Will 2020 fol­low 2008’s script?

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - STEVE BRAWNER ••• Steve Brawner is a syn­di­cated colum­nist in Arkansas and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of The Sa­line Courier. Email him at brawn­er­[email protected] Fol­low him on Twit­ter @steve­brawner.

Goodness knows it’s early, and things change quickly and of­ten, but at the mo­ment the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary is look­ing a lot like the one in 2008.

In both elec­tions, the White House has been oc­cu­pied by a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent first elected de­spite los­ing the pop­u­lar vote – first Pres­i­dent George W.

Bush and then Pres­i­dent Trump. (One big dif­fer­ence: Trump is an in­cum­bent up for re-elec­tion, while the of­fice was open in

2008 at the end of Bush’s sec­ond term.)

Both elec­tions have started with a pre­sumed Demo­cratic frontrun­ner with ex­pe­ri­ence, high name iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and a close re­la­tion­ship with the last Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion. That’s Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2008 and Joe Bi­den in 2020.

Both of those can­di­dates have brought sig­nif­i­cant bag­gage to the cam­paigns. Clin­ton had all of the prob­lems from her and her hus­band’s time in the White House and in Lit­tle Rock, as well as her sup­posed “lik­a­bil­ity” prob­lem. “Lik­a­bil­ity” isn’t an is­sue for Bi­den. In­stead, it’s a long record of gaffes, his some­times un­com­fort­able handsy­ness, and his lack of suc­cess in pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns. Plus, he would be 77 years old when he takes of­fice. Some peo­ple would say that’s too old.

Fi­nally, both Clin­ton and

Bi­den have faced an uphill bat­tle against his­tor­i­cal forces, and their tim­ing may have been bad. In 2008, maybe vot­ers were not ready to elect a fe­male pres­i­dent, but they were very ready to elect an African-amer­i­can man, Pres­i­dent Obama. Bi­den en­ters the race as a 76-year-old white male with a rel­a­tively cen­trist po­lit­i­cal his­tory while the Demo­cratic Party is lurch­ing to the left, partly in re­sponse to the “Me Too” move­ment.

So if 2020’s script is fol­low­ing 2008’s, it’s no sur­prise that Bi­den started the race with a com­fort­able lead. And it’s no sur­prise he may have al­ready lost a lot of it.

Fol­low­ing the two Demo­cratic de­bates last week, a new CNN poll finds Bi­den’s sup­port has dropped from 32% to 22% since May.

While Bi­den has lost 10 points in that poll, Cal­i­for­nia

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris has gained

nine points to 17%, while Mas­sachusetts Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren has gained eight points to 15%.

Be­fore writ­ing Bi­den’s po­lit­i­cal obit­u­ary, let’s note that the re­sults of other polls vary wildly. Bi­den still had 33% sup­port in a re­cent Hill-har­risx poll. (Sen. Har­ris gained six points in two weeks to 11%.) But in a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Poll, Bi­den led Har­ris only 22-20. On June

11, it was 30-7.

Here’s one other sim­i­lar­ity be­tween Clin­ton in 2008 and Bi­den this time: Both started their cam­paigns be­liev­ing they en­joyed strong sup­port from African-amer­i­cans, a crit­i­cal Demo­cratic Party con­stituency, de­spite a young, fresh, en­er­getic African-amer­i­can sen­a­tor be­ing in the race. Those can­di­dates would be Obama in 2008 and Har­ris in 2020.

South Carolina, which has a high African-amer­i­can vot­ing pop­u­la­tion, was sup­posed to be Bi­den’s “fire­wall” pro­tect­ing him af­ter what­ever hap­pened in Iowa and New Hamp­shire. In 2008, South Carolina didn’t help Clin­ton, whose hus­band author Toni Mor­ri­son called the “first black pres­i­dent.” Clin­ton, the sup­posed frontrun­ner, lost South Carolina 55-27, thanks in large part to African-amer­i­cans’ strong sup­port for Obama.

So here’s a con­ceiv­able sce­nario. Af­ter Iowa on Feb. 3 and New Hamp­shire on Feb. 11, the field win­nows to five or six can­di­dates: Bi­den, Har­ris, War­ren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and one or two more. Har­ris wins South Carolina on Feb. 29, and at that point Bi­den is in trou­ble.

And then on March 3, 14 states in­clud­ing Arkansas and Cal­i­for­nia hold their pri­maries. Har­ris wins Cal­i­for­nia, her home state and the big­gest prize. I have no idea who wins Arkansas. At that point, she looks more and more like the nom­i­nee. Once a sense of in­evitabil­ity sets in, it’s over.

And then it’s Trump versus the first African-amer­i­can fe­male nom­i­nee of a ma­jor party.

Any­way, that’s one sce­nario look­ing ahead to 2020 from the vantage point of early July 2019.

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