Some people wanted Trump, some people accepted Trump won, and some people never let Trump be thrust upon them. That’s a nation in turmoil.
The 2020 race will be all about the President, even if almost half the nation refuses to admit he is the President.
In 2012 I suggested that the “rise of brands” meant that Donald Trump had to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. I was right. In 2016, I took him seriously but still did not think he would win. I was wrong.
Why Donald Trump won the election
People disliked Secretary Clinton almost as much as Mr. Trump. Because of this a minority, but a majority in the electoral college, took a chance on him. In office, his judicial appointments and many of his policies confounded conservative critics by being just what he promised. As a result, the President solidified his base. That is important for 2020, though it will not be enough against anyone more popular than Secretary Clinton.
Almost everyone is more popular than Secretary Clinton.
President Trump has consistently polled at around forty-two percent approval with a small majority opposed to him. 2018 shows the polls are roughly accurate. The President is an underdog for reelection but not by any means a sure loser.
Four reasons Donald Trump might win again
First, some Republicans refused to vote for Mr. Trump in 2016. His good appointments to the Supreme Court, cuts in regulation, and other frequently mainstream governance practices have reduced this number. Nobody will be able to primary Mr. Trump successfully.
Second, he has been fortunate in his opposition. The unending demonization of everything done by the administration, ignoring bipartisan support for prison reform or trade triumphs (like the renegotiated NAFTA), combined with over-the-top popular culture criticism has tuned out many Americans to administration problems.
Third, when “mainstream” media groups attack Mrs. Pence for working in a Christian school with the values of Pope Francis or Billy Graham, shared by most of the world’s population, many Americans feel religious liberty is threatened.
Fourth, as 2016 shows, the opposition is capable of nominating someone who can lose to Donald Trump. The media over-read the narrow results of 2016 but now is over-reading the results of 2018. The House was a bust for Republicans, but they expanded control in the more powerful Senate.
Forget “the landscape” argument and look at 2020 Senate races. There is not a great likelihood that the GOP will lose the Senate.
Donald Trump faces two perils
First, there is some evidence that his popularity (after the loss of the House and the government shut down) is in decline. If so, he is in trouble. His position was already tough.
Second, investigations from Mr. Mueller and the Democratic House could lead to ruin. I am doubtful of either scenario at this point. Mr. Trump has been declared “dead” too many times to take recent pronouncements seriously.
Mr. Mueller is likely to find that lowlifes hired by the candidate had some seedy contact with Russian bit players. It does not appear he has the goods on the President.* The loss of the House and the elevation of Nancy Pelosi as his foil is the President’s greatest asset. Nothing found in Congress, pumped by the media, will be viewed by his “gettable” voters as anything other than partisan noise.
Why Donald Trump will run again
There is no reason to think Mr. Trump will not seek a second term since he has a better shot of winning than the 2016 race.
At the moment, the President is an underdog for reelection. The Democratic Party, however, has a problem: they have no agenda that unites them other than hatred of the President (not too strong a term).
No matter what happens, 2020 will be Mr. Trump’s last race. If he were to win, being “against Trump” will have reached an expiration date.
It is hard to see what comes next for the Democrats. Losing to Mr. Trump twice would provoke an existential crisis.
On the other hand, if Mr. Trump were to lose with the GOP keeping the Senate, the GOP would be “post-Trump” with a slew of attractive candidates, many of whom were elected in the Trump administration, but do not have his liabilities. Watch Dan Crenshaw of Texas.
(Disclaimer: this is my take on the state of the 2020 race and says nothing about my own vote!)
*As this was published Buzzfeed, not a very credible source, but with some investigative chops, reported that the President had told Mr. Cohen to perjure himself. That is, obviously, an impeachable offense, but the story lacks mainstream verification. We shall see. IF TRUE, then all bets are off.
Rachel Motte edited this essay and added the subheadings.