For many Democrats, there seems to be one word dominating early debates around the 2020 presidential race and that is “Electability.” As a matter of fact, Joe Biden has been talking about his connection to the Rust Belt and the middle-class voters as one of the key factors in his electability. A lot of voters are even starting to believe this theory. But Senator Kamala Harris, another leading candidate in the race under the Democratic Party, pushed back on this idea.
Harris noted that the pundit’s discussions on who among the candidates appeals more to the Midwest focuses on a very narrow definition of this demographic. She argues that in fact most of these definitions appear to leave out many people. She even went on to controversially state that when most people talk about electability, what they actually mean is a coded message of what they perceive to be “presidential material.” More often, this would refer to white males, who can actually win a majority of the white male voters in the country.
But some have argued that in the eyes of Democrats, a simple definition of electability actually makes sense. For instance, many feel that, in order for the party to stand any chance of winning back the White House, they have to make sure they win substantial votes in the Rust Belt. After all, losing Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were largely seen as the reason why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. There is a strong belief that candidates who appeal more to the Midwest will be better positioned to beat Trump. This is probably the main reason why Biden has been stressing his connection to these states.
But it’s not just about the Midwest. Electability can also be theorized in a number of ways. It’s a discussion on who has a better chance of winning in the Trump era. Some analysts have argued that a candidate that can energize the Democratic base would be “electable.” This could help counter Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric. In this analysis, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders could deliver.
Additionally, there’s also talk of re-igniting the “Obama Coalition.” This would entail mobilizing African American and Latino voters to come out in large numbers and vote for the Democratic candidate. The African American vote, in particular, could be crucial in flipping Detroit and Philadelphia which will, in turn, make it more likely for Democrats to win the Midwest. In such a calculation, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris could be perfect candidates.
There are also some analysts who have been talking about the swing voters. These are white working class voters in the Rust Belt where Trump flipped from Obama. A strong economic message will be needed to do this and candidates like Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Ryan could appeal to this demographic. We have also seen some arguments about flipping states that have been traditionally Republican. As witnessed in the recent midterms, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia are becoming bluer than they used to be. A candidate like Beto O’Rourke could be crucial in energizing enough blue voters to flip these traditionally Republican states.