So which Democratic candidate would do best in 2020 against Trump?

Published 2:06 pm Thursday, February 27, 2020

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Supporters of every Democratic Party candidate claims that its candidate would be the best against President Donald Trump. But there’s a way to determine it. And it goes beyond national election polls. I’ve conducted the right kind of analysis, the ones the Democrats should have done four years ago. And this study will tell you which candidate is the best bet in 2020.

Over and over again, we’ve been handed the line “polls lie.” “They were wrong.” It’s not that the polls were manipulated by Republicans, Democrats, Russians, whatever. They showed a small lead for Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, and that’s what we got: D = 48%, R = 46%,

The problem we had is that nearly every polling agency gave us national popular vote on a daily basis…several a day. We barely got a fraction of those polls for states like Wisconsin. And if you didn’t know that states decide the election after 2000, or even 2016, you hopefully do now.

RealClearPolitics’ national polls tell me that Biden leads Trump 50.4 to 45.6. Sanders leads Trump 50.2 to 45.6. Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar have leads in national polls from 2 to 2.2 percentage points. Bloomberg has a five-point lead over Trump. But isn’t the important question who leads at state levels?

So, I looked at the only state polls Real Clear Politics has as of the writing of this column: Texas, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin. Florida, Michigan, and Nevada (Trump leads all Democrats by wide margins in Alabama and Tennessee).

I added up all of their scores, to see which of the five candidates would fare best in the polls against the U.S. President.

Here’s what I found. Across all surveys, Biden leads Trump on average in these swing states by 3.42 points. Sanders leads Trump by two points. Trump leads Warren by 0.741 points. Buttigieg only has an insignificant 0.2857-point lead. Trump leads Bloomberg by 1.5 points, and Klobuchar (only included in one state poll) trails Trump by three percentage points.

Of those states, Sanders only does better against Trump than Biden vs. Trump in one state: Florida (though both lead Trump). Both Sanders and Biden do equally well against Trump in New Hampshire (both are eight points over the president). Biden does better against Trump in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada. Trump leads Biden and Sanders in Iowa and Texas, though Biden is closer to taking both states than Sanders.

So here’s what’s happening. All Democrats do better than Trump across the country, but when it comes to the states, Trump is in a better position against Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Bloomberg. Sanders and Biden have the best numbers against Trump, but not all numbers are the same. Sanders leads Trump by even wider margins than Biden does in blue states, but Biden performs better in purple states, and has the better chance of taking the Electoral College.

What we really need are more statewide polls, not these nationwide polls. We don’t know what would happen in other close states, from Arizona to Minnesota, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, in head-to-head matchups, or who is best poised to capture Ohio, North Carolina or even Georgia in the fall of 2020.

Without these numbers, polls really won’t tell us much about the election.