A year and seven months away from the 2020 election, here are predictions that Donald Trump will not only win in 2020, but win easily.
First, Ben White and Steven Shepard in Politico, no one’s idea of a Republican website:
President Donald Trump has a low approval rating. He is engaging in bitter Twitter wars and facing metastasizing investigations.
But if the election were held today, he’d likely ride to a second term in a huge landslide, according to multiple economic models with strong track records of picking presidential winners and losses.
Credit a strong U.S. economy featuring low unemployment, rising wages and low gas prices — along with the historic advantage held by incumbent presidents.
While Trump appears to be in a much stronger position than his approval rating and conventional Beltway wisdom might suggest, he also could wind up in trouble if the economy slows markedly between now and next fall, as many analysts predict it will.
And other legal bombshells could explode the current scenario. Trump’s party managed to lose the House in 2018 despite a strong economy. So the models could wind up wrong this time around.
Despite all these caveats, Trump looks surprisingly good if the old James Carville maxim coined in 1992 — “the economy, stupid” — holds true in 2020.
“The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it,” said Donald Luskin, chief investment officer of TrendMacrolytics, a research firm whose model correctly predicted Trump’s 2016 win when most opinion polls did not. “I just don’t see how the blue wall could resist all that.”
Models maintained by economists and market strategists like Luskin tend to ignore election polls and personal characteristics of candidates. Instead, they begin with historical trends and then build in key economic data including growth rates, wages, unemployment, inflation and gas prices to predict voting behavior and election outcomes.
Yale economist Ray Fair, who pioneered this kind of modeling, also shows Trump winning by a fair margin in 2020 based on the economy and the advantage of incumbency.
“Even if you have a mediocre but not great economy — and that’s more or less consensus for between now and the election — that has a Trump victory and by a not-trivial margin,” winning 54 percent of the popular vote to 46 for the Democrat, he said. Fair’s model also predicted a Trump win in 2016 though it missed on Trump’s share of the popular vote.
Still, Luskin, Fair and other analysts who use economic data and voting history to make predictions also note that a sharp decline in growth and an increase in the unemployment rate by next fall could alter Trump’s fortunes.
“It would have to slow a lot to still be not pretty good,” Luskin said, adding that what really matters is the pace of change. Even if overall numbers remain fairly strong, a sharp move in the wrong direction could alter voting behavior.
Luskin’s current model — which looks at GDP growth, gas prices, inflation, disposable income, tax burden and payrolls — has Trump winning by a blowout margin of 294 electoral votes.
The White House remains confident that the GOP tax cut will support growth of 3 percent both this year and next, keeping job and wage gains strong. That’s much higher than consensus forecasts from the Federal Reserve and major banks that generally see a global slowdown led by Europe and China, coupled with the fading impact of U.S. tax cuts pushing U.S. growth closer to 2 percent this year with job gains slowing.
But Trump may have one major ally in his quest to make sure the numbers don’t go much lower than this: the Fed, which recently stopped its campaign of interest rate hikes. And on Wednesday the central bank said it foresees no more rate hikes this year.
The moves followed months of Trump bashing the Fed for raising rates too much and stomping on his economy, though Chairman Jerome Powell has said repeatedly that politics plays no role in the bank’s decision.
Whatever the case, a much more gentle Fed could slide a floor beneath any decline in Trump’s economy and boost his reelection chances significantly.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a regular Trump critic, has been road-testing a dozen different economic models for the 2020 race. At this point, Trump wins in all 12 — and quite comfortably in most of them. The Moody’s models look at economic trends at the state level.
“If the election were held today, Trump would win according to the models and pretty handily,” Zandi said. “In three or four of them it would be pretty close. He’s got low gas prices, low unemployment and a lot of other political variables at his back. The only exception is his popularity, which matters a lot. If that falls off a cliff it would make a big difference.” The Moody’s models look at economic trends at the state level and incorporate some political variables including a president’s approval rating.
The Moody’s approach performed well in recent presidential elections, but missed the 2016 result in part because it did not account for a potential drop in Democratic turnout in key swing states. Zandi is trying to correct for that now before rolling out a new model sometime this summer.
Trump has already upended many of the rules of presidential politics. His party suffered a drubbing in last year’s midterm elections despite the strong economy, and the yawning gap between how voters view the president and the nation’s economic standing is growing even larger: Presidents typically just aren’t this unpopular when the economic engine is humming along. …
Prominent Democrats know that while Trump might seem like a loose cannon faced with the threat of a devastating report from special counsel Robert Mueller, he will likely be a formidable opponent in 2020, especially if the economy remains close to where it is today.
