Sometimes, you make arguments that you really should know aren’t true. And while I’ve been walking this back for a while, it’s time to less subtly concede that my cavalier dismissals of Joe Biden as a potential Democratic were wrong. The polling after his entry makes it pretty clear that he’s the frontrunner. Nate has a good summary of the key state-by-state polling, which (whew) isn’t quite as good for Biden, but (gulp) doesn’t show any other candidate as particularly strong:
—Buttigieg and Warren stronger in IA and to some extent NH than nationally.
—Fairly discouraging numbers for Harris (especially in SC) and O’Rourke.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 6, 2019
None of this is reason for those of us who don’t want Biden not to be the candidate to panic. Many frontrunners at this stage win but some don’t, and I still think that Biden is an unusually vulnerable frontrunner, and there are still multiple viable alternatives who could catch fire, especially after the field thins. But I have to admit that the path for victory for Biden is frighteningly clear: he’s getting more media coverage than the other candidates combined, Bernie might have a high floor of supporters (who won’t consider other alternatives like Warren) but also a fairly low ceiling once his anti-Clinton voters peel off to Biden and other candidates, etc. He’s very beatable but it will take some work.
As Weigel reminds us, this is also a Exhibit Z of why heighten-the-contradictions arguments are really dumb and immoral:
The long game here was “hand Donald Trump four years and at least one Supreme Court seat, and obviously a left-populist victory will come in 2020.” What if, you know, it doesn’t— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 5, 2019
Arguments from the left (or “left”) about why we shouldn’t have been too worried about Trump winning relied on a lot of highly contingent assumptions, among them “if Clinton loses it will be the left’s turn to get the nomination.” But that’s not how any of this works even if it’s how you think it should work. In my view, “electability” arguments for Biden are very weak, not least because they’re always weak. But nor is it terribly surprising that with the threat of Trump some ordinary voters and Democratic groups are going with what they consider a safe alternative and the media will be telling them is a safe alternative. It’s a real problem to overcome.