at its 2012 level, instead of going up. And it would have probably been enough to flip the state if Latino turnout had remained stable across the two elections.
Our estimates indicate that changes in black turnout in Pennsylvania had little effect on the election outcome; had black turnout remained at its 2012 level, it would have done little to overcome Clinton’s 0.7-point deficit in the state. However, our estimates show that if white non-college-educated turnout had remained at its 2012 level, instead of increasing significantly as it did, Clinton would have been able to carry the state.
In contrast to Pennsylvania, here [in Wisconsin] we found that black turnout had a significant effect on the election outcome; had black turnout remained at its 2012 level, instead of dropping as it did, Clinton would have erased her 0.8 point deficit and won the state, albeit narrowly. None of the other changes in turnout from 2012 to 2016 had much of an effect on the outcome, according to our analysis.
This [Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin] reflects the ongoing decline in the white non-college-educated share of eligible voters, which could be only partially mitigated by increases in white non-college-educated turnout. However, it is important to stress that these increases in white non-college-educated turnout were otherwise important: In two of the three states—Michigan and Pennsylvania—Clinton would have been able to carry the states if this group’s turnout had remained at 2012 levels.As you can see from the above, turnout in two groups seemed to be critical - white non-college and black voters. The report goes on to discuss the three states that Obama flipped in 2012, but Clinton did not - Florida, Iowa and Ohio as well as North Carolina which Obama did not win.
In terms of shifts from 2012, the most interesting change [in Florida] was that the white non-college-educated share of voters went down so little—a mere 0.3 points—despite that group’s share of eligible voters falling by almost 3 points. This was due to a nearly 7-point increase in white non-college-educated voter turnout. Without that turnout spike, Trump might not have carried the state.
The biggest change in the structure of the electorate [in Iowa] compared to 2012 was a 1-point decline in the share of white non-college-educated voters. Turnout was down for all racial groups except Latinos, whose turnout increased by 6 points. However, our estimates indicate that turnout shifts had little to do with Clinton’s 9-point deficit in the state: If Iowa turnout patterns had remained the same as they were in 2012, it would have barely moved the needle.
White non-college-educated voters [in Ohio] were down by a modest 0.6 points from 2012, while white college voters increased their vote share by 2 points and black voters declined by close to the same amount. The latter was tied to a sharp drop in black turnout in the state—down 10 points from 73 percent to 63 percent. This by itself dropped Clinton’s margin in the state by almost 2 points. But because she lost Ohio by more than 8 points, this was hardly the decisive factor in her loss.
Another key loss for Clinton was North Carolina, although this was a state that Obama also did not carry in 2012. Here the white share of voters actually went up—increasing by 2 points to 72 percent—and, very unusually, this included a 1-point increase in the share of white non-college-educated voters. Black voters, on the other hand, declined by 3 points as a share of voters, reflecting their 9-point fall in turnout, from 75 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2016. By itself, this decline in black turnout did not hand the state to Trump because, even if 2012 levels had been maintained, Clinton would still have lost narrowly. But the race in that state would have been a great deal closer.In discussing the national results of who voters supported in the 2012 and 2016 election, the CAP report concluded
Reflecting the fairly large change among non-college-educated white voters, plus their very large size as a group, this was the support shift that had the largest effect on Clinton’s fortunes. If Clinton had been able to replicate Obama’s level of support among non-college-educated white voters, she would have carried the popular vote by 4.4 points instead of the 2.1-point advantage she had last November. Interestingly, the second most important shift holding down Clinton’s support was the decline in vote margin among black voters. That shift took 0.9 points off of her popular vote margin, which is actually slightly more than she lost from the decline in black turnout.All of these conclusions would tend to support the need to get some of the non-college educated whites to vote for the Democratic candidate. In the media these days these people are often referred to as Trump voters who could be won back to the Democratic Party. As it turns out just because white non-college educated voters did not vote for Clinton does not mean that they voted for Trump as the following from the CAP report indicates
A final note here: In the discussion above and subsequently in our discussion of particular states, we concentrate on margin shifts relative to 2012 because these directly determined the relative electoral fortunes of Trump and Clinton. However, in this election it was typically not the case that margin shifts for a given group relative to 2012 were composed of decreases in support for one major party and equivalent increases in support for the other major party. There were usually some increases in third-party voting as well.