“Despite the fact that Trump is a largely incompetent clown, Democrats should not be overly confident or sanguine that they can beat him,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a top aide to former President Barack Obama. “He is a slight favorite to win. But he barely won last time and it took a Black Swan series of events to make that happen. All Democrats have to do is flip 100,000 or so votes in three states to win and that’s a very doable thing.”
The thing about all these scandals, whether you believe any of them are actually scandals, is that none has, I think, changed the opinion of people who voted for Trump, whether they were enthusiastic about Trump or just voted for him because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. People who scream bloody murder about the latest Trump outrage didn’t vote for Trump before and won’t be voting for him in 2020 either.
Next, James S. Robbins:
The civil war in the Democratic Party between old-school liberals and progressive firebrands heated up last week, leaving establishment forces in full retreat. What began as an attempted gentle slap directed at a freshman member who was offending the powers that be turned into a rout, leaving progressive forces commanding the field.
On Thursday, the House passed a nonbinding anti-hate speech resolution that under ordinary circumstances would hardly be news. However, the original language condemning anti-Semitism — a direct response to persistent anti-Jewish dog-whistling by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — faced strong resistance from progressives and African-Americans, and was broadened into a generic condemnation of hate speech that let Omar off the hook.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came off looking weak and ineffective, displaying no ability to control her raucous caucus. House Majority Whip James Clyburn had to walk back comments he made that seemed to suggest that Jews should just get over the Holocaust already. And this episode raises the question, what will the Democratic leadership do the next time one of their flashy progressives flirts with anti-Semitic language? Judging by recent history, we will soon find out.
This was another example of the power of the energized progressives who have quickly become the public face of the Democratic Party. The old guard is mostly white, often male, and experienced in the stodgy ways of Washington. But the progressives seized the high ground by drawing a lesson from President Donald Trump that you don’t need experience to win, just fresh ideas, a lively media strategy and an uncompromising stance against any who stand in your way.
Since the 2016 election, the Democrats have mainly been unified by hatred of President Trump and impeachment fever. But this false unity has papered over significant differences of style and substance. The progressives have been steadily pushing the party to champion ideas that the old guard would approach warily, if at all.
The left wing of the party has pushed Medicare for All, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (thus all but opening the borders), imposing massive income and wealth taxes, legalizing nine-month (even post-birth) abortion, boycotting Israel, paying reparations for slavery, and the basket of deplorable ideas called the Green New Deal onto the Democratic policy front burner.
The ideologically driven progressives make for good television but bad politics. The party in general has shifted leftward in recent decades, but half the members still identify as moderate or conservative.
Party thought-leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York recently threatened to keep a list of moderate Democrats to be “primaried out” if they continued to break party ranks on procedural motions (something that used to be praised as bipartisanship), essentially telling moderates from swing districts that they have to sacrifice themselves on the altar of progressive purity.
This type of bullying, from a freshman member no less, could cost the Democrats their majority, but the attitude among progressives seems to be that they have no use for elected officials who will not blindly follow their agenda, so good riddance.
The more important question is how this plays out in the 2020 presidential election. Democratic hopefuls will need to test the progressive wish list on the stump and might feel pressure to outbid each other on how far left they can go. Those apparently pursuing an “adult in the room” centrist strategy, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, will not only face opposition from the progressive base but also find the free media oxygen sucked from the room by her more colorful radical opponents.
And the white guys — like Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington state, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas and even former Vice President Joe Biden — will be forced to explain why they are standing in the way of history by using their privilege to deny the presidential nomination from going to a woman and/or member of a minority. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only old white dude with a realistic shot.
Given the 2020 Democratic primary structure and the number of candidates, however, we might see a brokered convention that could result in the emergence of Hillary 3.0 to unite the bickering tribes under the banner of revenge for the supposed theft of the election in 2016.
Or the progressive insurgency might be setting up a replay of 1972, when incumbent President Richard Nixon won 49 states against ultra-liberal George McGovern.
The most important swing voters are middle class, suburban, mostly white, mostly in traditional families and mostly pragmatic centrists who vote their pocketbooks. Barring a financial meltdown, they are unlikely to throw the dice on the kind of nutty economic policies the progressives are pushing. Hispanics who are enjoying record employment and already drawing closer to President Trump might not want to abandon economic advancement to go all in with the identity-politics crowd. And Jewish voters could reconsider their traditional support for a Democratic Party looking more and more like the British Labor Party, which is in the midst of its own anti-Semitism crisis.
