The Road to 2020

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 and Ohio 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.

3 Speeches

Yesterday, the longest government shutdown in US history ended. A compromise to re-open remaining offices and provide back pay for some 800,000 federal employees has been put forth with additional funding for three weeks. President Trump announced from the White House Rose Garden the plan in a speech.

One of my favorite things to do is writing for candidates and elected officials. A good speechwriter gets in the head of the orator. I like to consider the natural pauses and rhetorical style people go through. One of my favorite people I had the opportunity to write for was a local pastor who was going to deliver a recorded message to voters.

The man has a distinct style of elocution including rhythmic rhetoric with forceful tone. Obviously, my responsibility was to match his style with substance ending in a call to action for a positive vote. He was expecting a call from me to go over the material and record the message. We hopped on a call and I sent him the material and as he read through it the first time he stopped to say how much he liked what I had written. It is among the most enjoyed compliments I have had in my career.

Writing a speech for another individual can be a difficult process. But, when you do it right the orator is comfortable with the material and the speech comes off strong. In the example above I managed to write something that connected with the person giving the speech.

Trump has an interesting rhetorical style. It has been analyzed and written about and even dissected. I am often confused as to whether Trump goes off talking points or is given a speech that he delivers with random ad-libbing. He does have a speechwriter.

When Trump spoke in the Rose Garden about the end of the 36-day closure, he could have gone in several different directions. He could have spent the entire time attacking Democrats for a myriad of reasons, whether real or imaginary doesn’t really matter. Trumps rhetorical style is effective because it resonates with his audience. And they believe him.

You can see both his delivery and the transcript of his Rose Garden speech here. If you want to dig in on Trump’s public statements and tweets I recommend digging through the archives. I’ll admit I don’t always understand their methodology for what is positive and what is considered negative, but it seems to work for what they’re selling.

Have you seen the recent Gillette advertisement about toxic masculinity? It’s been widely panned by conservative pundits as a male-bashing pile-on and held as an example of the pitfalls of “woke” commercials within the industry. In reality, it may be the perfect commercial.

Although the material is widely thought to be targeted towards men because they are the focus in the ad, do you to believe it was really targeted towards toxic men to rethink their choices. It is more likely that women are the primary target of this ad. Women choosing to support the message and buy this product and those men who believe in the socially progressive ideas are the likely targets. In short, the message may not have been intended for you.

I can’t even tell you if it ever aired outside of social media. If it was largely limited to social media then they intentionally, and smartly, left out key demographics. It did create a flashpoint of debate in free media with a feeding frenzy of shares and comments helping to spread their message.

If you get hot and bothered by a message it is probably not intended for you. If there’s any genius in the Trump organization it is in that statement. He and his team have the ability to both activate his base and diffuse his antagonists. In that I do mean he can diffuse his antagonists and do not mean to defuse.

Let’s face it, Trump gives his enemies so much fodder that they all focus on different things. There is so much ammunition that every different public has an opportunity to respond. It may also be that his detractors focus more on having a differently qualified statement as to market themselves separately.

That can be a powerful weapon. Spreading out your enemies across different platforms to where it’s difficult to unify when the time comes can be a nasty form of torture.

So the speech Trump gave managed to do a few things. First, it seems to have given his base a wake-up call that they may not get the wall they want. This may become the call-to-action Trump needs to keep them engaged into the 2020 election.

Second, it gives some people a reason to say that Trump is showing he has a heart. Deep down, people don’t want to believe their president is a crook, a liar and a puppet of a foreign government. If you’re not a fan of Trump’s, then you are likely able to point to how he is all three.

Third, Democrats were lulled into a false sense of security and with a win.

If you are a fan, then you know precisely how Trump is being set up. If you are not sure about Trump, then the drama of a government shutdown affects you much more directly then the arrest of anyone associated with the dirty politics of an election. After all, weren’t both candidates for president crooks in 2016? Aren’t men toxic?

So, what if Trump gave a different speech focused on the human situation of the 800,000 employees who weren’t getting paid through the shutdown? This speech would not have been given under any condition but Trump could have moved to the center by doing so. To answer this we have to reconcile the fact that Trump’s administration is not so much Conservative but Libertarian.

The Libertarian ideology calls for free markets and no government regulation. They don’t believe in public education and believe in a minimal public service from the police. Fundamentally, people must care for themselves and can do so by their own word. Ironically, if you follow Trump’s business dealings, you might become terrified of this proposition.

For Trump to focus on the plight of the government worker would be to abandon a part of who he and his base are. Conservatives, for the most part, are just along for the ride in a Libertarian administration.

