Yes, President Trump can win in 2020 but his reelection will not be easy. In fact, I think next year’s presidential election will be closer, nastier, and harder fought than most people expect.
Notably, the last two presidential elections were close. For instance, Barack Obama (D-Illinois) beat Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) by 2.3% of the popular vote in 2012, Slate estimates. In detail, Romney won 48.1% of the popular vote and Obama 50.4%.
However, Obama won an impressive victory in the Electoral College with 332 votes to Romney’s 206, 270 to Win calculates. Thus, Obama won big on paper but not on the ground.
Yes, the 2020 Election will be Close
In 2016, the situation was reversed with Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) winning a decisive majority of the popular vote but losing the Electoral College. However, Trump won the Electoral College vote with an impressive majority of 306 to 232 votes.
Specifically, Clinton won a clear majority of the popular vote but only 232 electoral votes, The Washington Post calculates. However, many of Trump’s Electoral College wins were close. Given this history, the 2020 election will be a close one.
I think Trump’s lack of popularity, and the inability of Democratic candidates to catch the popular imagination will make the election even closer. Notably, a 26 March 2019 RealClearPolitics average of polls indicates that 51.9% of Americas disapprove of Trump.
The 2020 Election will be messier than 2016
In addition, Trump has serious problems in his own party. In fact, a 4 February 2019 Monmouth University Poll finds 41% of Republicans would like to see somebody challenge Trump in the primaries.
Nobody has come forward yet, but speculation is swirling around former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. I don’t think a primary challenger could beat Trump but one can ruin the president’s chances.
Notably, no incumbent who has faced a serious primary challenge has won a reelection since Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) in 1964. In detail, LBJ beat racist George Wallace (D-Alabama) in the 1964 primary; but bowed out after challenges from U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota) and Robert F. Kennedy (D-New York) in the 1968 Democratic primary.
A Primary challenger can Hurt Trump
Historically, incumbent presidents who face a serious primary challenge win the nomination but lose the election. This happened to LBJ (1968), Gerald R. Ford (R-Michigan) in 1976, Jimmy Carter (D-Georgia) in 1980, and George H. W. Bush (R-Texas) in 1992.
Meanwhile, just one Democratic presidential contender; former Vice President Joe Biden (Delaware), was receiving over 5.8% of likely voters’ support, Real Clear Politics calculates. Hence, there could be a serious lack of enthusiasm in 2020 which will favor Trump. To explain, Trump’s supporters are rare but passionate.
On the other hand, many voters are likely to ignore the election until September or October 2020. My guess is that will favor any Democrat who runs on the anybody but Trump ticket and hurt anti-Trump Republicans.
How Trump could win in 2020
Thus, I think Trump could win in 2020 in the same way he won in 2016, by mobilizing the Republican base.
Such mobilization will be harder than the pundits think because Trump is nowhere near as popular as the media claims he is. In addition, large segments of the Republican base including Mormons, cultural conservatives, and libertarians are skeptical of Trump.
Therefore, Trump’s path to victory is the one he is following; fire up the base with rallies, Tweets, etc, and ignore everything else. The wise strategy for the Donald is forget mass appeal, and mobilize the voters he knows he can count on.
Will Demographics Doom Trump?
Finally, demographics will affect the 2020 election profoundly. For instance, 4,585 Baby Boomers; those aged 54 to 74 die every day, Incedar estimates. The Boomer die-off hurts Trump because he appeals to older voters.
In fact, 60% of people between 50 and 64 and 56% of persons over 65 felt warmly towards Trump, ThoughtCo estimates. In contrast, a majority of those under 50, and 63% of those under 30 had no warm thoughts about the president.
However, 23% of the 2020 electorate will be 65 and over which might help Trump, Pew Research estimates. In contrast, persons over 56 will account for less than 40% of voters in 2020 which favors Democrats.
In addition, the percentage of Hispanic voters; a group Trump offends, will grow to 13% of the vote in 2020, Pew Research predicts. However, Hispanics are less likely to vote than other minorities. Hence, the electorate will differ from 2016 which means Trump may not repeat his 2016 miracle.
In particular, small increases in Hispanic voting; or the deaths of a few thousand older voters, could affect the outcome of the election in states like Wisconsin. Notably, Trump carried Wisconsin by just 22,748 votes and Michigan by just 10,704 votes in 2016, The Weekly Standard estimates.
Can Trump Win Big in 2020?
My conclusion is that Trump can win but not win big in 2020. Interestingly, the factors that helped past incumbents win big may not help Trump.
First, the good economy will not help the president because only certain Americans benefit from it. Gas prices are low and the stock market is booming, but many people are not benefiting.
Notably, the good economy did not help Hillary in 2016 or House Republicans in 2018. Specifically, voters rejected the status quo despite the media hype about the good economy. Therefore, Trump rarely mentions economic issues, because he understands they will not help him at the polls.
In addition, there are indications of economic weakening in sectors like the bond market, The Financial Times notes. Hence, Trump could face the difficult job of seeking reelection in a weak economy.
Second, I doubt we will face a war or terrorist attack which can give a President a short-term popularity boost. Historically, war helps a President in the short-term George W. Bush in 2003 or LBJ in 1964, but hurts an incumbent in the long run. For example, Vietnam destroyed LBJ in 1968 and Iraq wrecked Bush’s reputation during his second term.
No Democrats will not Destroy Each Other in 2020
Third, a brutal and vicious Democratic primary battle will not help Trump. Remember, the destructive Republican primary did not help Hillary in 2016.
In reality, I think the primary battles strengthened Trump and made him a better candidate. Notably, Trump had already overcome the strongest attacks, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) mafia allegations and won. In addition, the heated primary battle fired up the Republican base for Fall.
Thus, a lackluster Democratic primary with boring candidates putting voters to sleep might help Trump. Given the popularity of radicals like U.S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Andrew Yang a quiet Democratic primary is unlikely.
Hence a serious primary challenge could help Trump by warming him up for the main event in November. Conversely, a lack of primary challengers could leave the Donald unprepared for the final round.
The 2020 Presidential Election will be long and brutal
Therefore, Democrats will probably emerge from the primaries energized and spoiling for a fight like Trump was in 2016. Meanwhile, Trump could face a Republican base lulled to sleep by a no-challenger primary. Under those circumstances, Trump will face a bloody battle and a brutal electoral map.
Moreover, the last two underdog presidential candidates produced by brutal primary battles; Trump and Obama, are highly effective campaigners and vote getters. Thus, Trump will probably face a serious challenger who will battle him tooth and nail, rather than a lazy dilettante like Hillary.
In the final analysis, Trump can win in 2020; an outcome I dislike, but the possibility of a Trump landslide next year is remote. However, Trump has one big advantage a lot of his detractors do not understand, the President; unlike the pundits, grasps that reality.