Recent surveys give cause for concern to Democrats who will run for office in 2020. The leads they enjoy are not as big as they seem because the leads are low 16 months before the presidential election, especially against established companies. In this campaign, they are probably the most likely.
Polls show Trump in obvious trouble. NBC / Wall Street Journal shows that Biden leads 51% to 42% and follows Trump Kamala Harris (by two points), Warren (five points) and Sanders (six points). In the presidential election, the established operators are remarkably resilient and the challengers are extremely averse.
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The incumbents are doing so well because they are transforming themselves into office. In the rarest cases, one party holds the presidency for more than two consecutive terms, so most presidents initially win by questioning the status quo. After four years in office, however, these former disturbers become a status quo. When times are good, Americans stay with them as usual.
Such incumbents also benefit enormously from the control of the political agenda. The presidency has grown for about a century. Its rise offers the incumbent operators enormous opportunities that no challenger can match.
In this sloping field, challengers generally suffer from sliding support, while established operators increase their support.
The challengers begin with promising (figuratively and literally) and potential challenges. Comparative unknowns quickly leave the gate. However, campaign realities and hardship cases, which are usually controversial primaries that incumbent operators avoid, are far less friendly.
Against the status quo, they have to persuade voters to promise something better, which is usually hard to sell. They can not control the political agenda and need to be reactive, which is becoming increasingly difficult in the face of today's ongoing media coverage.
In addition, challengers are more prone to "surprises." If they are microscopically recorded for four years, the incumbents get a certain vaccine: There is little new that can be discovered.
For challengers, the opposite is true. As much control the public figures have had, nothing is comparable to what they get as a presidential candidate. The challengers have only one disadvantage over new revelations, as they have proactively released all the best about themselves. And since we have never been so thoroughly treated, there is an insatiable demand for something new.
Given this general pro-incumbent tendency, the Democrat candidate faces an even more difficult task for 2020. Trump has a decisive advantage for the economy and the public's dominating level of status quo. The three elected presidents who lost reelection were all economically weak. And Trumps is a double advantage: his economy is both strong and decidedly stronger than the Obama's.
As far as controlling the political agenda is concerned, as every incumbent president can, few have the same advantage as Trump. That will not change once the campaign really launches: if anything, it's likely to increase.
Every Democrat of 2020 will face unique challenges as a challenger. The biggest requirement for their base is that their candidate runs from the left. That means starting from America's smallest ideological group. To win, they need support from moderates and conservatives.
That will be particularly difficult in 2020. The Democrat candidate will come not just from the left but from the hard left. The primary field of the Democrats is extremely crowded with almost all on the left side of their spectrum, and their spectrum is left over from the start. In order to survive in this common space, one must "stand out" from the competition and move further away from the required center.
The proportional allocation of delegates ensures that left-wing candidates have time to stay in the race and eventually consolidate themselves into one. At the same time, Biden, the party's most established candidate, is weak and has little chance of a quick exit.
On the "surprise side", the Democrat candidate will face the usual increased risk, even if media coverage is positive. As for Trump, he has been so far vaccinated by the consistently brutal media coverage that he can credibly claim to be a victim. With everything already thrown at him, the backfire with its base is real and in time will even reach those outside its base.
If you want to beat an incumbent with a strong economy, you need a significant head start to survive a run on the president. Democrats who challenge Trump from the extreme left will need it most. It is far from clear that the Democrats now have enough and even less clear that they can hold it.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as Director of Communications at the Administration and Budget Office and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax and Budget Affairs at the Ministry of Finance. He was from 1987 to 2000 Congressman.