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Bernie Can't Beat Trump in 2020 Says Obama Campaign Manager

Jim Messina, President Obama's campaign manager for his re-election, told ABC's Jonathan Karl that Bernie Sanders won't beat Donald Trump if the two square off in the 2020 campaign.

"Can  Bernie Sanders beat  Donald Trump?" ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Messina on the  Powerhouse Politics podcast on Wednesday.

"No," Messina responded.

"Why?" Karl asked.

"I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy," Messina replied. "I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues."

"It's the economy, stupid" is as true today as it was in 1992. And given the projections of where the economy is likely to be in November 2020 -- modest growth with low inflation -- it will be an uphill climb for any Democrat to beat Trump.

Democrats are pinning their hopes on Trump being indicted or impeached. I think what we've seen is that the investigations of Trump are being perceived as hopelessly partisan, and not just by his supporters. Americans are usually fair-minded and there is a belief by a sizable plurality of voters that Trump is being treated unfairly. Whether that translates into votes is another matter, but legal troubles that might visit Trump will play a small role in the 2020 race.

Messina thinks Sanders has a good chance of being the nominee:

Messina predicted a drawn-out process to determine who will be the last Democrat standing, citing the unprecedented number of presidential hopefuls in the field and the rules that award delegates to candidates proportionally.

"If nothing else, he will definitely be one of the final two or three candidates who has a shot at the nomination," Messina said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, also made Messina's list, as did former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not declared he's running.

Messina praised Harris' success in fundraising, and said O’Rourke "has money and some magic, and he's working harder than any any of the other candidates on the road. And he just hired, in my opinion, one of the best campaign managers in America.

Biden’s name recognition and association with Obama makes him a likely finalist, Messina said, adding, "I think we're going to have another surprise candidate. Today, I’d say that's Mayor Pete," referring to Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Democrats will soft-pedal Bernie's socialism and the party's general radicalism, but if Trump does as he is promising to do -- portraying himself as the slayer of socialism -- it will be tough for the Democrats to hide.