Four years ago this month, I wrote a piece about Donald Trump’s candidacy and his political prospects in the 2016 campaign.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had this sickening feeling about what’s going on here and it just won’t go away. Look, I know this is going to sound crazy, but here goes. Contrary to what I wrote a month ago, Donald Trump can win. Yes, you heard right, I said win. And not just GOP nomination. The whole ball of wax. A recent poll showed Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, ahead of him nationally by only six points. SIX POINTS!!!
Sadly, that sickening feeling I had turned into a grim reality. Not only did Trump go on to win the Republican nomination, he eked out a narrow electoral college victory over Hillary Clinton in the general election, despite the fact that Clinton won the popular vote; the second such time in sixteen years that the losing presidential candidate got more votes.
So here we are four years later and the 2020 campaign is in full bloom. More than twenty Democrats are vying for the opportunity to take down Darth Vader next November, and the general consensus among the pundits is that Trump’s days as narcissist in chief are numbered. Happy days are just around the corner.
Well, not so fast, kids, because the fact is that Trump, despite his dismal approval numbers, might actually win reelection. I’ll explain.
First, it’s important to point out that not once in the more than two and a half years he’s been in office has this man’s approval rating hit or surpassed the 50 percent mark. Not once! His RCP average has fluctuated from a low of 37.1 percent in December of 2017 to a high of 47 percent the month he was sworn in. He’s currently polling at 43.3 percent. This is unprecedented in American politics. Even Jimmy Carter polled over 50 percent, though to be fair that was early in his administration. Richard Nixon, perhaps the least likable president prior to Trump, was polling above 60 percent a month after his second inauguration.
So, just based on that fact alone, it would seem as though Trump is destined to be a one-term president. However, there are three things that Trump potentially has going for him that could help him win next November.
Presidential history. Beginning in 1932, there have been only two presidents who lost their bids for a second term: Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. And Bush might well have won had it not been for Ross Perot. His presence on the ballot in 1992 undoubtedly hurt him far more than it did Bill Clinton. But apart from those two, every other sitting president – Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43 and Barack Obama – won reelection, and with the exception of Bush 43, won handily.
The economy. Most political pundits agree that barring a recession – which shit-for-brains is doing his utmost to bring about – voters tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the incumbent. GDP growth of even 2 percent would give Trump more than enough electoral votes to beat out his Democratic opponent. However, if GDP growth were to shrink to 1 percent or worse, then, like Carter in 1980, he would likely lose. In other words, if you want Trump gone, pray for a bad economy.
Democratic division. If the first two Democratic debates were any indication, Houston, we have a problem. We literally saw several Democratic candidates not only attempt to bring down the front runner Joe Biden by dredging up issues that are 40 years old, but actually attack the last Democratic president Barack Obama, who is currently polling at 97 percent among Democratic voters. I haven’t seen this kind of food fight since the last time I watched Animal House. If these morons don’t get their act together, the only way they’ll beat Trump is if he laughs himself to death.
Look, I’m not saying Trump is a shoo-in. Personally I put his chances at no better than 50 / 50. Given that he ran an inside straight to win the presidency and has done nothing to expand his electoral map, his only path to a second term would require the political equivalent of having lightning strike twice in the same place. Yes it’s possible but try getting a meteorologist to put any money on it. His strategy of drilling down and not out has left him in a precarious position.
When it comes to the economy, he’s his own worst enemy. Any other president with these numbers would have enough sense to leave well enough alone. But he can’t help himself. His constant tweeting about the Fed and China is causing unrest among investors and that is taking its toll on the stock market. Just yesterday, the Dow plummeted 800 points. its biggest selloff in almost a year. His tariffs may or may not hurt consumers enough to have an impact in 2020, but they are most definitely hurting farmers out west big time. Some of these farmers will take years to recover from Trump’s policies. And in the Rustbelt states, the trade war will cost thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector. Even the most ardent of supporters have their limits and Trump is testing them.
And finally, voter turnout will likely be greater in 2020 than it was in 2016. Historically speaking, the larger the turnout, the better the prospects for Democrats. Conversely, the smaller the turnout, the better it is for Republicans. Trump has alienated so many people of color that it is virtually inconceivable that they won’t turn out en mass to vote blue. Of course, the problem with that scenario is that in a state like Ohio that probably won’t make much of a difference. That’s why it is essential that whoever the nominee is, he or she must make it a top priority to reach out to white, blue-collar workers and convince them that the party hasn’t forgotten them; that there’s a place for them under that big tent of theirs.
Otherwise, lightning truly will strike twice in the same spot.