We can look at the 2020 US presidential race in one of two ways. In the first, the Democratic race is coming down to a head-to-head battle between former US vice president Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren over to who will face the certain Republican nominee, President Donald Trump.
From a different vantage point, we cannot be certain Trump will survive until 2020 and capture the Republican nomination; both Biden and Warren have significant flaws; and the early states, which remain highly competitive, will determine the shape of the race. In the chaotic Trump era, the second scenario sure seems more realistic.
Let’s start with Trump. In what has been dubbed “Watergate for morons,” the president is now barrelling toward impeachment, implicated in soliciting foreign countries to influence US elections, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
His lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whose media performance art (i.e., non-stop blabbing) could well do him in, is reportedly under criminal investigation, at the very least, for failure to register as a foreign agent. The floodgates have opened since the whistle-blower complaint surfaced, and a torrent of witnesses could now flood into the impeachment inquest, which may implicate not only Trump but also his secretary of state and attorney general.
Meanwhile, his actual performance (aside from the impeachable acts) has been atrocious. Federal courts have enjoined his scheme to take money from the Defence Department to build his wall, as well as his attempt to use acceptance of public benefits (including food stamps and Medicaid) as grounds for denying green cards. His move to abandon the Kurds, betraying a key ally against Daesh, is having the expected, horrible results.
US troops are now under fire. Newsweek reports: “A contingent of US Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against US-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw US troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the US personnel considered firing back in self-defence.”
On the domestic front, the tariff war goes on despite a thinly disguised retreat by Trump’s negotiators. In a so-called phase one agreement, Trump yet again revealed himself to be the worst negotiator on the planet. From the New York Times: “The deal is far from the type of comprehensive agreement Mr Trump has been pushing for, and it leaves some of the administration’s biggest concerns about China’s economic practices unresolved.”
Republicans’ fears of a 2020 wipeout may at some point outweigh their fear of Trump’s tweets. A viable primary challenger could certainly appear, as happened in 1968, giving Trump reason to head for the hills. (Anyone check in with former Ohio governor John Kasich recently?) If Trump is to be the Republican nominee, he’ll be among the most vulnerable incumbents in memory.
On the Democratic side, Warren has risen steadily in the polls, but she faces major challenges, including winning over voters beyond her ultra-progressive, college-educated base. She must knock down the perception that she is too far to the left for the general electorate’s taste, too “elitist” for middle America and shaky on foreign policy. She has yet to face a barrage from opponents.
In short, the race seems more uncertain now than it was six months ago. The notion that the Democratic field has narrowed fails to capture the fluid nature of that contest
Biden, contrary to media memes, has not declined much in the polls, but neither has he expanded his support, leaving him in a tight battle with Warren. He has not suffered noticeably from the Trump smears about Ukraine, but neither has he really taken the fight to Trump nor has he demonstrated the ability to rattle Trump.
The nagging feeling remains that the Democratic Party could come up with a candidate who could enthral the base, but who? Senator Bernie Sanders, was already hitting the skids before his heart attack, and the rest of the field remains in single digits.
Perhaps South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has smartly positioned himself to Biden’s left and Warren’s right, can break through. For now, he remains far behind the front-runners, although he trails Sanders narrowly in several polls.
While Biden still holds the “electability” card, Warren in recent general election polls also has a sizeable lead over Trump. Maybe Warren, Buttigieg or any of a half-dozen other Democrats could lay claim to “most electable” against Trump. (And if Trump is not to be the GOP nominee, what does that do to the Democratic race?)
In short, the race seems more uncertain now than it was six months ago. The notion that the Democratic field has narrowed fails to capture the fluid nature of that contest.
The assumption that Trump is the certain Republican nominee should be re-examined. Honesty should compel pundits and politicians to confess that they have no idea how this thing is going to turn out.
— Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin is a prominent American journalist and political columnist.