Realistically, Trump Could Win in 2020

President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border in Washington, D.C., February 15, 2019. (Carlos Barria/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A deep dive into how President Trump’s outlook for 2020 is brightening, and how Democrats are giving him an exceptionally easy target; the Florida supreme court backs firing America’s least-favorite sheriff; and the Democratic donor class shifts from Beto O’Rourke to Pete Buttigieg.

Sabato Is Right. It Is Easy to See How Trump Can Win in 2020.

Larry Sabato greets Washington Post readers with a headline that many of them probably didn’t expect to see or want to see: “It’s easy to see how Trump can win reelection.”


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Credit the powers of incumbency and a strong economy, the state of which may matter more to Trump’s odds than nearly anything else. Incumbency and the economy, among other matters, ended up being more than enough for Nixon, Reagan and Bush. Despite Trump’s unprecedented outlandishness, that same combination might work for him, too.

Let’s get our “to be sure” paragraph out of the way. To be sure, Trump’s approval rating in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin is in the low to mid-40s, and his disapproval is above 50 percent, which is ominous. (Apparently Pennsylvania Republicans are particularly nervous about 2020.) He’s narrowly underwater in Arizona and Florida. His approval rating in Georgia, Indiana, and North Carolina is barely ahead of his disapproval rating. In Minnesota, a state Trump lost by only two percentage points in 2016, Trump’s approval is just 37 percent. If Trump’s share of the vote is equal to the percentage of Americans who currently approve of him, he’s toast.

But elections are not just referendum on whether voters approve of the incumbent; they’re a contrast between two or more options.

Democrats were completely convinced that not only did Hillary Clinton have the more likable persona in 2016, but that she had the more appealing set of proposals: “comprehensive immigration reform,” a public option for health care, gun control, overturn Citizens United and allow the government to limit spending on political speech and messaging, tax increases on income of more than $5 million and $275 billion on new infrastructure spending.

As conservatives, we may disagree with all of that or almost all of that, but we can acknowledge that those are, at least when described generically, reasonably popular proposals — particularly with voters who don’t bother to look at the details.

And then . . .  she lost, to a guy who kept going on about building a big beautiful wall and making Mexico pay for it.

The 2020 crop of Democrats are running on an extremely different set of proposals: Reparations for slaveryDecriminalizing entering the country illegallyTearing down existing border barriersAbolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencyExpanding the size of the Supreme Court to change the balance of the current justicesEliminating the filibuster in the Senate (even though that’s not something the president controls). Eliminate private health insurance entirelyEliminate the Electoral CollegeHave the federal government guarantee a job for every citizen. And, as Bernie Sanders suggested earlier this week, restoring the right to vote to everyone, including felons serving life sentences for violent and heinous crimes.

Those are much more controversial proposals than Hillary’s agenda in 2016. These are the sorts of ideas that Republican candidates dream of running against, and the sorts of issues that make attack-ad makers giddy with anticipation. We’ve heard a lot about how Donald Trump alienates once-Republican-leaning soccer moms in the suburbs — and he does. There are a bunch of soft Republicans out there who just want their taxes low, their streets safe, and their terrorists dead. They’re not all that worried about illegal immigration, they think health care is too expensive but are wary about any changes to the insurance and doctor they currently have, they’re unnerved by gun violence and mass shootings and they recoil in horror from anything that even vaguely resembles white nationalism.

But these kinds of voters are not itching for a socialist revolution, or a complicated scheme of wealth redistribution that studies your genealogy for connections to slavery, or open borders, or rewriting the Constitution.

You hear a phrase from Never-Trumpers, the Trump-skeptical, and the Trump-weary with increasing regularity: “All the Democrats have to do is not be crazy, and they can’t even do that.” Some of these folks are looking for a Democrat to support, some want “a return to normalcy,” and some just want to feel the hope that the United States could have a new president on 2021 who is less flawed than the current one.

The status quo with Trump has some serious flaws. Only two things really get Trump motivated: the opportunity to boast and repeat praise of himself from other people, and the opportunity to lash out at critics. You see it in his pro forma first tweet of the day about some current event or serious issue, and then the following half-dozen tweets about “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” and “ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE!” and furious denunciations of something some pundit said on television about him. He can’t recruit good staff, abuses and publicly humiliates the people who are willing to work for him, and has a dysfunctional level of staff turnover. This White House is perpetually disorganized and unprepared; remember how there was supposed to be this formal written response to the Mueller report? Apparently, we’re not going to get one. The president keeps describing dictators in unnervingly kind terms and seems wildly naïve about Kim Jong Un.

But . . . we haven’t had a military conflict in North Korea. The Islamic State has been smashed. When Trump’s proposals go beyond what is permitted under U.S. law or the Constitution, the federal judiciary and Supreme Court step in and limit him. Despite the claim that Trump is an authoritarian or an aspiring dictator, his party lost the House of Representatives. The economy is largely thriving and unemployment is low. We’re an energy-exporting powerhouse. The federal judiciary is filling up with originalist judges who will provide a check on government excesses for a generation. Trump signed bipartisan criminal-justice reform into law. “Right to try” has given new hope to thousands facing serious diseases. Iran’s economy is getting hit hard by the reinstated sanctions. The individual mandate in Obamacare is repealed. The Food and Drug Administration is setting records for the number and speed of its generic drug approvals.

As a status quo, this is pretty good!

Many of Trump’s more emotionally charged critics warned us his presidency would be a dystopia, a combination of The Handmaid’s Tale,The Day After Tomorrow1984, and maybe throw in bit of the ABC miniseries Amerika for the notion of a government controlled by Moscow. Look out your window. You probably don’t see a dystopia; you may not see a country all that dramatically different from 2016.

Florida Supreme Court: Yes, the Governor Can Indeed Fire Incompetent Sheriffs

I think this guy Ron DeSantis really knows how to be a popular governor down in Florida:

[The Florida Supreme]  Court ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis had the constitutional authority to suspend [Broward Sheriff Scott] Israel in January for his agency’s failure to adequately respond to mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland and the Fort Lauderdale airport.

The decision all but ends Israel’s attempt to get his job back before the 2020 election — the Republican-led Florida Senate is able to overrule the governor’s suspension.

Israel has said he intends to run to get his job back in 2020. I can only imagine his potential slogans: “Scott Israel 2020: He Can’t Do the Job Any Worse Than Before.”

You’re So 2018, Beto, Everybody’s Into Pete Now!

Over on the home page, I discuss how the mainstream media is now giving much tougher, more skeptical coverage of two prominent Democrats they once adored, Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke. This follows the shifting preferences of the Democratic donor class:

On Tuesday, Buttigieg is being feted at a sold-out fundraiser held by Andrew Schapiro, a Chicago attorney who previously held an event for Beto O’Rourke during the former Texas congressman’s run for Senate. Another Chicago fundraiser is being planned for May 16 that will be hosted by some of former President Barack Obama’s top bundlers, including De Gray and John Atkinson, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

I know it’s difficult to feel much sympathy for Beto, who spent most of 2018 enjoying the kind of glowing press coverage reserved for the musical Hamilton, Steve Jobs’s unveiling of Apple products, and LeBron James in years that he wins the championship. But he must feel like he got hit by a bus on one of those Kerouac-ian road trips, as suddenly his old donors, supporters, and media fans are now head over heels for this once-obscure mayor.

ADDENDUM: Off to Indianapolis for the 2019 NRA Annual Meeting! Look for coverage on NRO starting tomorrow and through the weekend.

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