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Democrats have no idea how to win in 2020 without taking a backseat to Republicans, but they have a pretty good idea how they would win the presidency.
The first question many voters have is: How would they do it?
In this week’s WSJ, political writer Alex Isenstadt and political scientist Richard Herrnstein Jr. explore.
The answer, according to their research, is a little more complicated than they might think.
They argue that Democrats are uniquely positioned to make a comeback in the presidential contest, given their record of winning the White House and the fact that they’ve done it for four decades.
They suggest that if Democrats could maintain their lead in the national polls, they’d be able to hold onto that advantage.
That’s a good argument, given that they’re currently in a virtual tie with the GOP, which leads in the popular vote.
But they also suggest that the GOP has the advantages in a few other areas.
The GOP holds a narrow advantage in national and state elections and has strong candidates in the Senate and House.
The Senate and the House are also deeply divided.
And while Democrats control Congress, Republicans control governorships in many states.
The key to a Democratic resurgence, they argue, is the ability to tap into the enthusiasm of blue-collar whites and minorities.
That would allow them to capture some of the Democratic vote that helped propel President Barack Obama to victory in 2012.
Democrats also have a lot of ground to make up in key battleground states, like Ohio, where they’re up against a Republican governor.
“If Democrats can keep their lead over the GOP nationally, they’ll have a strong chance of winning a majority in the House,” Mr. Herrnsteins said.
But in a race like this, a victory would be no sure thing, he said.
They’ve had only two winning presidential races in the modern era: in 1992 and 1984.
“We have the historical evidence that if you win in the past, it’s not really a guarantee that you’ll win in a midterm,” he said, noting that Democrats had been swept in 2008 and 2010 by Republican governors.
“But if you lose, it is a big, big possibility.”
The key, Mr. Isenstaden said, is getting out there and getting to voters’ homes, particularly women, who are the most likely to turn out.
In 2016, Democrats won 57 percent of women’s votes, a figure they have not won since 1972.
And they did it despite a deep gender gap in the electorate.
“I think that’s going to be an issue in 2020,” he added.
The Republican advantage in the White Houses is a good thing, they say.
But the GOP is also historically strong in the electoral college, where Democrats have won in eight of the past 10 elections.
“Democrats will need to do a better job of turning out voters who are not engaged, who don’t vote,” Mr.-Isenstadt said.
The Democrats will need an answer in how to get there.
Democrats currently hold the majority in both chambers of Congress, but their majority is in a precarious position.
“Republicans are on the verge of a net gain of about 30 seats,” Mr-Isenstad and Mr. Shevnesstein wrote.
They also hold a comfortable advantage in governorships.
Democrats have also made gains in state legislatures, with the statehouses winning more than 90 percent of the seats up for grabs in 2020.
Democrats could do even better, said Mr. Greenberg, who is the founder and CEO of the Center for the Study of Politics at Princeton University.
But it’s a tall order.
Democrats need to maintain their advantage in key states and make the case that they have the best chance to recapture the Whitehouse, Mr.-Goldberg said.
The question for Democrats is whether they can do that.