Trump knew more about Democratic voters than we knew about ourselves

It’s possible you will never read these words in this column again.

President Donald Trump was right. He – or at least his team – saw something that many of us Democrats didn’t.

Trump risked his presidency and scuttled his legacy in an effort to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden. He was impeached for his efforts and cleared only thanks to blindly obedient Republicans in the US Senate.

While Democrats have been playing footsie with a huge list of potential nominees, Trump recognized early that Biden had the most national support and the best chance to consolidate Democrats against him.

After South Carolina and Super Tuesday, it’s hard to argue anything other than he was right.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a primary election night campaign rally Tuesday in Los Angeles. Biden has been declared the winner of the Maine Democratic presidential primary. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

There’s still a lot of time and delegates left in the Democratic nominating process, but Biden’s shocking comeback positions him exactly where Trump thought he would be – at the head of a dwindling pack of candidates.

And frankly, with hindsight, it makes a lot of sense.

With the exception of his performance in the South Carolina debate, Biden has been lackluster on stage. Gaffe prone and looking a little doddery, pundits and pontificators began to write him off.

Trump didn’t. From personal experience, he knew that voters often see debates differently than the professional talking class. Trump was destroyed in both the Republican primary debates and by Hillary Clinton during the general election.

His weaknesses – his arrogance and his hatefulness, and his lack of deep thinking, just to name a few – were all but on display. But for many of his voters, this wasn’t a bug in the program, it was part of what made Trump alluring.

Democratic voters know Joe Biden.

He was the very popular vice president of a very popular Democratic president, Barack Obama. He has spent a lifetime in public service, building relationships and making friends. And he has led on important issues like LGBTQ rights, pushing Obama ultimately to the right place. And he has unmatched support in the primary from black voters, who are critical to the prospects of any national Democratic candidate.

The other candidates remaining in the primary race each have their lanes. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren attracts people who are like her. Vox analyzed her support and where it’s coming from and found that it’s people a lot like those in the pundit and journalism class who support her. In an article with the headline, “Why Elizabeth Warren is losing even if all your friends love her,” the author explains that Warren is the favorite among voters with a post-graduate degree – turns out, there just aren’t that many of those types of voters.

Former New York City Michael Bloomberg seems to be proving money can’t buy you love, even if it can by a lot of TV ads.

Meanwhile, US Sen. Bernie Sanders’ theory of the election is that he can expand the electorate, bringing new and younger voters out on Election Day. That’s the path he sees for how he can beat the president in the fall. But, once again in hindsight, that just isn’t playing out.

On Super Tuesday, there was a surge of Democratic voters and a big increase in participation from 2016. But the growth wasn’t among young voters. If anything, Sanders’ coalition is smaller today than it was four years ago when he lost to Hillary Clinton.

While I think most all of us on the Democratic side would like to see more young voters participating in the process, history and the data just don’t support that idea as the path to victory.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race after South Carolina and endorsed Biden, performed well beyond expectations. I voted for Buttigieg in part because I wanted a generational change in the leadership of the party. But a 38-year-old former mayor of a mid-size city in Indiana? Today, it seems ludicrous to have thought he could be president and yet last week, that’s exactly what I thought.

Biden has emerged from Super Tuesday as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary contest. Sanders is the insurgent challenger, with a strong base of committed supporters. As of Tuesday morning, Biden beat all expectations in Maine, holding a slight lead over Sanders. Raise your hand if you thought Bernie was going to run away with Maine. I did.

And that’s exactly how Trump has been acting all along. Attacking Biden with the weight of the presidency, and stirring the pot to incite Sanders supporters.

Since I’m unlikely to use the words in regards to Trump ever again, I’ll repeat them one more time: Trump was right about the Democratic Party.

Now I need to go wash the hands that typed that.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at