January 16, 2019


Why Harris And O'Rourke May Have More Upside Than Sanders And Biden (Nate Silver, Jan. 14, 2019, 538)

Last week, we introduced a method for evaluating Democratic presidential contenders, which focused on their ability to build a coalition among key constituencies within the party. In particular, our method claims there are five essential groups of Democratic voters, which we describe as:

Party Loyalists, who are mostly older, lifelong Democrats who care about experience and electability.

The Left.

Millennials and Friends, who are young, cosmopolitan and social-media-savvy.

Black voters.

And Hispanic voters, who for some purposes can be grouped together with Asian voters.

The goal is for candidates to form a coalition consisting of at least three of the five groups.

I certainly wouldn't claim that this is the only way to evaluate the field; rather, it's part of what we hope will be a fairly broad toolkit of approaches that we'll be applying as we cover the Democratic candidates at FiveThirtyEight over the course of the next 18(!!) months.1 Furthermore, in reality, the various ideological and demographic constituencies within the Democratic Party are more fluid than this analysis implies. Nonetheless, it has influenced my thinking -- the coalition-building model has made me more skeptical about the chances for Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, for instance, but more bullish about Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker. In this article, I'll go through a set of 10 leading contenders and map out their potential winning coalitions; we'll tackle some of the long-shot candidates later on this week. [...]

The candidate who looks best according to the coalition-building model is probably not O'Rourke, however. Instead, it's California Sen. Kamala Harris, who potentially has strength with all five groups.

Harris, who is of mixed Jamaican (black) and Indian descent, was easily the top choice in the survey of influential women of color that I mentioned earlier. So while I don't automatically want to assume that nonwhite candidates will necessarily win over voters who share their racial background -- it took Obama some time to persuade African-Americans to vote for him in 2008 -- Harris seems to be off to a pretty good head start. And her coalition not only includes black voters, but also potentially Asian and Hispanic voters. Harris did narrowly lose Hispanic voters to Sanchez, a Hispanic Democrat, in 2016 (while winning handily among Asian voters). But her approval ratings among Hispanic voters are high in California, a state where the group makes up around a third of the electorate.

If black voters and the Hispanic/Asian group constitute Harris's first two building blocks, she'd then be able to decide which of the three remaining (predominately white) Democratic groups to target to complete her trifecta. And you could make the case for any of the three. Harris polls better among well-informed voters, which could suggest strength among Party Loyalists. She's young-ish (54 years old) and has over 1 million Instagram followers, which implies potential strength among millennials. (And remember, Democratic millennials highly value racial diversity.) Harris's worst group -- despite a highly liberal, anti-Trump voting record -- might actually be The Left, the whitest and most male group, from which she's drawn occasional criticism for her decisions as a prosecutor and a district attorney.

Posted by at January 16, 2019 7:02 PM