by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If it does become a two-way contest, we could be shaping up for a kind of replay of the 2004 Democratic battle between former Massachusetts senator John Kerry and former Vermont governor Howard Dean. And that might be good for Michael Bloomberg.
Biden’s ace in the hole is his support from African-American voters, which hinges on their belief that Biden is the most likely candidate to defeat President Trump. A new Washington Post–Ipsos poll has Biden capturing 48 percent of black votes, and 57 percent of black voters say the thing they’re looking for most in a candidate is the ability to beat Trump. Only a third say their main consideration is how closely a candidate aligns with them on the issues. These “issues” voters skew younger, which might partially explain why Sanders comes in second among black voters with 20 percent.
The whole dynamic is somewhat reminiscent of the 2004 primaries. Kerry was the establishment candidate, Dean was the firebrand outsider with a lot of support from young progressives.
It’s largely forgotten now, but Kerry won the early contests not because voters liked him best, but because they thought other voters would prefer him down the road. …
… Biden is positioned somewhat differently from Kerry — he’s more likable, if wackier, for starters. And Sanders has a much more robust organization than Dean had. But the similarities are real. It raises an interesting question: What if voters at the time had a better understanding of Kerry’s weaknesses as a “war hero” candidate — the main rationale for his electability claims? …
… If Biden loses in Iowa and New Hampshire — a very real possibility — will pragmatic voters, including Biden’s firewall of black voters, stand by him?
If they don’t, that would be billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s opportunity.