On Tuesday, Forbes magazine published a piece by contributor Loren Thompson in which he sets forth six key reasons why Donald Trump is a lock to be reelected in 2020. The piece has amassed nearly 400,000 views in just a few days, but as Forbes (like so many sites these days) no longer permits commenting, it is unclear whether those clicking and reading are Trump supporters looking to have their hopes buoyed or Trump detractors asking, “What the hell is this guy talking about?”
Before he starts on his six keys, however, Thompson turns to the oddsmakers who he claims give Trump a solid edge over any Democratic candidate in 2020.
There are two flaws to this.
First, that assumes Trump is running for reelection. Pippa Malmgren, who was George W. Bush’s special adviser for economics, recently noted that, “the chances are rising that he’s not going to be president for the second term.” She added that the chances of Trump running are “diminishing every day.”
Second, at approximately 2:1 odds, Donald Trump is the favorite in the race. But Joe Biden (8:1) and Beto O’Rourke (9:1) have the third and fifth best odds respectively and neither has yet entered the race. Oh, yeah, there are still 20 months until election day. When there were only 20 days until the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton had an 88.1% chance of victory.
Odds aside, let’s get into Mr. Thompson’s Six Keys.
1. Candidates who get elected to the presidency once tend to get reelected if they run. Only two chief executives seeking reelection over the last 50 years—Carter and Bush 41—failed in their bid for a second term.
He’s not inaccurate, but as they tell us about investments, “Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results.” Hockey great Wayne Gretzky used to answer, when asked the key to his goal-scoring success, “Go where the puck will be, not where it is.” The focus should not be on the five of seven successfully winning reelection. The focus should be on why the other two did not.
Both Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush had additional competition in the race to consider. Carter faced a serious primary challenge from Senator Edward Kennedy and an Independent challenge from John B. Anderson in the general election. Bush faced H. Ross Perot along with Democrat Bill Clinton in the general election. It seems former Ohio Governor John Kasich or former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld might challenge Trump in the Republican primaries and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg might run as independents.
Both Carter and Bush 41 faced recessions, tax increases, and questions about their competence to steer the economy. Will Trump avoid a recession? Will his tax cuts eventually carry the same negative stigma as past tax increases? Will there be an action directly linked to a Trump decision (like say, tariffs perhaps) which causes the economy to stumble into recession? That these things have not happened yet is not proof that they will not, and the closer to election day one happens, the more damaging it will be to Trump.
2. Trump has presided over the strongest economy in living memory. While growth may moderate between now and election day, few economists expect a recession anytime soon.
Mr. Thompson does not link to the economists he cites, unfortunately, so we have no way of knowing what he means by few. One study by the National Association for Business Economists showed two-thirds of their 45 economists predicting that a recession will start by the end of 2020 and 18% believing that the recession could begin as soon as the end of 2019. As March begins, the United States economy is entering its 117th consecutive month of expansion. Only one time in history has it ever expanded longer, the 120 month expansion between 1991-2001. As noted in the first key, past performance is no guarantee of future results, so there is no correlation between the length of an expansion and the imminent onset of a recession, but the economy is slowing signs of slowing and the boost from the tax cuts are showing signs of wearing off.
3. The nation is at peace.
Was George H.W. Bush ever more popular than when he launched the Gulf War? Was George W. Bush ever more popular than when he sought retribution after 9/11? Was Barack Obama ever more popular than when he got Bin Laden? Wars are bad for presidents when they go poorly and good for presidents when they go well. As America draws down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, there are progressively fewer opportunities for victories and exponentially more opportunities for attacks on the few forces remaining or for hostile forces to capture the areas being evacuated. With no victories to offset the bad news, each negative event is magnified.
It is also critical to note that while America is at peace (or less involved militarily than the nation has been in decades), the world is not at peace. India and Pakistan (both nuclear-armed nations) have escalated to shooting down each others’ fighter jets. Syria rages on. Venezuela could erupt any day. North Korea continues expanding their nuclear capabilities. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is worse than it has been in a decade and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing reelection and indictment could get worse. America is more at peace than it has been in decades because America is more detached from the world community, and less in a position of strong leadership, than it has been in decades. Yes, since become a global superpower America has often been called to be the world’s fireman, putting out blazes wherever they spark. Let’s not forget that fire spreads, and if we do not show up to fight it there, the winds can change and it can be here in an instant.