The winner of the Democratic civil war will most likely be Donald Trump. Good job, progressives, keep it up.
Around this time in 1991, the U.S. had just won Operation Desert Storm, and George H.W. Bush looked unbeatable. And then the economy turned south, Bush faced a primary challenge from Patrick Buchanan, and the Democrats bent over backwards to look normal compared to what they usually do. And so in 1992 Bush lost.
The difference, however, is that word “normal” applied to Democrats, which ceratinly does not apply today. I don’t believe most Americans believe in socialism, though you’d never know that from the verbal diarrhea of Ocasio-Cortez, Robert Francis O’Rourke, etc., etc., ad nauseam. When Nancy Pelosi looks like a voice of reason, the voices of reason have abandoned the Democratic Party.
More history from Victor Davis Hanson:
In 2016, Trump had no record to run on. That blank slate fueled claims that such a political novice could not possibly succeed. It also added an element of mystery and excitement, with the possibility that an outsider could come into town to clean up the mess.
Trump now has a record, not just promises. Of course, his base supporters and furious opponents have widely different views of the Trump economy and foreign policy.
Yet many independents will see successes since 2017, even if some are turned off by Trump’s tweets. Still, if things at home and abroad stay about the same or improve, without a war or recession, Trump will likely win enough swing states to repeat his 2016 Electoral College victory.
If, however, unemployment spikes, inflation returns or we get into a war, he may not.
At about the same time in their respective presidencies, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had approval ratings similar to Trump’s. In Clinton’s first midterms, Democrats lost 14 more House seats than Republicans lost last November. Democrats under Obama lost 23 more seats in his first midterms than Republicans lost under Trump. Democrats lost eight Senate seats in 1994 during Clinton’s first term. They lost six Senate seats in 2010 during Obama’s first term. Republicans actually picked up two Senate seats last fall.
Yet Clinton and Obama handily won re-election over, respectively, Bob Dole and Mitt Romney. In other words, the 2020 election is likely Trump’s to win or lose.
It’s also worth remembering that Trump does not exist in a vacuum. In 2016, many voters preferred Trump because he was not the unpopular Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, there will be an even starker choice. Trump, now an incumbent, will likely run on the premise that he is the only thing standing between voters and socialism.
The power of that warning will depend on whether the Democrats continue their present hard-left trajectory or the eventual Democratic nominee manages to avoid getting tagged with what are as of now extreme progressive talking points.
The Green New Deal, a wealth tax, a top marginal income-tax rate of 70 percent, the abolition of ICE, the abolition of the Electoral College, reparations, legal infanticide as abortion, the cancellation of student debt, free college tuition, Medicare for All, and the banning of private insurance plans are not winning, 51-percent issues.
If the Democratic nominee embraces most of these fringe advocacies — or is forced by the hard left to run on some of them — he or she will lose. If the Democrats nominate Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, or Senator Cory Booker, Trump will seem moderate by comparison and have more relative experience at both presidential campaigning and governance.
Also, with a few notable exceptions such as John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, senators do not have a good record of winning the presidency.
If the Democrats nominate a veteran politician such as former vice president Joe Biden, then the two rivals will be more equally matched in appealing to the middle classes.
Another thing to consider: What will the Mueller investigation and a flurry of House investigations of Trump look like by November 2020?
If special counsel Robert Mueller concludes that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, then Trump’s charges of a “witch hunt” will more than likely stick. But if Mueller’s investigation proves that Trump negotiated with the Russians to stop the Clinton campaign, Trump will be in considerable trouble.
At some point, all the progressive obsessions to abort the Trump administration — the efforts to warp the voting of the Electoral College electors, to invoke the 25th Amendment, the Logan Act, and the emoluments clause, and to thwart Trump from the inside, as former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and the anonymous New York Times editorialist have detailed — have to show results.
If they do not by 2020, then these attempts will be seen more as bitter-end vendettas. And they may work in Trump’s favor, making him appear a victim of an unprecedented and extraconstitutional assault. Then, in Nietzschean terms, anything that did not end Trump will only have made him stronger.
Finally, Trump himself is not static.
For a while, relative calm has returned to the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and Attorney General William Barr are more in sync with Trump’s style and message than the previous holders of those positions.
Trump himself often displays more self-deprecation. Like other incumbents, Trump may be becoming savvier about the complexities of the job.
Democrats think 2020 will be an easy win over a controversial and often wounded president. Republicans thought the same thing in 2012.