George Will: Elizabeth Warren not suited to push swing voters away from Trump
Along New York’s East River, which is not really a river (it is a 16-mile-long tidal estuary), perhaps 20,000 people actually chose to spend a gorgeous autumn afternoon Saturday listening to socialist Bernie Sanders, who is not really a socialist — he just wants to confiscate capitalism’s bounty to fund his promises of free stuff. This might seem counterintuitive, but: It bodes well for the republic that so many were eager to hear yet another of Sanders’ harangues about the inequity of all existing social arrangements.
The rally was Sanders’ announcement that he, like the Young Man in Longfellow’s poem, is “up and doing, with a heart for any fate.” His message was: Never mind my heart attack. He is 78, and, in his second run for the nomination, is no longer a novelty, which Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a sprightly 70, is. Her persona, that of a hectoring schoolmarm, can be grating, but is less so than his.
The longer Sanders lasts before Warren cannibalizes his support, the better it will be for Joe Biden. And the longer Biden lasts as the broccoli candidate — not fun but good for you — the more time there will be for two grown-ups, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Colorado’s Michael Bennet, both senators, to thrive as unrecycled moderates. Were Democrats to nominate either, Trump’s removal, which Democrats insist is their sovereign objective, would be assured. Consider some electoral realities:
Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, in collaboration with the Kaiser Family Foundation, has found: “Swing voters tend to be younger, more moderate and less engaged in politics” than those who already firmly support or oppose Trump, or than the overall electorate. Warren is not suited to make them swing away from Trump.
Matt Fuehrmeyer writes in The Hill that Democrats could win back Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still lose if Trump wins Minnesota, where Republicans flipped two House seats in 2018. Clinton defeated Trump there by just 1.5 percentage points. Klobuchar would probably put Minnesota beyond Trump’s reach.
In purple Colorado, voters in 2016 resoundingly rejected a ballot initiative to create a state-run universal health care system that would have replaced private health insurance. Warren is not as suited to Colorado as is Bennet, who has twice won statewide there.
In New Hampshire, a recent poll found that whereas 28% want “radical change” — Warren’s promise — 57% want the country to get “back to normal.”
No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976 (barely: with just 51%), and Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas for a quarter of a century, since 1994. But, although the state is acquiring a purple ting, it is not apt to be smitten with Warren in 2020.
Trump won Florida by just 1.2 points. In 2018, Republicans won the governorship by just four-tenths of a point and a U.S. Senate seat by two-tenths. The state’s 29 electoral votes are within reach, but Warren is not the Democrat most likely to capture them. The same is true of purple Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina.
Finally, the most charming, the most adult campaign promise this season has been: “If you elect me president, I promise you won’t have to think about me for two weeks at a time.” So says Michael Bennet.
George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and can be reached via email.