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Looking Ahead to Election 2020

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Seventy-five percent of Republican voters believe it really doesn't matter who the Democrats nominate because none of them will beat Donald Trump in next year's election. On the other hand, polling found that 49% of Democratic voters say it really doesn't matter who the Democrats nominate because any of them will beat Trump.


Among all voters, 41% believe that none of the Democrats running will beat the president, while 36% believe any of them will do so.

Those who aren't sure what will happen are the only ones who've got it right. It's too early to know what will happen, and it does matter which candidate the Democrats choose to represent them.

While it's hard for political junkies to believe, most Americans aren't paying attention to the campaign yet. Just 23% of all voters are very closely following the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The fundamental dynamics of election 2020 are that Democrats have a solid base equal to just over 40% of all voters. Republicans have a solid base just a few points less than 40%. The other 20% includes some who lean in one direction or the other but are far from committed to either party. There are a few more Republican leaners than Democratic leaners (including some GOP voters who aren't sold on President Trump).

These fundamentals suggest that if both parties manage to hold on to both their base and marginal voters, we will have a close election. In that case, the outcome will wind up in the hands of political neutrals that activists can't really understand.

The most distinctive feature of these ultimately decisive voters is that they don't think the decision matters all that much. While activists tend to believe that victory by the other side will end the world as we know it, most political neutrals don't believe things would be all that different today if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. For many of the political neutrals, the question is not how they will vote but if they will vote.


So as we try to anticipate the results of election 2020, the first question will be whether each side can hold on to their marginal voters. Will those who lean Republican but are skeptical of President Trump stay home? Vote third-party? Will Democratic leaners who like Bernie Sanders show up if Joe Biden is the nominee? Will Biden voters support a candidate like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?

If both parties can hold their coalitions together, the key question will then be which side can convince the political neutrals that the election matters and their team is best. Anybody who claims to know today how this will all turn out is either lying to you or deluding themselves.

Finally, on a personal note, this is my last column for Creators Syndicate. They've been great to work with for the past nine years, and I've been blessed by a great group of editors along the way. I've also enjoyed the feedback from readers and the publications carrying the column. But now, with 2020 on the horizon, I will focus all my energies on providing daily updates at

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