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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

White male candidates continue to lead the 2020 presidential polls, despite this being the most diverse Democratic primary field in history.

Why it matters: The party and the country are having real conversations about race and gender in politics. Yet those factors aren't necessarily decisive for Democratic voters — so after all this, they could still end up with a white guy as their nominee.

  • Even when they have their choice of 6 people of color, 6 women and one gay man running for president, their ultimate goal is to defeat President Trump.

By the numbers: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have consistently held the top two spots in every national 2020 poll so far. Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have occupied the third and fourth spots at different times.

  • FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver does rank Kamala Harris as a top-tier candidate, but only along with Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg. He considers O'Rourke a second-tier candidate.
  • The reality is that most Democratic voters aren't concerned about a person's gender or race when it comes to deciding on a nominee.
  • A Monmouth University poll found that 87% of Democratic voters say the candidate's race doesn't matter, and 77% said the same of a candidate's gender.

Driving the news: This week in Houston, I attended the She the People presidential forum, which was hosted by women of color and specifically for candidates to address issues facing communities of color.

What they're saying: "The excitement for the white men is frustrating," said Diana Hwang, founder of the Asian-American Women's Political Initiative.

  • "I do think that in some ways the nation is slow to catch up with us, but we're seeing that excitement for women of color locally," she said, noting the success of candidates like newly elected Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
  • "Honestly it's kind of sad because [white men] know our struggles and what we're going through, but they're still empowered and they still have the privilege to have a vote over our bodies and lives," said Maia Young, a member of the Texas reproductive rights group Deeds not Words.
  • And with Biden officially in the race, that just adds to some of the frustration for women of color. “I know that we have been cultured to feel that only the white man can save us, I just don’t feel like Biden is our answer,” one attendee told the AP.

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro told Axios that what's important is how broad a candidate's appeal is, regardless of their background — and that voters should consider candidates based on, in part, "how inclusive they are and have been throughout their career."

  • "I don't think it's going to take a white man to beat Donald Trump. It's going to take somebody who can appeal to a cross-section of this country," Castro said. "I also disagree with people who would write off somebody just because they're a white man."

It's not that Democratic voters consider white men to be unqualified to be president, or that people of color only vote for candidates of color. But the conversation has shifted to place an emphasis on inclusivity — from economic policies to the candidates' campaign teams.

Between the lines: The overwhelming response from attendees at the She the People conference was that it's just too early and they're hopeful the tide will turn. As Castro — who's been polling around 1% — reminded me, there are still 42 weeks until the Iowa caucuses.

  • "It's just a waiting game," said Samuella Bassey, another Deeds not Words member. "We weren't really prepared for the 2016 election. Now it's just hoping, a lot of praying, and waiting" for a candidate of color to break through.

The bottom line: There's plenty of time for things to change — but don't be shocked if the most diverse primary in history ends in the most ironic way possible.

Go deeper

Michigan board certifies Biden's win

Poll workers count absentee ballots in Detroit, Michigan on Nov. 4. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified the state's election results on Monday, making President-elect Joe Biden's win there official and granting him the state's 16 electoral votes.

Why it matters: Republican Party leaders had unsuccessfully appealed to delay the official certification, amid the Trump campaign's failed legal challenges in key swing states.

Biden to nominate Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary

Photo: Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary, four people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Yellen, 74, will bring instant economic celebrity to Biden’s team and, if confirmed, she will not only be the first female Treasury Secretary but also the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government: the chair of Council of Economic Advisers, the chair of Federal Reserve and the Treasury Secretary.

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Bob Nelsen on AstraZeneca and his plan to revolutionize biotech

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday reported promising efficacy data for their COVID-19 vaccine, which has less stringent storage requirements than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and may be distributed earlier in developing countries.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing with Bob Nelsen, a successful biotech investor who on Monday launched Resilience, a giant new pharma production platform that he believes will prepare America for its next major health challenges.