Not Rocket Science

If nothing else, Joe Scarborough is consistent when it comes to his schadenfreude over Donald Trump’s promise to his followers, “You will get tired of all the winning.”  Before viewing the following Tweet or tuning into today’s edition of “Morning Joe,” I knew how he would begin his recap of last night’s off-year elections.

He then pointed out why Democratic handwringing over a spathe of weekend polls was premature and why this seventh consecutive poor showing in the only poll that matters (an actual election) does not rest solely on the shoulders of the twice impeached, four times indicted, wannabe autocrat.  However, what he failed to do was explain it in simple enough terms even the leaders of his former party could understand.

There are only two factors which determine an election’s outcome.  The candidate and the issues on which he or she runs.  The sweet spot in politics is an intersection between the two.  However, sometimes the issues don’t matter.  John Kennedy comes to mind.  Analyses of Kennedy’s and Nixon’s 1960 platforms suggest their respective stances on the major issues of the day were almost indistinguishable.  Sometimes it is the nominee who is a non-factor.  Most Americans did not feel any personal affinity to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but his commitment to carry on Kennedy’s agenda versus the (what  then seemed) extremist views voiced by firebrand Barry Goldwater made LBJ’s brash and often crude persona irrelevant.

Which brings us to the 2024 presidential election.  The Democratic Party will have a nominee who certainly does not make most Americans swoon.  But as we saw again last night, it stands with a majority of American on most key issues.  And when it articulates those positions in a way that resonates with even more Americans, Democrats win. 

Take the extreme example of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.  His opponent Daniel Cameron made an issue of Beshear’s veto of what the Associated Press described as “a sweeping Republican bill aimed at regulating the lives of transgender youths that includes banning access to gender-affirming health care and restricting the bathrooms they can use.”  Beshear knew he needed to frame his decision in a way that appealed to (or at least did not offend) the same people who wanted more parental control over the curriculum in their children’s schools.  In his veto message, he said, “This bill allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children.”  The result?  Beshear’s margin of victory against a Republican touted as an up-and-comer with a future on the national political stage was five percentage points higher than his narrow win four years earlier.

In contrast, the GOP will have a candidate who has an approval rating lower than Joe Biden’s.  In addition, the party’s position on most issues is the polar opposite of that of an overwhelming majority of American voters.  Reproductive rights, gun safety, American democracy and voting rights.  Gay rights.  Separation of church and state.

Any campaign, going into 2024, would prefer to have both an exciting candidate and a platform that resonates with a majority of voters.  But given the current landscape, one party is batting .500 while the other is 0 for 7 since 2016.  Despite the most recent polls, common sense should tell us Biden’s chances are much brighter than they appear.  But as Scarborough suggested on Monday morning, bad polls, regardless how accurate they may be, send the candidate and his campaign a message.  “Work harder!”  The same applies to every individual who dreads a second Trump term.

For what it’s worth.