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Tim Burke: Appealing to moderate voters will be key in 2020

Republicans need to take note that to win in 2020 they will need to appeal to conservatives and moderates alike.

The numbers don’t lie when it comes down to who the early favorites are for president in 2020.

A recent poll shows that Joe Biden leads all candidates by a substantial margin.

According to a Fox News poll released Sunday, when asked whom they would like to see win the nomination from a list of 20 potential candidates, 31 percent of Democratic primary voters choose former Vice President Joe Biden. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont comes in second with 23 percent, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California (8 percent), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas (8 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (4 percent) and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey (4 percent).

Even more disturbing for ardent Trump supporters, Biden performed the best of the potential Democratic nominees in a theoretical head-to-head match-up with Trump. If the election were held today, 47 percent of all voters say they would vote for Biden, and 40 percent say they would vote for Trump.

Why Joe Biden? Biden is viewed as a moderate and a link to the past Democrat glory days of the Obama presidency. While many of the current Democratic candidates have embraced the far-left ideology of a more socialist form of government, history shows that a candidate who can connect with moderate voters wins elections. Moderates and conservatives make up the majority of voters.

Thirty-five percent of voters call themselves moderate, compared with only 26 percent who call themselves liberal, according to Gallup. Another 35 percent call themselves conservative. Even among Democrats, only about half use the liberal label, with the other half choosing moderate or conservative.

Gallup found late last year that most Democratic voters — by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent — would rather their party move to the center than to the left. Most Republicans, by contrast, want their party to continue moving right but in doing so it moves the party further away from attracting moderate voters.

Republican candidates need to tone down the far-right rhetoric to have any chance of winning in the 2020 elections. On the key hot-button issues of taxes, immigration, and health care the majority of voters lean decidedly left.

If Republicans can embrace a position of at least willing to discuss these key issues with a more open-minded and reasonable dialogue, they have a chance to attract the key moderate swing votes.

If they stick to the far-right rhetoric they will continue to alienate those voters, just like the far-left rhetoric is doing now. Proposals like the “Green New Deal” create well-defined liberal positions that can be exploited to show just how far left the Democratic party has moved.

This move away from the center has created a vacuum within the party and moderate voters are desperate to find candidates to fill that void.

The move to attract moderate voters starts at the local level. Local Republican party members have an opportunity to set the stage for the 2020 elections. Typically, local party members of either party tend to be the most ardent supporters of either the far-left or far-right positions because those positions elicit strong emotions and emotion is what drives people to action.

If the local Republican parties can show some restraint in the far-right rhetoric and take a more open and reasoned approach on key voter issues, that will appeal to a broader base of voters. The local parties also need to find candidates that can appeal to moderate and conservative voters.

It doesn’t mean abandoning the party’s conservative principles, instead, it means displaying a willingness to dialogue with the center on issues and that will attract moderate voters. Not doing so means that in 2020, an even bigger blue wave could sweep through all levels of elections.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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