More Iowa Democrats are worried about electing a presidential candidate who will beat Donald Trump than they are with finding a candidate who reflects their priorities, according to the Suffolk University poll released today.
While the result seems like a win for the party, Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, said picking the candidate to beat Trump could prove to be problematic.
“How are they going to decide who that is?” Schmidt asked. “The whole idea is Joe Biden — he’s tough and he’s old and he can be pretty working class and punch President Trump and stand up to him — but in this debate that didn’t seem to be the case.”
“He looked somewhat soft and not well prepared,” Schmidt said about last week’s Democratic presidential debate. “Now the question is, is it Kamala Harris who can … not so much stand up to Trump but who can appeal to independent voters? That’s going to be the question going forward.”
Those independent voters are going to be key to winning the 2020 election, Schmdit said.
“Your party alone — even if everybody votes — doesn’t have enough voters,” Schmidt said. “The question is who can appeal to the Democratic party base and excite the African American voters.”
The Black Vote
One topic that candidates have considered to reach black voters is reparations for descendants of African slaves.
A few candidates, such as Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson and Elizabeth Warren, have already proposed various versions of reparation plans.
But, according to the poll, it’s an issue that’s dividing Iowa Democrats.
Of the 500 Iowans questioned, 444 identified as white or Caucasian. Less than 5 percent identified as black or African American. Their answers were fairly evenly spit when asked about reparations: 213 were opposed, 194 were for it.
It’s a question that goes beyond just addressing slavery, said State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. Reparations are also a way to indicate issues such as high incarceration rates, disparity in education and disparity in healthcare can be dealt with.
Abdul-Samad told Starting Line he’d be interested in knowing some more information about the way the Iowans responded. He wondered if it’s indicative of the evenly-split age groups who voted in the poll.
“Looking at the targeted age group, if it’s a cross section, you have young people who are now understanding history, who understand the struggle, who have no problem,” Abdul-Samad said. “You have baby boomers who ask, ‘why are we even talking about it?’ Because they didn’t have anything to do with it.”
He also said another question should have been added addressing white privilege.
“Do you believe white privilege should exist?” Abdul-Samad asked. “That’d give them a preview to the reparation question.”
Overall, Abdul-Samad said he was glad the reparations question was asked because it’s something that hasn’t been discussed at a local level before, let alone on a national stage.
He said he hopes people will “think outside the box” as the reparations discussion continues.
“We still have individuals who are treated differently because of the color of their skin, treated differently because of their disability, treated differently because of their gender,” Abdul-Samad said. Those issues won’t go away “until we start looking outside the box.”
Issues Iowans Are Considering
When asked what issue is most important to them, 145 Iowans said “healthcare.” “Climate change,” “immigration,” “undecided” and “income inequality” followed as popular answers.
And the students on ISU’s campus are catching on to income inequality issues.
“You know, it’s the: If you’re Donald Trump’s son and you go to college, should tax payers pay his tuition?” Schmidt said. “The answer was no. If you can afford it and you’ve got good income and you’ve got middle income, it’s a waste. On the other hand, having generous tuition abatement and scholarships and things for students who families can’t afford it, students are a big supporter of that.”
Too Early To Matter?
The Suffolk poll released July 2 shows Biden leading the way with 24% votes. “Undecided” is close behind at 21%.
Media pundits are quick to point out since the last Iowa poll was conducted that Bernie Sanders’ numbers fell and Kamala Harris’s skyrocketed. Elizabeth Warren did what she needed to do during the debates and it showed in the poll.
Schmidt said last week’s debate was likely too early to be a deal breaker for any one candidate because it’ll be fairly easy for all of the candidates to make the next debate at the end of this month.
But, he said what’s happening now will impact the race in the long run.
“Kamala Harris’s campaign contributions exploded overnight after the debate,” Schmidt said. “All of the sudden, she’s got $2 million more than she had on debate night.”
And, he said, Sanders’ sudden decline could be pointing toward a fatal fall for him down the road.
“He doesn’t own the left side of the field anymore as the progressive champion,” Schmidt said. “Some of his campaign positions and so on are — frankly, we’ve heard them before over and over and over.”
by Paige Godden