New 2020 Poll Shows Just How Much Trouble Democrats Are Facing


If a new poll is correct, Democrats might be counting on a guy who couldn’t win a Senate seat in Texas with all the money in the world against a media whipping-boy to take back the White House in 2020.

The survey, conducted Dec. 6-9 by CNN, found that the biggest mover in the Democrat field between October and December is none other than Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who now sits in third place with 9 percent.

In spite of losing the race for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, O’Rourke saw his share of the vote more than double from 4 percent in the presidential October poll.

First place, as usual, was taken by Joe Biden, whose percentage of the vote shrank slightly from two months ago. The former vice president and human gaffe machine now sits at 30 percent, compared with 33 percent in October.

Bernie Sanders, everyone’s favorite socialist and Clarence Darrow impersonator, was second at 14 percent; that’s virtually unchanged from 13 percent in October.

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Among Democrat politicians not named Biden, Bernie or Beto, the leading candidate was New Jersey Sen. Cory “Spartacus” Booker, holding at 5 percent.

The only real movement further down the ballot came from candidates losing momentum.

California Sen. Kamala Harris fell from 9 percent in October to 4 percent in this survey, presumably because Kavanaughmania is over and voters aren’t treated to her visage on the tube every half-hour or so.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also saw a 5 percent dive, from 8 percent to 3 percent. I can’t possibly imagine what might have happened in the interim to precipitate that.

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Perhaps most telling is that none of the other candidates broke the 5 percent barrier.

As for the big three on the Democrat side, all have their flaws.

Biden might have put it best himself back in 2012: “My mother believed and my father believed that if I wanted to be president of the United States, I could be, I could be vice president!” Yes, exactly.

Two runs for the presidency have ended badly for Uncle Joe. In 1988, a plagiarism scandal basically ended his chances before the primaries even began. A 2008 run attracted about as much interest as a professional tee-ball league, but he found himself as vice president because Barack Obama needed to prove his seaworthiness with the party establishment.

While running a huge lead now, Biden didn’t particularly distinguish himself during his time as vice president, and there’s nothing to indicate another presidential run wouldn’t end the same way his other two did, particularly given the fact there’s no excitement factor behind him. Also, it’s worth noting that Biden is getting up there in years — perhaps not as much of an issue against 72-year-old Donald Trump, but this is someone who’s going to turn 78 right after Election Day in 2020.

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As for Bernie Sanders, well, while I’m sure the prospect makes all of the comrades happy, it’s not necessarily a viable way toward victory in 2020. When you look at where the Democrats need to pick up electoral votes — particularly blue-collar states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin — one wonders how Bernie is the answer. Socialism may be real in right now, but it doesn’t exactly play in Peoria, at least not yet. There’s also the same age issue at play again — Sanders will be 79 on Election Day and looks and acts like every one of those years.

And then there’s Beto. No, age isn’t an issue with Mr. O’Rourke, who has both the name and mannerisms of a character from a Wodehouse novel. That sort of calculated, rich-kid insouciance may work in limited doses — particularly when the media are busy calling him a “rock star” — but can it carry a whole campaign?

Then there’s the issue of money. Namely, O’Rourke likely won’t have the same waterfall of cash flowing into his campaign when he’s running against other Democrats, particularly when more experienced names are likely to be in the field. Most of the reason O’Rourke got as close as he did in November is that he was able to leverage a massive advantage in resources over Ted Cruz — more than $80 million compared with Cruz’s $34 million. That was a preposterous amount of money for a Senate campaign, an advantage he probably won’t have once the nomination season begins in earnest later next year.

There’s also the issue of experience. O’Rourke is giving up his seat in the House of Representatives in the 116th Congress, meaning he likely won’t be holding any position except professional candidate between now and November 2020. Only one individual has gone straight from the House to the White House (James Garfield in 1880, for those of you who are curious). Beto will be a private citizen in 2020, but his experience still ends at the House of Representatives. That’s a huge experience handicap for someone who’s running based on their achievements in the political arena, particularly when the field will be littered with senators, governors and (presumably) a former vice president.

If anyone else is going to take the mantle, well, it’s only about six months before the field begins to stratify in earnest. If someone’s going to chip into this sort of advantage, he or she is going to have to do it fast. Otherwise, the Republicans may have smoother sailing retaining the White House than the media would have you believe.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture