With two debates down and too many more to go, Democrats are pretty much where they were before the June debates in Miami and the July debates in Detroit.
That shouldn't surprise you. The Iowa caucuses are still almost six months away, and voters are just starting to tune into the campaign. They know full well they don't have to embrace one hopeful now.
President Donald Trump is still the egotistical and abusive promoter of division that he has been, which is one reason why his job approval ratings are so poor given low unemployment rates, substantial wage growth and a generally vibrant economy.
Sure, there are things to complain about--e.g., growing deficits and debt, trade wars and the growing wealth gap--but if Trump acted like a normal president, he would be coasting to re-election.
Former Vice President Joe Biden performs best against Trump, but he isn't the only Democrat to lead in head-to-head ballot tests.
Democrats have a number of ways of increasing their vote share in 2020, including attracting more base voters (who either didn't turn out or voted for a third party candidate in 2016) and/or improving their showing among suburban women and women with a college degree, swing groups that turned more Democratic in the 2018 midterms.
If they improve their showing among one or both of those groups, the president will have a difficult time winning a second term.
Trump still has a narrow path to 270 electoral votes, and Republicans will try to demonize and discredit the eventual Democratic nominee, making him or her unacceptable to enough voters to produce another Trump victory.
Obviously, Trump's chances of discrediting his opponent varies with that challenger. He'd use different tactics against Biden than he would against Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
But no matter whom the Democrats nominate, Trump's campaign will be built around destroying him or her.
Biden, the early national front-runner, continues to be the best-positioned Democrat in the race. But Biden received underwhelming reviews in Miami. He recovered somewhat in Detroit, but he didn't appear agile during his second debate, stumbling more than a few times.
Sanders leads Trump in most polls, and his supporters will argue that shows his electability, to say nothing of his appeal to progressives who never warmed to Hillary Clinton. But the amount of opposition research on Sanders must be mind-numbing, considering that he is now 77 years old and his political activism goes back to the early 1960s. He first ran for office in 1971.
Maybe more importantly, those hopefuls who embraced "Medicare for all" suddenly find themselves on the defensive against those defending Obamacare and those workers not eager to give up longtime union-negotiated health care coverage.
So Democrats face an uncomfortable reality.
Trump is damaged goods, but most of their own top-tier hopefuls have their own liabilities--or at least have to worry about their ideological positioning, campaign skills and electability. Luckily, Iowa is still many months away.
Editorial on 08/08/2019
Print Headline: Dems still at square one