Even as the final votes are being counted for major races in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, the 24/7 cable news outlets have begun speculating about the 2020 presidential election race. Even as some wonder if Trump will still be around for a re-election campaign, most of the focus is on the likely Democrat candidates.
CNN put up postage-stamp size photos of the potential contenders – which, at a quick glance, looked to exceed more than 30 wannabes. It was said that Republicans had enough contenders in 2016 to mount a baseball team, including a few relief pitchers. Using that analogy, the Democrats are close to putting together an entire league.
The Democrat situation is so convoluted that it is impossible to speculate on possible scenarios. One would have to explore entirely too many assumptions. It is much easier to speculate whether Trump can get re-elected – assuming he is not forced out of office. One only need offer up two prescient narratives – one in which he is re-elected and the other in which he is not.
The best place to start is with an answer to the headline question: Can Trump be re-elected? While it is much too early to know definitively, we can look at where he is today and what it would take to win re-election.
What stands in his way? In many ways, it is Trump, himself.
I would open the debate on future re-electability by arguing that based on what we know today, Trump is not re-electable. To become re-electable, he would have to change the current political trajectory to respond to harsh realities he does not even acknowledge. A lot depends on whether he sees himself as re-electable or not. If the election were today, he would most likely lose. But it is not today, so there is hope and opportunity.
One of the most important factors is that Trump has NEVER been the people’s choice. Yes, he won the 2016 election fair and square – there is no question as to his legitimacy. And yes, he is by far not the only president to enter the Oval Office without the majority support of the public – that was true of Kennedy in 1960 (49.7%), Nixon in 1968 (43%) Clinton in 1992 (43%), Bush II in 2000 (48%)and The Donald in 2016 (46%) – but with the exception of Bush II and Trump, the others actually won a plurality of the popular vote.
There is a lesson for Trump to be learned from Bush II. He overcame his loss of the popular vote to go on to barely eke out a re-election majority of 50.7 percent of the vote. In between those two elections, Bush had favorable ratings as high as 70 percent. He was actually suffering a precipitous decline heading into his re-election campaign.
In the past two years, Trump has never been seen favorably by more than half of the nation. He has fluctuated between 35 and 45 percent in most polls. And that has been because of the unpopularity of him as a person – that old obnoxious personality thing. It was that personality that cost him the popular vote in 2016 and by foolishly making the midterm election about him, the GOP fell far short in the popular vote AGAIN.
Republicans lost control of the House, a few governorships and a handful of state legislative chambers not because of the issues – more than two-thirds of the nation were happy with the economy and believed the nation was going in the right direction. Trump’s personality trumped the issues.
Now that the Democrats have the House and can undertake a barrage of politically beneficial investigations – and other negative events will be coming to roost in the next few months – Trump has a Herculean task to make any gains in public esteem and respect.
There are many like me who have supported his conservative policies, but not his pugnacious and mendacious personality. We stand against those who hate both Trump and his policies – the #NeverTrump Resistance Movement – and those who make his personality more important than the policies, even if they agree with the latter. You see that in such people as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and columnist George Will – not to mention several former Republicans who have completely gone over to the other side as a cadre of false-flaggers.
Trump began his campaign with most Americans not liking him. In the more than two years since he rode down that escalator in Trump Tower, nothing has changed that in his favor.
One of the adages of political reality is that one should never fight with folks who buy ink by the buckets – or to update, provide commentary by the hours. Trump is absolutely right that the Fourth Estate has become increasingly dishonest and corrupt – serving as propagandists for the left and prosecutors of the right – but they still control the national conversation. Trump’s problem is not that he took up the fight against the press – that needed to be done – but how he did. The wrong way. He did it in his inimitable swashbuckler manner – using combative and bombastic language without making a more convincing credible case.
What could have been – and should have been – the Republican’s generational ascendency as the primary political force in America that began in 2010 has been killed off by Trump. Given the chance to make significant inroads into the minority communities, Trump has enabled the Democrats to extend their hegemony – as unjustified as it is – over the black and Hispanic vote. The criticism that Trump is not a unifier as was Ronald Reagan – also a pariah with the left-wing political and press establishment — is sadly true.
The most likely scenario – although not assured – is that Trump will be less popular as 2020 approaches and will not be facing a Democrat candidate less popular than him. Rather than build up his reputation and broaden his political base, Trump has suffered additional self-inflicted damage that has narrowed his base – if defined as all those who voted for him in 2016. Five thousand diehard fans in a stadium do not change those facts.
This grim evaluation of Trump’s re-electability does not take into consideration any outcomes from the eventual Mueller Report, cases currently before the Federal court in the Southern District of New York, the non-federal criminal cases being pursued by local district attorneys, any additional lawsuits, more outrageous or fact-challenged statements and any new revelations by all those Trump folks who are now cooperating with prosecutors.
For Trump to be re-elected in 2020, it would take more strategy and more luck then he has hitherto exhibited – somewhat of a personality transplant. The catchphrase in these times is “It’s the personality, stupid.”
So, there ‘tis