Missouri’s story illustrates this very well. In 2000, 2,361,586 people voted in the US Senate race that year. Then 9/11 happened, and in 2004, 2,731,364 people voted for president. These are the races that most people cast ballots for in those years. Nearly 300,000 people started voting in 2004 who did not previously vote. These people are Libertarian. This explains why Missouri can vote for marijuana referendums and a senator who pledges to do what Trump wants.

These people became the foot soldiers of the Tea Party and now are the power center of the Freedom Caucus and controlling interest of the Republican Party.

For Missouri, this is a significant change in the political ecosystem. It’s as if an entire underground ideology woke up seeking retribution for government failing to protect them. They are thousands of miles away from ground zero and yet awoke as if it was their backyard on fire. And this happened all over the nation.

Trump’s tweet that he doesn’t want a lot of those 800,000 employees back dovetails perfectly with the ultimate goal of his base: having no one to regulate them.

So if we hoped for Trump to hold the center ground by being less callous to federal employees that boat has sailed. He didn’t and won’t. Media portrayals of the administration being aloof completely missed the mark. It is completely reasonable to libertarians to turn to the market to finance needs rather than a social safety net.

The wall remains a goal of the administration. It is both a symbol of what is necessary and what is wrong. The absence of the wall is necessary for Trump to be successful in 2020. It doesn’t matter that space where there is an absence of the wall is where there are the fewest arrests.

The next speech Trump is likely to give will allow him to regroup. It will be a call to action followed by a flurry of events rousing his base. The next speech will actually lay out his agenda and berate the Democrats to their face. For Trump’s base, this will keep them unified and focused. Trump will also use it to test their will for a more extended shutdown.

Trump has demonstrated he can do without a status quo government. We are still to believe he can’t do without a physical wall, despite the offer of a more high-tech infrastructure by Democrats.

We move past the Super Bowl this weekend. It is an event seen by some as the reason Trump folded as flights were canceled going into La Guardia Aiport. The effect in Atlanta would be terrible for the influx of expected money for such a high profile event. One thing Libertarians can’t abide is a market failure, especially if it is caused by government failure. In this case, the safety infrastructure showed cracks as people called in or just didn’t show up for work.

The privatization of airports is likely going to be a part of the State-of-the-Union. St. Louis is debating this issue right now. The people pushing airport privatization in St. Louis happen to be Libertarian.

It’s the perfect narrative for change. The government demonstrated it is inept. If you followed the NPR coverage of prison guards and how they coped with the shutdown you often heard about how well they were paid compared to the rest of the community they served. Do you think that might sow some seeds of jealousy?

Put yourself in the mind of the person in that rural town. You are hearing about how better-off a government worker is compared to you. You don’t like government. What is your response? Probably get another job, do what’s necessary and stop whining because your life, in general, just hit a snag.

How attractive would privatization look if it ensures prison guards show up and get paid? Add airports to the debate and sweeten the deal with improvements for the safety infrastructure? You can expect all ports to be looked at for privatization at some point.

The next big travel day is Mardi Gras on March 5th. That is just after the planned three-week cease-fire. After Mardi Gras is another significant travel day with Easter. Both end a list of the worst travel days in the US. They also feature lots of money exchanging hands for Louisiana and Christians, although they are not exactly the same demographic targets here.

You can bet that Trump wanted people to give a taste of government not working. The moment they started canceling flights in New York was our “Oh, no” moment. But was it the intended message? It was a palpable moment sending messages to us all. Some of us saw it as a sign of a callous government once again not working. Some of us saw it as bi-product of politics. Others blamed Trump. But those people weren’t Trump supporters, to begin with.

So now we have a new crisis. It’s not the border. It is us. Our crisis is one of government. That is something most voters just saw. It is in part the fact that politicians can high-jack the system preventing people from working. The only possible solution could then be to privatize the system. If the government can’t protect the people it is meant to serve and simultaneously keep it running then the answer must be to privatize.

Progressive Democrats will have to struggle with their answer to this question. Their position that government works best when we work together just failed in the face of a national audience. Good government requires a people willing to negotiate in good faith. We either lack faith or our faith can be manipulated quite easily. We will know after the third speech.

So progressives, when the next speech is given in your face there won’t be a drum pounding. It will be a fist. You can stand there with a smirk on your face, or you can take action. If you understand the events as I have unfolded them, then I suspect you are not smiling at this time. That’s a lot to consider. America will be waiting for your rebuttal.