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What Do Democrats Really Want From A 2020 Candidate?

A supporter displays her Democratic donkey tattoo. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
A supporter displays her Democratic donkey tattoo. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

What do Democratic primary voters really want? New polling finds that a candidate’s race and gender are taking a back seat to “electability.” But what does that really mean?


Celinda Lake, longtime Democratic pollster and expert on women’s votes. Founder and president of Lake Research Partners, a political strategy research firm. Author of “What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live.” (@celindalake)

Perry Bacon Jr., Washington-based senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight. (@perrybaconjr)

From The Reading List

NPR: “Is Joe Biden Too Centrist For Today’s Democratic Party?” — “A lot of energy and media coverage of the 2020 Democratic field is focused on the far left-wing. But is that where most Democratic voters are? That’s a key question for likely contender Joe Biden.”

NPR:Democrats Consider: Is A White, Straight Man The Safe Bet Against Trump?” — “Talk to enough Democratic voters this campaign season, and you hear a certain idea over and over.

“‘I’d love to vote for a woman. I’m not sure that any of the women candidates will make it to the top in the way that I think Biden and Beto will,’ said Patti Rutka, who turned out to a March event in New Hampshire for former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

“Likewise, Iowa voter Marilynn Leggio said she thought Elizabeth Warren would be a good president. But she added a note of caution: ‘I think there’s a lot of men out there that would never vote for a woman. I hate to say that, but I think that.’

“Democrats have 19 candidates and counting to pick from ahead of 2020, the most diverse field in American history in terms of gender, race and sexuality. And while they try to pick whom they personally like, they are also doing some serious mental gymnastics around the question of electability — whom their fellow Americans might vote for.”

New York Times: “The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate” — “Perhaps the most telling poll of the Democratic primary season hasn’t been about the Democratic primary at all — but about the fallout from a 35-year-old racist photo on a yearbook page. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia was pummeled on social media after the revelation, and virtually every Democratic presidential candidate demanded his resignation.

“Yet the majority of ordinary Democrats in Virginia said Mr. Northam should remain in office, according to a Washington Post/Schar School poll a week later. And black Democrats were likelier than white ones to say Mr. Northam should remain.

“Today’s Democratic Party is increasingly perceived as dominated by its ‘woke’ left wing. But the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

“The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project. This latter group has the numbers to decide the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of a relatively moderate establishment favorite, as it has often done in the past.”

FiveThirtyEight: “Joe Biden Supporters Are Older And More Moderate — And Sticking With Him So Far” — “Allegations from several women that Joe Biden touched them in ways that they felt were inappropriate — and Biden’s decision to make light of the controversy — don’t appear to be hurting the former vice president’s potential 2020 bid. At least, the share of people saying that Biden is their first choice for the Democratic nomination has basically stayed the same in Morning Consult’s weekly tracking poll. But that might say more about where Biden’s support is coming from than the Democratic electorate as a whole — older and more moderate Democrats (both before and after these accusations) were significantly more likely to support Biden than younger and more liberal ones were.

“After a week full of coverage of the accusations against Biden, he still leads the Democratic field in the latest Morning Consult poll — even though he hasn’t yet said whether he is running. According to the survey, which was conducted April 1-7 and released Tuesday, about 32 percent of Democrats favor Biden among the 2020 Democratic candidates; that’s essentially unchanged from his support in the previous week’s poll of 33 percent.”

Brian Hardzinski produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on

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