He is still the incumbent and the economy is still pretty good. So those are advantages. But I think the biggest problem for the Democrats is that they may not run a very smart campaign. In fact, it seems a distinct possibility that they will run a dumb one. Martin Longman at the Washington Monthly points this out in a good piece that echoes some of my arguments and adds some interesting observations concerning the two parties’ coalitions:
“The Democrats have basically substituted their farmer/labor alliance for an urban/suburban one, and it may work out as a nearly even trade in the raw numbers but it has exacerbated the problem of having most of their votes concentrated into small areas while also creating an Electoral College challenge (see 2016).
The flip side of the Republicans losing all their moderates is that the Democrats are now living in a bubble. What they see as obvious is not obvious in most congressional districts. What they see as virtuous is not necessarily seen as virtuous, patriotic, or even sane in most congressional districts.
They are creating two problems for themselves. The first is a possible repeat of 2016, where they become perceived as so out of touch with the values and concerns of small-town and rural Americans that even a ridiculous man like Donald Trump seems highly preferable. The second is that they’re beginning to stress their suburban support with some of their policies, and the only way to offset rural losses is to do even better in the suburbs than they did four years ago. If Trump does as well or even better in his base areas than he did in 2016, and the Democrats do not improve on their suburban numbers, then the president will almost surely be reelected….[Trump] does have a strategy and the strategy is correctly calibrated for the task at hand. He must racialize the electorate to maximize his vote in heavily-white communities and tap a wedge in between the urban and suburban Democrats so that the latter will defect in sufficient numbers for him to recover his losses. His problem is that efforts to maximize his white vote actually have the effect of pushing urban and suburban Democrats into a closer alliance. For this reason, he will fail unless the Democrats help ramp up his base numbers and depress their own.
This is where policies like free health care for undocumented people or abolishing all private health insurance are going to do damage. These things are not popular in general and are especially unpopular with the Democrats’ suburban base. A lot of the Democrats’ rhetoric on border issues is toxic not just in the sticks but also in the communities ringing our cities.
So, yes, the Democrats really could blow this election by running a non-strategic campaign based on abstract values against a campaign that is laser-focused on just the voters it needs to win.
This isn’t an argument for changing values, but it is an argument for not being too stupid to beat a man like Donald Trump.”
This is all well-put and, like the prospect of a hanging, should concentrate the mind. I should add that Longman does not say he thinks Trump is likely to pull this off–merely that it is a distinct possibility given how most Democratic candidates are currently handling themselves.
I continue to hope for an outbreak of political common sense. Don’t let Biden–a flawed candidate to be sure–have this “lane” all to himself!