By Larry Levine –

If you are one of the Democrats or independents who tell pollsters your first priority is to defeat Donald Trump, this is for you. It’s a strategist’s guide to how to pick the candidate most likely to achieve that goal.

Step one – you must put your ideology in a drawer and don’t take it out until after the election. You’ll need to assess things with your head, not your heart.

Step two – you are going to have to admit some uncomfortable things about the country in which you live, things like the existence of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia to a greater degree that you want to acknowledge. We’re not talking about the overt kind that marches down the street or attends Trump rallies chanting slogans. We’re talking about the covert kind, the kind that takes voice in the privacy of individual minds, in the cloister of dinner table conversations, or in the perceived socially acceptable venues of a locker room, golf course, or NASCAR grandstand.

Next comes an understanding of what is achievable. To win in November the Democratic candidate will have to hold onto every state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 and then flip a few of the Trump ’16 states.

For a start, the Democrat will need to defend Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Maine. Minnesota went for Clinton by 1.52 percent – 45,000 votes. Trump has made no secret of his intent contest that state this year. Nevada went to Clinton by the same 1.52 percent. Here that meant 27,000 votes. Clinton won New Hampshire by 2,736 votes – .0037 percent. Clinton won the Maine’s two statewide electoral votes by 22,000 votes – 2.96 percent

Those are the states that must be defended by the Democrat in the General Election. You should begin by assessing the potential for each Democratic candidate in each of those states. A candidate who would lose one or more of those states probably could not defeat Trump. So, take the four key negatives – racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia – and see how you think each candidate would perform in each state. Add in the more subjective matter of whether a candidate has taken positions on issues that might frighten voters in each state or convince Trump ’16 voters to switch to Democrat this time.

Trump won in 2016 by 77 Electoral College votes. To win this year the Democrat will need to flip at least 39 of those votes while holding all the Clinton states.

The most logical places to go hunting for those votes are Michigan (16 votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes), and Wisconsin (10 votes). Barack Obama carried each of these states twice. In 2016 they flipped to Trump.

What is the size of the challenge in each of these states? Michigan went for Trump by 11,000 votes. Flip 6,000 and that’s done. Pennsylvania went for Trump by 44,000. It would take 22,000 vote switches. Trump took Wisconsin by 23,000 votes. It would take a switch of 11,500 votes. Many Democratic strategists think the states could be flipped with substantial get-out-the-vote efforts. That certainly should be part of the game plan. Flip these states and you would change 46 electoral college votes, seven more than what would be needed.

Some pundits point to Arizona, Florida and Ohio as other states the Democrat might switch. Each is a longshot. Arizona went to Trump by 89,000 votes – 3.54 percent. Florida went Trump by 113,000 votes – 1.2 percent. But if the Democrat were to finish first in Florida there’s the reasonable possibility the Republican leadership would figure out a way to steal the election. Ohio landed in the Trump column by 447,000 votes – 8.13 percent. The notion of Ohio as a swing state is out-of-date punditry coming mostly from cable TV talking heads. In 2018 Republicans swept everything on the ballot in Ohio except for Sherrod Brown’s U.S. Senate seat.

That brings us to the point of assessing the possibility of each of the Democratic candidate’s ability to flip three states while holding the Clinton states, again weighing the factors of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia along with issues positions that might frighten away some voters or attract voters to abandon Trump for the Democrat.

I’m going to toss in one other thing based on 50 years of political consulting and 10 years as a political reporter and backed up by nothing but my own instincts. I don’t think it is out of the question that a woman could beat Trump.

There you have it. Make whatever charts you want. Create whatever point system you want. If you do the exercise correctly, the result you will reach in trying to figure how which Democrat would have the best change against Trump should be fairly predictable. Just remember – head over heart in this exercise.