Remember that there is no such thing as a national election in America. That means that whoever tries to defeat Trump in November needs to pick off some of the key states that he won in 2016.
The three most important states Trump swiped from the Democrats, after years of GOP losses in all three of them, were Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Together those three states add up to 46 Electoral College votes. Throw in the always tight and crucial state of Florida with its 29 votes, and you have the four contests the Democratic challenger is going to have to focus on very heavily to win.
All of that makes Bernie Sanders the weakest contender in this category. In the Midwest states, we’re not likely to see any changes in the pro-Democrat urban areas and the pro-Republican rural districts. So, the results will hinge on suburban voters outside of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Detroit.
Any Democrat taking on Trump will need to get a good turnout from Democrat and Democrat-leaning middle and upper middle-class voters in those suburbs.
With his socialist views, Sanders looks dead in the water with that demographic. His message is popular with college students, young singles and poorer voters. But that group will not be enough to carry the day in November.
Florida’s demographics differ dramatically from the Midwest’s, but Sanders will face major problems trying to win a state with so many older voters. He has not been able to appeal to seniors, despite being one of them.
Speaking of Florida, that is a state Bloomberg looks like he could conceivably win against Trump. It’s also the first state where a pre-primary poll shows him ahead of his Democratic challengers.
That alone gives Bloomberg a big edge over all the other Democrats hoping to challenge Trump. Bloomberg will also be able to afford the massive get-out-the-vote operation that could make the difference in November in one or more of those key Midwestern states.
His bigger challenge will be running against Trump in the midst of a strong economy, but that’s an uphill battle for all the potential Democratic nominees.
Coming in second to Bloomberg in this category is Klobuchar. As a Midwesterner who has already won a statewide election, she could connect well with voters at least in neighboring Wisconsin. Almost as importantly, she should be able to keep her home state of Minnesota out of Trump’s hands after it just barely went to Clinton in 2016.
Buttigieg is also a Midwesterner from Indiana, but unlike Klobuchar he’s never won statewide office. Plus, Trump’s huge win in Indiana in 2016 doesn’t look like it can be overcome in 2020. Buttigieg also doesn’t seem to have the kind of economic message or experience to win over blue collar or suburban voters in Midwestern states. Buttigieg seems weaker than Bloomberg in Florida as well.
So, this leaves us with a split decision. Sanders has the best chance to beat Trump with his messaging and enthusiastic supporters. But Sanders doesn’t have the widespread geographic and demographic support right now to pull off an Electoral College win. Bloomberg can compete in more states and across more economic levels, but he doesn’t have enthusiastic support and may not be able to get out the black vote.
All in all, Trump still has to like what he sees when he looks over the remaining competition.