Big hurdles face the Democrats’ “B” team of presidential nominees. Biden, Bernie, Beto and Brown may not scale in 2020.
First, their history is challenging.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is hurt most by his past. There’s his age, his lukewarm assistance to the Hillary Clinton campaign, his whiteness and, most damaging, his behavior in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.
If a Democratic opponent does not have snippets of those hearings—featuring a rather cavalier approach by Biden—already cued up, the Trump campaign surely does.
Women have long memories — especially those reliable “most likely to vote” older constituents.
Then there are his gnarly family issues. Tabloid news hasn’t hurt Trump, and it may or may not hurt Biden. But in case, Trump will skewer Biden where it hurts, which could fire his Irish temper, or cause him to wilt in the stretch.
Obviously, Trump’s team also has already captured the video of Biden crying at Sen. John McCain’s funeral — which prompted Trump’s early campaign Twitter “vow” that Joe Biden “would go down hard crying all the way.”
Add to these liabilities, the voters’ perennial desire for a “new face.” This preference hampers both Biden and Bernie Sanders, the junior senator from Vermont.
At 77, Sanders’ age is also a factor. In 2020, millennials will outnumber the Baby Boomers as the largest age group eligible to vote.
But more problematic for Sanders is his history. Many progressives—and moderate Democrats—believe that his quixotic campaign against Hillary Clinton cost them the White House and delivered Trump.
The Clintons will surely work to impede a successful run by Sanders. Even his millennial protégé, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has refused to support Sanders. And Recall that he lost to Clinton in South Carolina by a whopping 47 points!
Which brings us to Beto O’Rouke, who is young, a fresh face, energetic, and also a formidable fundraiser and campaigner. However, he lost his U.S. Senate race in Texas to the hugely unpopular Ted Cruz.
Also, Beto’s candidacy would face increased scrutiny into the history of his 1998 drunken driving arrest and the allegations he fled the scene. He was 26 at the time.
Most likely, Beto is angling for the Vice President slot or a Cabinet post. Or to draw votes from one candidate as a favor to another. In fact, that appears the most obvious explanation for the over two dozen back-bench entrants already in the Democratic primary.
Lastly there’s Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a popular moderate Democrat from a swing state married to a progressive, talented wife.
He sees an opening in a narrow lane — arguing that a Midwestern representative needs to be on the ticket. His history is the least marred of the “B” team, but also the least known.
However, the number one hurdle each of these men face is the math in the form of women.
White women. Women of color. Women of California, Massachusetts and South Carolina. Women of every must-win state. Women on the border. Women where Hillary Clinton won. Women of the #MeToo movement.
American women are reminded by every nightly news feed of alleged abuse against them — by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, the sex trafficking news that recently snared Robert Kraft, and the indelible separation of women from their children at the border.
In short, the new political power of women has been underappreciated.
This realization is not just because women outnumber male voters, but because of first- and second-hand knowledge of their own, their friend’s, their neighbor’s, or family member’s stories of abuse.
They no longer suffer in silence, but vote in a bloc.
Look at Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Governor of Georgia and Doug Jones’s Senate victory in Alabama. Black women made the difference.
Look at conservative Orange County where white women helped turned over the entire GOP congressional delegation to the Democrats.
It should surprise no one that a woman will be on the Democratic ticket in 2020.
Do the math. Read the history. The “B” team is in trouble.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.