In case you have not noticed, Donald Trump’s approval numbers are in the crapper. Though they have risen of late they remain almost on par with Obama’s on the eve of his midterm shellacking. Then, like now, prognosticators were viewing this as a sign of how vulnerable Obama was and currently how vulnerable Trump is. This is a dangerous assumption.
The reasons why these are dangerous for Trump is different than Obama. Obama still had strong appeal to Midwestern whites and racial minorities despite conservative opposition. His populist pitch, honed in 2008 and wielded to deadly impact in 2012, gave him crucial margins in key Midwestern states. His racial appeal brought out suburban, progressive whites and minorities in Florida and Virginia.
The overwhelming blowout Obama suffered and his low approval ratings hid these strengths. Additionally, few analysts admitted just how overexposed the Democratic Caucus was from 2006 and 2008. Doubtless they will admit this for the GOP in November.
The shellacking Republicans are expected to suffer in November will likely cloud Trump’s strengths. Like Obama, disapproval of the President in the absence of an opponent is assumed to equal losing votes. That is not how elections work as we all know.
Trump’s election by half the country is still seen as a fluke. He lost the popular vote and barely won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. But, he did this by losing lots and lots of suburban voters. The suburban voters now turning against the Congressional GOP. It stands to reason a lot of these voters were not going to support the President for reelection regardless. Hence, Trump has not lost any support here.
Trump’s coalition, despite protestations, is holding remarkably steady. His strongest supporters remain loyal to the President and his strength in his populist appeals remains apparent in Ohio and Florida. While disapproval outweighs approval in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, history is an illuminator of how little that means right now.
In 1982 and 2010, President Reagan’s and President Obama’s approval were in the toilet in key swing states. Regardless, both Presidents were handily reelected once the flaws of their opponents became known and voters tuned into the state of the economy and the issues.
Obviously, voters have not even given their preference for November so they are not even contemplating 2020. They are living in the here and now and basing their judgement of the President (and his party) on current events and actions. You can bet the President will remind them of his opponent’s flaws.
The biggest flaw of any opponent running against Trump will be blindingly obvious. They are far, far left. While Trump might be a rabid nationalist (according to some) on economic issues he is a fairly doctrinaire conservative. He throws some populist appeals in there for his base but for the most part he has kept the post WWII neoliberal economic agenda together. This does not make Trump appealing but it does not exactly equal voting for Hitler either.
Now, contrast this with Democrats whose social agenda includes mandating abortion be free, shoving equal rights (whatever that means) down everybody’s throats and preaching the unending benefits of diversity to the masses. Nevermind there are significant downsides as well.
On economic issues, the fringeness that was Bernie Sanders Medicare for All, making college free and taxing corporations and the wealthy untold trillions has morphed into standard Democratic fair. Indeed, prominent Democratic 2020ers have proposed a whole host of massive government programs/subsidies.
Kamala Harris has proposed an American Savings Plan where each American baby would get an account set up by the government with a $1,000 deposit. Every year, the govt would put $2,000 in the account and it would grow at three percent annually. Notably, the cost of the program was not discussed. Undoubtedly it can all be accounted for if we just tax the rich.
Bernie Sanders is still sticking to his Medicare for All spiel. Supposedly the program would save Americans trillions in healthcare costs while jacking up the deficit $32 trillion over ten years. It would save them money until they are taxed to pay for it. It will also save the government money as medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies stop investing in new techniques, machines and drugs.
Trump might meander and ramble during campaign stops but you can bet his campaign will hit the overarching point often, Democrats are just too left-wing. Trump will get his base through cultural and political appeals, but like Obama, he will use his other weapon to bludgeon his opponent to hold down losing margins elsewhere. And no offense to haters of the Electoral College, but California does not determine elections. Okay, it will probably determine which left-wing nominee Democrats pick. The path for a pragmatic, centrist Democrat is effectively closed with a Corey Booker or Kamala Harris running and winning black, centrist voters on account of their racial appeal.