For example, among white non-college-educated voters in 2016, there was a 5-point decrease in support for Clinton relative to Obama, a 1-point increase in support for Trump relative to Romney, and a 4-point increase in third-party voting. Among white college-educated voters there was a 6-point decrease in support for Trump relative to Romney, a 1-point increase in support for Clinton relative to Obama, and a 5-point increase in third-party voting. Finally, among black voters there was a 5-point decrease in support for Clinton, a 3-point increase in support for Trump, and a 3-point increase in third-party voting. Thus, even though the changes in margin between Democrats and Republicans determined the election outcomes, it should be kept in mind that increased third-party voting was frequently implicated in these margin changes.75% of the white non-college educated voters who voted for Obama but not for Clinton went to a third party and only 1/6th of the white college educated voters who voted for Romney but not Trump voted for Clinton. Why did so many people object to her? The report reaches no conclusion on that point, but I would speculate it was that she was not a good candidate. She had lots of baggage and was unable to generate enthusiasm except in those who really wanted a woman president.
So how do the Democrats win?
As I have said before turnout is the key as it always is for the Democrats. The CAP report only focuses on the voters in 2012 and 2016 so none of its conclusions address the fact that the United States has terrible voter participation. We are 35th among developed nations. In 2016 only 59% of eligible voters turnout. In 2008 62% turned out to elect the first black president. Just those 3 points represent 7 million voters. If all eligible voters voted at the same rate as the older voters, there would have been over 25,000,000 more votes cast in 2016 than there actually were. Clinton would have won in a landslide.
According to the Pew report cited above, older voters (boomers and older) vote very consistently at close to 70% but younger voters particularly millennials (20-35) are inconsistent and lower. In 2016 50.8% of them voted, up 4.4 points from 2012. Black millennials were down 4.4 points while white millennials were up 2.8 points and hispanics up 3.8 points.
The Democrats can win by getting the millennials out to vote. They can only achieve this result by putting forward a candidate who generates enthusiasm among that cohort. The older people will vote because that is what they do, and they will stay with the Democrats (not vote for a third party candidate) if we have a candidate that has little baggage and generates enthusiasm.
Michael Moore has suggested that in addition to a candidate that generates enthusiasm, we should be sure that there are initiatives on the ballot that generate enthusiasm especially among young voters, eg, marijuana and anti-gerrymandering. I think those are good ideas. In fact anything to generate enthusiasm.
So which Democrat has best chance to win?
Of course this question is more difficult to answer. It is clear to me that older white guys are not the way to go. I include in this group - Biden, Hickenlooper, Inslee, and Steyer. Bernie may be an exception. A second group is middle aged middle of the roaders. I include in this group Bennet, Bullock, de Blasio, Delaney, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand. I would also eliminate Gabbard, Ryan, Williamson and Yang because they do not stand a chance. I would also eliminate O'Rourke because if I want a young white male, it would be Buttigieg.
That leaves (in alphabetical order) Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Sanders, and Warren. Each of these candidates could certainly generate enthusiasm. Some of them have more baggage than others, but none of them has the baggage that Clinton did. Polling data at any point in the race is interesting but hardly determinative. Obviously all the polls got the last election very wrong. I really doubt that the polling techniques have figured out how to conduct a truly representative poll in today's world where people don't answer their phones if they don't recognize the caller.
Here are the results from Real Clear Politics for these candidates from May 30 and August 6
May 30 Aug 6
Booker 2.2 2
Buttigieg 6 6.5
Castro 1.2 0.8
Harris 7.4 8.3
Sanders 16.6 16.5
Warren 9.8 18.3
Just for reference, Biden was at 34.8% on May 30 and on August 6 he was at 30.8%.
So my conclusion is that Elizabeth Warren is the best candidate to win the general election. The more people get to know her the more they like her. She generates enthusiasm and has little or no baggage.
Thanks for reading and please comment,
The Unabashed Liberal