Dear Democrats: Despite What You Are Feeling, Trump Still Has a Very Real Chance of Re-Election
Last night, while speaking with my long-time friend Rep. John Yarmuth, the Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, the conversation turned to who is going to win his party’s presidential nomination. We both agreed that there are only three candidates who can realistically win, and that there is even a chance that a four-way standoff could lead to a brokered convention.
But then John said something that startled and alarmed me. He indicated that it didn’t matter that much who the candidate was, or even how long the primaries played out, because he was very confident that they would all defeat President Donald Trump.
I totally understand why John, as well as an increasing number of Democrats, feel this way. After all, Democrats cleaned up in the 2018 elections, Trump’s approval ratings are historically low, and he is about to be impeached based on overwhelming evidence of malfeasance in the Ukraine scandal.
I told him that, yes, Trump was going to lose the popular vote, possibly by a significant margin, and that I was even willing to concede he would probably lose Wisconsin and Michigan, two states he had no business winning in 2016 when he pulled off the greatest inside straight in the history of presidential politics. However, I also urged him to consider how his likely nominee would play against Trump in the two states that will almost certainly matter most: Pennsylvania and Florida.
Quite simply, if the Democratic nominee does not win at least one of those two states, they would be required to pull off a Trump-like miracle elsewhere in order to win the electoral college vote that actually matters. Despite the almost delusional and clearly dangerous levels of optimism among many Democrats, It is becoming increasingly easy to see how they fail to do that.
Right now, the three people most likely to be the Democratic nominee are, in order, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg (Bernie Sanders, an elderly socialist who now has less than half the support he enjoyed when he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, does not have a realistic shot). While a weakening Biden (it sure seems as if Trump’s dastardly Ukraine gambit has had at least some of its desired impact on Biden’s popularity) is still well positioned to potentially get the job done, none of them are even close to being strong favorites in these make-or-break states.
According to a brand-new New York Times “battleground poll,” among likely voters Biden edges Trump by only 1 point in Pennsylvania and 2 in Florida. Trump actually beat Warren by 2 in Pennsylvania and 4 in Florida (Sanders loses by 1 and 2 respectively, while they did not poll Buttigieg head-to-head in those states).
While the Biden results are reliable because, having been vice-president for eight years, he is an extremely well-known quality, a strong argument can be made that Warren’s numbers may actually be optimistic for her in these states, especially if the economy remains strong. As I told Congressman Yarmuth, it is hard for me to believe that, once Pennsylvanians are fully educated on who Warren really is, they are going to support a Massachusetts progressive who doesn’t believe in the use of fossil fuels and who, despite being a white female, spent her career in academia benefiting from claiming to be a Native American.
One of the dirty little secrets no one wants to talk about in the Democratic nominating process is that the key to beating Trump in Pennsylvania and Florida is to diminish his margins among white rednecks, while turning out black voters in huge numbers. For differing reasons, some of them far too politically incorrect to be openly discussed Democratic circles, both Warren and Buttigieg are poorly designed to achieve either of those vital goals.
So, from Trump’s perspective, despite the national atmospherics that are mostly dreadful for him, events are actually working very much in his favor when it comes to winning the states most critical to his re-election. Biden, the man who is by far the best positioned to beat him in those states, is being drained of his general election superpowers at the very same time that overconfident Democrats are no longer thinking such unique abilities are even needed. Meanwhile, the two candidacies most poorly designed to beat him there are ones that are gaining momentum among Democratic voters.
One year out, obviously a lot can happen, but people seem to forget that, especially with a remarkably resilient economy, the incumbent has significant advantages coming down the stretch (Trump’s electoral college position is actually remarkably similar to that of Barack Obama’s in 2011 before he won re-election in 2012). Right now, I would give Trump about a 30% chance to beat Biden, a 65% shot to defeat Warren, and a 55% opportunity to survive a contest against Buttigieg.
Similar to prognosticating the odds of saving your only child from a burning building, if you care about protecting what is left of this republic from what would could easily be a catastrophic second term of Donald Trump, all of those percentages are way too high.
John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at [email protected]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.