|DAMON WINTER / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Donald Trump will not be re-elected in 2020.
There, I said it. I said it despite the whupping that I and other prognosticators suffered in 2016 when the deeply corrupt and profoundly unqualified reality TV star and faux billionaire backed into the Oval Office because of his basket of deplorables, Hillary Clinton's tepid popularity and an archaic and deeply unfair system in which Clinton won the popular vote but was defeated in the Electoral College because of the upstart's razor-thin wins in three key states that were propelled by a Russian cyber disinformation blitz adroitly coordinated with Trump's campaign.
When Trump kicked off his re-election bid on Tuesday night at a cacophonous Orlando, Florida rally, it seemed like old times as he raged against "fake news," stoked fear against immigrants, repeatedly bashed Clinton and recycled his many personal grievances, notably the Russia "witch hunt." But it is 2019 and not 2015, when he descended an escalator from his gilded Fifth Avenue penthouse to proclaim his maiden voyage, and that is why he will not merely be a one-term president, but hands down the worst in history.
The reasons Trump's re-election is doomed are manifold, but one predominates:
The 2020 election will resoundingly answer the question of whether Trump's 2016 "victory" was a fluke or a true reflection of what America has become, and whether he can pull off the seemingly impossible twice.
Trump cannot win twice because he did not make America, America made him, and while his "base" is immovable and tribal politics are ascendant, there are not enough voters beyond that 36 percent or so of the electorate sufficiently enamored of him to close the gap between he and the Democratic nominee.
Not to split decimal points, but pollsters were off by a mere 1 percent nationally in 2016.
Where they got it wrong -- and not by much -- was in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, although they did detect a late surge for Trump and warned that the presence of two minor party candidates made the results there harder to predict.
Thanks in large part to that Russian disinformation blitz, hacking of Clinton emails and those minor-party candidates, Clinton lost by an infinitesimal combined 77,744 votes out of 13.9 million cast in those three states. Clinton would have won the Electoral College by a 275-248 electoral vote margin if 5,353 Trump voters had gone for her instead in Michigan, 11,375 voters in Wisconsin and 22,147 voters in Pennsylvania.
Yes, it was that close.
"These are shocks, real shocks, consequential shocks," as Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo. "I don’t mean to discount them or argue them away. But they are more limited than people remember. And they've led to a pervasive species of denial and magical thinking that shadows all discussion of the 2020 election."
Magical thinking -- that Trump has superpowers and his base is unbeatable -- is a creation of his most diehard supporters and pretty much the only thing propelling the president's campaign.
Yes, the election is nearly a year and a half away and the Democrats could nominate a clunker, but Trump's own internal polling reveals he is in deep trouble in all of the states he needs to win and is barely leading in reliably red Texas.
The numbers would be even worse if the campaign wasn't using something called an "informed ballot" in which poll respondents are screened based on their answers to loaded questions. Trump's response to the polling was to first deny it and then, after it was leaked, fire his pollsters.
Meanwhile, the latest Trump-friendly Fox News poll finds the president not only trailing the Democrat in each of the possible 2020 head-to-head matchups, he never gets above 41 percent support. And most telling, polls are consistently showing that a majority of voters -- as many as 57 percent in one poll -- say they will definitely not vote to reelect Trump.
The other reasons Trump will not be re-elected include:
The built-in advantages of being the incumbent being undercut by the widespread perception that Trump is an incompetent and a crook.
Even with a robust economy, Trump is the only president in the history of polling who has never once earned the support of a majority of Americans.
While most voters feel optimistic about the economy, few give Trump credit because they know his policies favor the rich and not themselves.
Trump's support has not expanded beyond his base because he has never tried to win converts, instead intensely focusing on coddling that base.
Because of a shift in demographics, blue-collar whites will decline as a share of the vote as minorities and college-educated whites edge upward.
Vows by Trump and Republicans to destroy Obamacare and replace it with a plan no one can articulate because there is no plan are backfiring.
The drip-drip-drip of negative publicity as Trump continues to defy Congress at every turn in the face on all the ongoing House investigations.
The probability there will be distracting criminal trials involving longtime Trump associates, even family members, in the heat of the campaign.
Despite Mitch McConnell's seeming stranglehold on the Senate, bipartisan support to enact legislation to crack down on foreign meddling.While Trump has been adept at making himself the story during his first term, policy and politics and not populism and personality will prevail even in these overtly tribal times.
Trump has pathetically few accomplishments to show.
Trumponomics -- blatant nationalism writ large -- isn't working, while Obama era environmental rollbacks are deeply unpopular. In fact, there are signs that Trump's proclivity for starting trade wars is beginning to hurt the economy while already being deeply injurious to farmers and failing to stanch the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas. His Orlando re-election rally was notable for a lack of anything that could be charitably called a governing vision, just more aggrievement and demonization.
You may have noticed the absence here of another big factor -- impeachment.
This is because I reluctantly conclude, even as a vociferous supporter of the House initiating impeachment proceedings, that impeaching Trump will have little impact one way or the other in the run-up to November 2020.
A substantial majority of voters, having had four years to take Trump's measure, already have concluded that he not only has done nothing for them, he is destroying America.
Oddschecker-dot-com, which mainly reflects the views of overseas bettors, currently shows Trump having about a 50-50 chance of winning. Those bettors are not the ultimate source of wisdom, and surely your view is more informed than theirs. I agree with you and Josh Marshall of TPM that a variety of factors make Trump the underdog. But what outrageous ploys might Trump cook up (provoking a war, for example) to improve his odds? So the mindset I am adopting is that Trump may very well win, and that extreme vigilance and concerted effort are needed to pull the country out of this nightmare.
Thanks for the encouraging thoughts, Shaun. My biggest fear is another boring, uninspiring, and unispired Democratic candidate. I see no one to get excited about yet.
From your wishful thinking to G*d's ears, but Rasmussen, which tracks Likely voters, still shows him with majority approval. Dems better excite the nation with a real new direction.
Rasmussen is a pro-GOP outlier among pollsters and has been for a long time.
Good piece, Shaun. And not just because it’s reassuring!
I second the concerns of your regular Kentucky prof respondent, Brad Scharlott. I ain't counting no chicks before they's hatched.
There are any number of ways that Trump can weasel his way to a second term. Just look at how he "won" in 2016.
This piece was an effort to show the state of play nearly a year and a half out. I will be addressing weaseldom in future posts.
Shaun, your observations have been and appear to be insightful--OR one of my favorite sources recently
I believe a key variable that cannot be ignored is dollars in the bank--CA$H wins elections … at this point and from many reports 'R dollars' collected and promised are far greater--as in the past, some could be based on false reporting
bottom line -- predicting political events 17-18 months out is like reporting a hurricane paths four weeks out
please continue to add your wisdom to the discourse
maybe the anti-Trumper's could organize a national work strike and cause a recession. Anti-Trumpers do work. Don't they?
I fear many of us who wish Trump were no longer President are retired. What else could we do to energize the Democratic party. Clearly it makes no difference to the Republicans who they trample to get their way while Democrats want to help everyone along the way. It's all so much NOISE that we cannot hear ourselves think.
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