Kyrsten Sinema and the Big Question for Democrats in 2020 Versus Trump

By Recker McDowell —

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) is very much indicative of Democrats prospects in 2020 and the fork in the road they face in their bid to beat President Donald Trump and win control of the U.S. Senate.

Sinema’s moderate path helped her win the Senate seat in 2018 in red-state Arizona and has given her solid approval ratings with more moderate Democrats and even with some anti-Trump and pro-John McCain Republicans.

But Sinema has not been vocally anti-Trump and has not embraced the ‘Medicare for all’ progressive agenda. That has made her less popular with progressives driving much of the energy and activism for Democrats.

The most recent survey of Senators favorability ratings from Morning Consult gives Sinema a 47 percent approval rating and 29 percent disapproval.

A dig into those numbers shows Sinema with same approval 47 percent approval ratings of Florida Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. That trio takes the more partisan path.

McSally, who was appointed to John McCain’s seat by Gov. Doug Ducey, has a 39 percent approval rating versus 37 percent disapproving of her work, according to Morning Consult.

Democrats face the same quandary in 2020 against Trump that Republicans faced against Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Do they embrace the energy of progressives and go with the likes of U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Sanders or Bernie Sanders?

Or should Dems focus on the same middle path Sinema is taking and go with a moderate such as former Vice President Joe Biden or South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg or even now former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and perceived electability?

This has been a past challenge for Republicans on whether to go with the energy of the base or focus on electability. Of course, the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of the late John McCain and Mitt Romney produced losses to Barack Obama while Donald Trump’s energy and celebrity produced an anti-establishment upset win over the flawed candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Sinema’s win over Martha McSally for Jeff Flake’s Arizona U.S. Senate seat last year should certainly make Democrats look at the more moderate path in 2020 as they try to win in red state Arizona and other battlegrounds such as Florida and in the Rust Belt.

Will Warren and Sanders’ ‘socialism’ turn off battleground voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona? Or will a progressive nominee energize the base and younger voters like Trump did to them in 2016?

Still, the moderate choices in the 2020 presidential field will need to prove themselves as candidates. Biden has run unsuccessfully twice before for president, is gaffe prone and could also have some lasting Ukraine baggage. Buttigieg, likes Sanders in 2016, will have to prove he can appeal to African Americans and Latinos in primary states beyond Iowa.

The Great Recession, fatigue with the George W. Bush years and the Obama wave were too much for McCain and Romney did not energize Evangelicals and working-class ‘Walmart’ Republicans enough in his loss.

Of course, Trump has his own advantages (led by the economy and the energy of his core supporters) and baggage (including the possibility voters just become fatigued by impeachment and Twitter storms).

Democrats are focused on getting Trump out of office and stopping a second term. Sinema’s path in Arizona certainly shows them one potential and proven way to win here and other battlegrounds.