4. Democrats are busy reminding voters in the middle of the political spectrum why they voted for Trump in 2016.
Donald Trump’s approval ratings among those that identified as independent is 42 percent, down from 44 percent last July. Trump won 46 percent of the votes from those who identified as independents in 2016 election day exit polling. Hillary Clinton, who lost the election, received 42 percent of the independent vote in 2016, right where Trump sits now. Gallup has Trump at 38 percent among independents. And if just judging parties and not specific candidates, voters currently prefer a Democrat to a Republican by a 45 percent to 37 percent edge. Republicans had a 42-36 edge at this point in 2015 (20 months before election day) and swept the House, Senate, and presidency.
5. Polls showing weak approval of the president’s performance have lulled Democrats into thinking his defeat is nearly inevitable in 2020.
After 2016, I doubt there is a single Democrat out there who will be believe anything is inevitable before that victory is won and the inauguration is held. Thompson cites Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as presidents who suffered through low approval rating in their first terms but scored landslide reelection victories. He adds, “Surveys indicating that a majority of voters aren’t inclined to vote for Trump again are misleading, because we don’t know who his Democratic rival will be in 2020.”
So he is saying that there is always a chance for someone as unpopular as Trump in 2020 if he gets an equally unappealing opponent?
There is no one in the race (or considering running) with the sort of negatives Hillary Clinton carried as baggage in 2016 and Trump barely emerged victorious then. Plus, his own negatives have skyrocketed since.
6. People have gotten used to Trump.
Nope. Donald Trump is a bigger embarrassment today than he was the June day in 2015 when he announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination. He damages America, domestically and internationally, EVERY DAY.
People have not gotten used to Trump. Republicans have learned to tolerate him so long as he helps them enact their agenda and panders to their base. Democrats have control of the House of Representatives and so are no longer powerless against him. Voters have gotten used to him, in a way. But not a good way. His own base has become addicted to his nonsense, and like in a series of slasher movies, the action must become more outrageous and graphic just to keep the audience awake by the time Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kreuger is on their 10th killing spree. Those in the resistance have learned largely to ignore him, or to take him in small doses, in order to preserve their own sanity. Let him rant, whine, and carry-on like a petulant child having a meltdown in the grocery store candy aisle, we will be over here talking-up our 2020 candidates and figuring out how to tighten the screws even harder on everyone with an (R) next to their names who enabled Trump these past few years.
I almost fell off my chair when I read Thompson’s best line, included at the end among the litany of reasons Trump will win that did not fit neatly into any of the SIx Keys.
“Trump is a masterful speaker when he campaigns.”
Yes, if ones closes their eyes, Trump almost reminds one of Barack Obama, Or John Kennedy, or Martin Luther King.
Compared to the great orators of politics and activism, Donald Trump sounds like an out-of-breath, sniffling, hate-monger repeating the same nonsense to inflame the same crowds who all go home and watch the same replays of the event on Fox News.
Being a masterful speaker and motivator is NOT about getting the 38 percent of America that comprises one’s base to chant “Lock Her Up” on demand. That’s easy. That’s the low-hanging fruit Trump and his team keep picking.
America is two years into the failed Donald Trump experiment. He has not become a statesman. He has not become a leader of all Americans. He is petty and vindictive, filthy and nasty, a liar and a criminal, and possibly a serial sexual abuser who paid off scores of mistresses and affairs.
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Donald Trump won in 2016 by just over 70,000 votes spread across three key swing states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan). And he needed to win at least two of those three states or he could not have reached 270 electoral votes. The electoral map is just that inhospitable to a Republican candidate and he may need all three this time around.
With all that happened in 2016: Hillary Clinton’s emails and James Comney, Bernie Sanders, Wikileaks, the DNC mess with Donna Brazile, John Podesta, and Debby Wasserman Schultz, and of course, Russia…with ALL that, Donald Trump carried those three blue states by roughly 70,000 votes?
These are states which had been reliably blue in six consecutive presidential elections and which overwhelmingly flipped back to blue in the midterms, when Democrats are typically at their weakest?
There is a lot of campaigning (and a lot of campaign trail to cover) before the 2020 election. And as 2016 proved, anything can happen in politics. It is sort of like what “any given Sunday” represents in the NFL.
One any given Tuesday in November…just not on Tuesday November 3, 2020.
Sorry, Mr. President, miracles only happen once.