The morning after: who can win the nomination in 2020?

There are lots of post-mortems about the mid-terms, people trying to draw lessons from very narrow results. On further reflection, I think I come back to the idea that (1) this is a very divided country, (2) that the majority of the people side with Democrats, and (3) that the structure of our electoral system (the Senate, the House, redistricting and the Electoral College) favors Republicans. The 2020 election will be narrow (sorry folks who want a repudiation of Trump). As things currently stand, the Republican structural advantage, Trump’s popularity with Republicans and the power of incumbency all point to a Trump re-election. But that calculus will change based on who his opponent is. So let’s go there.

I will attempt to make this descriptive, not normative, but it is highly subjective. Would welcome disagreement. In this piece, I will focus on who is best suited to win the Democratic primary. I think there are four characteristics that the primary electorate will care about/will affect the primary results. I will weight each equally and rank each candidate on a scale of 1–10 on each. The average score will dictate their rankings for now. Of course, each characteristic is not equal-weighted, and the rank of each candidate is subject to subjective disagreement as well as objective evolution over time. But I am finding this a useful way to think about the current field.

Here are the characteristics I will rank:

1) Fidelity to Democratic principles — a primary electorate is generally more orthodox on various key issues, and significant divergence on these issues will make it harder for a candidate to win the primary.

2) Key constituency turnout — there are several voting blocs in the party, which have outsized effects in a primary, especially given the current schedule that sends the party South and Southwest before it goes Midwest. A candidate that can turn out the African-American vote or inspire Latinos or young people to vote will have an advantage.

3) Ability to win — or rather, the perception of the ability to win. Democratic voters are hungry to wrest the Presidency from the current occupant. There will be many voters who will cast a vote focused on this characteristic uber alles.

4) Lightning in a bottle — this is a large field. Someone who can catch a wave, go viral, become a meme will have an ability to break out quickly. The primary schedule is fast and furious; one catapult to celebrity can be the difference in a race like this.

The chart below, with the best candidates in each category scaled to 10, shows how I think each candidate stacks up based on this methodology:

I’m sure lots of people will disagree with this ranking system and the individual ranks. What do I have wrong?