Feb 20, 2019

Bernie Sanders and Democrats' age problem

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Democrats seem to be addicted to old age ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

By the numbers: Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77 (five years older than President Trump, a spry 72), jumped into the race yesterday. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 69, was one of this cycle's first to announce. For some in the party, former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, is the savior.

Why it matters: Despite that lineup, today's Democratic Party is actually dominated by youthful energy.

  • That's clear from all the young House members in the 2018 midterms, the activists pushing lawmakers farther to the left, and the fact that millennials are Democrats' strongest age group.
Data: 270toWin and Scholastic; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The big picture: The party is suffering from what Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik calls the "barbell effect."

  • On one end are the seniors. On the other end are all the 40- and 50-somethings moving up in the ranks: Sens. Cory Booker (49), Kirsten Gillibrand (52), Kamala Harris (54) and Amy Klobuchar (58).
  • Plus South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (37), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (37), Julián Castro (44) and Beto O'Rourke (46).

And we rarely elect oldsters: Since 1828, only 3 Democratic presidents have been in their 60s when inaugurated — and none came close to Sanders, who would be 79 if elected in 2020.

  • The average age of every previous Democratic president in history on Inauguration Day is 52.

Be smart: If a 70-something is elected as president, it's not going to stymie the grassroots generation of the Democratic Party. But it will throttle some of the younger activists' energy.

  • If a 40- or 50-something is elected, there's likely going to be an emerging generation pushing to take power. Expect the voices of millennials and activists to be even louder.
  • If Democrats lose the 2020 election, "that'll be a complete breaking of the wall and the dam, and this emerging generation will be completely in charge of the party going forward," said Sosnik, who was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton during his presidency. "We only have a leader if we have a president."

Sanders insists that age is just a number. "I think, you know, when we look at people, whether they're old or they're young, you've got to look at the totality of the person," Sanders said in an interview with CBS yesterday.

The backstory: The Democratic presidential nominees who ultimately lost the presidency skew a bit older than those who actually won: 13 Democratic nominees among the presidential losers have been over 54.

  • Biden has been leading early polls by double digits, likely because of high name recognition. But Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution research fellow, said Biden faces a similar problem that Hillary Clinton did in 2016: He represents the past more than the future.
  • "The weakest argument to make for running for president is electability. Primary voters don't want to hear that; they want passion and enthusiasm," Whalen said.

The bottom line: You don't have to be young to attract young voters — Sanders proved that in 2016. But now that there's a large group of younger candidates competing for their votes, that could all change in 2020.

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U.S. and Taliban sign peace deal

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Qatar. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

The United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on Saturday after over a year of off-and-on negotiations, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The signing of the deal officially begins the process of ending the United States' longest war, which has spanned nearly two decades. The agreement sets a timetable for the U.S. to pull its remaining 13,000 troops out of Afghanistan, per the Times, but is contingent on the Taliban's completion of commitments, including breaking ties with international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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