Saturday, March 7, 2020

Electability in the time of coronavirus

My friends are discussing electability. I'm thinking about it in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and I expect either Biden or Sanders to win if nominated.

Both candidates have about a 5% lead over Trump in current head-to-head polling. Democratic consolidation around a nominee will push up on those numbers as Republican general-election attacks push down. Maybe the net effect pushes both down to 4% or so, where they need a ~3% lead to win because of Electoral College imbalances.

The likely levels of illness, economic damage, and loss of life from the coronavirus will make things harder for an already embattled Trump. He's been awful in many ways before, but it usually doesn't come back to bite his own voters. Most of them will find some way to blame Democrats. But not all will. Mismanaging a recession-causing pandemic might push him say 3% down, making the Democratic lead insurmountable.

Fox News and GOP media as a whole are in their early stages of attacking both Sanders and Biden. With Sanders, the attacks will probably concern socialism. With Biden, it's probably corruption attacks connected to Ukraine conspiracy theories. I expect both attacks to have less effect amidst a pandemic.

Biden will promise a return to Obama-era normalcy. Sanders will pitch policies like Medicare for All. Both messages are likely to play well under pandemic conditions.

If Trump's mismanagement leads to a major Democratic victory, it will likely help us in the Senate too. That's more likely to cause the passage of major Democratic legislation under Sanders than Biden, since Sanders is on board from the beginning. But there are still ways that Biden can be maneuvered into passing policies coded as progressive this primary, especially with an unexpectedly good Senate.

At this point, it's very unlikely that Sanders will win the nomination. But I think his policy ideas are much better, and if my vote were coming soon, I'd vote for him.