Download this chart of the 2012 and 2016 presidential election and then make your own prediction for 2020.
This table shows the 2012 and 2016 presidential election results by state and including the District of Columbia. I then compare the turnout between the two elections by total vote, and the Democratic and Republican Party turnout. Finally, I analyze the Obama vote with the Trump vote.
In this hypothetical scenario a Trump candidate would beat the Obama candidate with 274 electoral college votes.
This is an important comparison because it raises the question of whether there is a path to victory for a Democratic challenger to the sitting president. The states to watch are the swing states Obama and Trump won. The mid-terms saw Wisconsin and Michigan elect Democrats statewide after going to Trump in 2016. The backlash to right-to-work laws is likely to favor Democrats in 2020 in these states.
I would not expect this backlash to be found in Missouri where a referendum was soundly defeated at the ballot box.
Republicans barely won Florida in the midterm elections. This could make for another exciting cycle when Trump has the state to himself to defend his electoral victory. The hypothetical matchup shows a decisive win for Trump against Obama. However, federal reaction to hurricane damage and an influx of Puerto Ricans coming to the mainland due to the almost nonexistent federal response to the island’s damage is impacting the state politics. Although one might expect the president to coast to victory based on past performance we will likely see him very vulnerable and struggling.
The chart shows Republicans expanded their vote by 2 million between 2012 and 2016, while Clinton had a net loss of nearly 100,000. Digging in on these numbers we see that the California vote masks the real losses in other states due to the pick-up of over 868,000 votes in this time. The Obama coalition actually out-performed Trump by 1.4 million votes nationally and we look to this as a guide for the path to victory for both sides in 2020.
Looking at each of the states that Obama won but Clinton lost tells us where the 2016 election was decided. Clinton lost a significant number of votes in all but one of these states giving Trump the win. A review of the 2018 election and a look ahead at the 2020 ballot will give us a glimpse of the troubles both parties face ahead
The 2020 Scenario
The states to watch continues to be Ohio and Pennsylvania. Democrats won the Senate seat and the governor’s office in Pennsylvania
and split these offices in Ohio
in 2018. Pennsylvania
ballots look like Florida’s with Trump leading an empty ticket.
Republicans have 22 Senate seats to defend, with a special election in Arizona, versus the 12 for Democrats in 2020
. The problem Republicans face is that they are on defense in what are largely considered to be safe states for them. Democrats may trade a loss in Louisiana where Doug Jones has to defend his seat for a win in Maine where Republican Susan Collins will be hard pressed to defend her vote for Kavanaugh.
The problem Trump faces is that he would be better served with full tickets in battleground states. Instead, he has weakened congressional support after losing the House in the mid-terms.
Trump is in a better position to defend when he can use his coattails in support of another candidate to energize a whole state. Further investigation will need to be done to see his performance in states where no one else appeared at the top of the ballot with him.
Meanwhile, Democrats are throwing the kitchen sink at the election with candidates appealing to every constituency in their coalition. Their base has proven their ability to mobilize and Trump will continue to energize them. The key to success will truly be who can unite the party and turn that energy out on election day.
The Democrats would benefit from a lengthy debate rather than a decisive early win for one of their favored leaders. At the same time, Trump may find it difficult to motivate his base and retain the independents he pulled his way who suffered from Clinton fatigue.
Trump is likely to lose Wisconsin and Michigan in 2020. He may also lose Iowa if Democrats go with a centrist, although I think Biden has the best shot of winning all three he would need a credible progressive to complete his coalition and maintain the energy in the party. The lack of a full party voice in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania may be the end for Trump.
The 2020 election is about the future of the country in a way it never has been before. Republicans are digging in their heals for smaller government that protects socially conservative ideals of pro-life and pro-gun lobbies. Democrats are eyeing a turn in the economy with the Green New Deal, healthcare for all, and ensuring equal protections for all people.
At this point, Democrats have found a deep bench of qualified and inspirational candidates representing up and coming challengers to what had once been safe spaces for Republicans. The possible near future loss of Georgia and Texas would upend the Republican path to victory for a generation. Although neither state has shown cracks in any recent presidential election they have become surprised contests among new talent from the Democrats.
Incumbency is usually seen as a plus for a candidate. However, if the stories are true and people feel he has turned his back on them, citing issues like tax reform, natural disaster relief, and an unpopular government shut down, then we may see Trump finding a new group to blame for the woes of America. Namely the American voter.