Well, after nearly half a year of political engine-revving and polling and polling and more polling, the debates are finally here. In this time, many people (Gavelers included) have been able to form some opinions on the race so far.
And with an unprecedentedly vast field, the stakes are high and the takes are hot. Will Biden be dethroned in the polls? Can Trump win in 2020? Will Seth Moulton/Michael Bennet/Steve Bullock/Bland White Guy ultimately matter? Read five Gavelers' opinions here.
Joe Ezersky, Associate Culture Editor:
Who I’d Like to Win: Bernie Sanders
In an election where the notion of beating Donald Trump seems further out of reach than one would ever expect, there’s an argument for restraint. However, nominating a candidate whose ideas are marginally better than a moderate Republican doesn’t excite voters. Voters want something to believe in that isn’t just opposition to the chaos and inhumanity of the Trump White House, and they have that in Bernie Sanders. Bernie has consistently led on strong Democratic ideas that harken back to FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society: Medicare For All, free public college, ending mass incarceration, and the Green New Deal. A liberal candidate like Sanders offers a real alternative not just to Trump but to the increasingly right-wing Republicans. He’s not just against Trump, he’s for progress.
Who Will Win: Biden or Sanders
The divide in the Democratic Party is seen clearest in its two leading candidates: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. They’re similar in age and demographic, yet opposites in their paths forward. Biden represents the mainstream, slow progress of the party. However, this slow, insider record may haunt him. Biden dominates current polls, but at this time in 2015, Jeb Bush commanded the Republican primary, with Trump only at 1%. This isn’t to discount Biden, but rather to emphasize just how early into the process it is. Biden’s recognition among voters and the fact that he has some Obama magic means he’ll be tough to beat. The only candidate still nipping at his heels is Sanders, the leftist yang to Biden’s yin. Both have solid favorability numbers and the potential to go the distance.
Will They Beat Trump: It’s Close, But Yes
After 2016, the electability metric is severely in question. However, both Biden and Sanders have the ability to engage bases of voters and are currently beating Trump in key states like North Carolina and Michigan. Winning the White House won’t be easy and will require a full-scale effort among voters, as well as energy and focus from the candidates. However, I don’t think the importance of this election will be lost on voters, and both candidates have strong factors in their favor to push them over the top.
Julia Swiatek, Associate Opinions Editor
Who I’d Like to Win: Elizabeth Warren
I want Senator Elizabeth Warren to get the 2020 nomination. What sets her apart as a candidate is how meticulously detailed her plans for the future are. Some political analysts argue that it’s too early in the race to be focusing on policy because voters are paying more attention to charisma and electability at this stage. Yet, I believe that Warren’s relentless determination to address how key issues can be solved speaks more volumes about her character than any vague calls for change from other candidates. She has a plan for climate change, the opioid crisis, housing inequality, student debt, Washington corruption, etc. She’s a woman with a to-do list and she explains how to pay for it.
Who Will Win: Joe Biden
In reality, I think Joe Biden will win the nomination. He’s had a steady lead in polls, and Sanders is beginning to trail by a larger margin. This may be due to the fact that moderates generally have higher favorability ratings than the progressive left. According to fivethirtyeight.com, Biden has the highest favorability rating among Democrats followed by Buttigieg. Some believe a moderate is necessary to succeed in swing states averse to radical stances. Mainly, Obama’s presidency cast Joe in a glowing light that is likely to follow him to the polls.
Will They Beat Trump: Yes
Biden can beat Trump as long as he can manage to unify the more progressive left with his group of moderate supporters. He also may be able to flip some former Trump voters considering his stances aren’t radical enough to scare them away.
Keaden Morisaki, Associate Copy Editor
Who I’d Like to Win: Pete Buttigieg
I haven’t spent much time thinking about primary elections in the past because it always seemed like the candidates were similar, and thus differences wouldn’t matter until they took on opponents from other parties in the following general elections. But after watching the current president overcome no political experience and bypass twelve other Republican candidates, it seems just as important now for the Democratic party to award a nomination to someone who is electable. However, focusing on electability in addition to the candidates' concern with voter issues is an unpopular opinion among younger voters. With that being said, at present I would most like to see Pete Buttigieg become the next president.
Who Will Win: Pete Buttigieg
There are a number of strong candidates who shouldn’t be overlooked, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders being two that are both popular among Democrats and seasoned politicians, as well as Kamala Harris who is a powerful champion for gender equality and a number of other social movements. Yet, the South Bend mayor seems to be exactly what we need in a time of such divisiveness. Despite this, it is difficult to say for certain who will come out on top, especially in a pool of candidates as crowded as this one.
Will They Beat Trump: Yes
Many are turned away by his lack of experience in federal government, which is a fair concern. However, this doesn’t mean he isn’t experienced in government and it could be his midwest, local government background that sets him apart from other candidates who are unlikely to even be granted a second thought by traditionally Republican voters. His impressive academic resume, his ambitions for democratic reform and increased diversity, and support for environmentally conscious policies reflect the growing concerns of an increasingly frustrated, progressive demographic. Meanwhile, his military service, faith, and love of America that he so frequently expresses gives him the “patriotic” persona that may attract more traditionally Republican voters. What most entices me about Buttigieg is his commitment to make sure every voters knows he is for them, a sentiment that has been lacking in previous presidencies and particularly in our current one.
Anton Aguila, Print Editor
Who I’d Like to Win: Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg
Let me preface this by making it perfectly clear, any analysis, predictions, or otherwise extrapolation, is, and will remain for quite a while, incredibly premature. Especially considering that we have yet to see any of them face off in the debates.
This Democratic field is the most expansive in modern history. With that in mind, I’d personally be more than thrilled if either Sen. Kamala Harris or Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the nomination. As members of the “progressive new guard” they seem capable of appealing to the greatest share of the existing electorate while still having personal stories that would inspire less-than-likely voters.
Who Will Win: Joe Biden
Let there be no mistake, this is certainly former VP Joe Biden’s race to lose. With an average 18-point lead over his closest competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, it is largely agreed that Joe Biden’s main opponent in this primary will be Joe Biden.
Supported by much of the Democratic establishment (measured by the number of endorsements he’s received in comparison to other candidates) and enjoying near universal name recognition, Biden’s greatest asset is the perennially ephemeral shroud of “electability.” And regardless of how accurate that is, a lot of folks believe Biden has it.
Will They Beat Trump: Yes
That notion will only be reinforced with every poll released showing Biden overcoming the president, from a +12 in North Carolina, or a +12 in Michigan, to a stunning +4 in Texas itself. (For the people about to cite 2016 as a reason to distrust polling in general, I would only refer you to that saying involving babies and bathwater.)
So as long as folks keep believing that Uncle Joe is the most capable of defeating Donald Trump—which there is certainly evidence to suggest—then I think the most shocking news to come out of Milwaukee in 2020 will be if the Bucks make it to the finals.
Nico Borbolla, Associate Features Editor
Who I’d Like to Win: Elizabeth Warren
I’ve become pretty jaded about our political system. Maybe it was the realization that democracy is and has been consistently undermined since the Reagan consensus shifted the spectrum to the right. Maybe it’s the lack of confidence that this primary’s 20+ roster of candidates inspires—every time I see a Seth Moulton ad I have to remind myself that someone really paid for a Seth Moulton ad. I find it hard to be optimistic about this primary. I can’t help but fear that no matter who faces Trump in 2020, the infighting will persist long enough to give Trump the upper hand. And quite frankly, I don’t care about the vapidity behind phrases like “fight for democracy” or “mend the divide” or “How Democratic Socialism Is the Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism.” I want policy, damn it.
That being said, I can very much get behind the indefatigable Elizabeth Warren. For a cynic like myself, she inspires hope that change can happen within the corrupt system. To suggest that radical change could happen in our broken system reduces the government to a system that simply elects autocrats. And despite all of the political bedlam to come out of the White House, the barbaric events on our border makes it clear that the real evil lies in those that remain tacitly complicit. Trump is no one-man army, and his reelection will prove that. The cure to Trumpism isn’t someone willing to clap back, or fight virality with virality. It’s someone with achievable plans for structural reform. And no one has more plans than Warren.
Who Will Win: Elizabeth Warren
Remember Jeb Bush? He was the front runner at this point in the 2016 election. Things can turn on a dime, and I have no doubt that the democratic primary will become a drawn-out, bloody, controversial mess. The real question is who can maintain themselves above or outside the fight. Trump did that by stepping outside the realm of establishment politics. I believe Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren will do it by stepping into the realm of brass tacks. Fighting fire with fire sounds nice, but water’s more effective. Pure rhetoric won’t work with democratic voters, and even if it did, Trump is better at rhetoric. The best way to ensure a victory and nomination? Policy.
Will They Beat Trump: No
To preface, let’s quote Lord Varys: “I hope I am wrong”. I would like nothing more than four years of literally any one of the 20 candidates (except maybe Tulsi). But the economy is great, polls lie, and Trump, however bafflingly, has yet to err to the point of bipartisan condemnation. All of which leads me to think he’s going to win the general in the same way he won 2020: by letting the Democrats dig each others’ graves while he captures the true soul of America: a shrug from a disenfranchised, latently racist country only beginning to overcome its own inflated perception of excellence.