Blake Coe returns to ponder why Trump could easily win another term.
Earlier this week, having nothing better to do, I popped down to my local bookies and put a tenner on Trump winning re-election next year. Here’s why.
Firstly, the American economy is doing very well, growing at a solid 2 to 3% year on year. Unemployment is below 4%, wages are rising, and it looks like the trade war with China is coming to a close. If it really is “the economy stupid”, and the present situation doesn’t change, it’s only going to help Trump come first in 2020.
Secondly, Trump will have a decent list of accomplishments to sell to the public. He’s renegotiated NAFTA, secured trade concessions from Europe and China, moved the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, secured funding for the border wall, removed the individual mandate from Obamacare, de-escalated the situation in Korea, passed the biggest tax cuts in a generation, pulled out of the Iran agreement, pulled out of the Paris climate accords, and pulled out of the TPP; an impressive scope for pulling out, for someone with such small hands. And did I mention the state of the economy? Whether you love or hate all of this, this is what he was elected promising to do, and he’s delivering. Furthermore, many of his failures, such as his unfulfilled promise to fully repeal and replace Obamacare and the recent government shutdown, could be blamed on an intransigent congress. Others, such as making Mexico pay for the wall, or his botched travel ban, are political fever dreams that no one really believed would happen in the first place – and anyone that did definitely isn’t a swing voter.
Thirdly, presidents tend to win re-election: five of the last six have. The only one that didn’t – George H.W Bush in 1992 – had been in power either as President or Vice President for a total of 12 years. In terms of public support, Trump’s approval ratings are comparable to those of Obama or George W Bush half way through their first terms. The most interesting thing is that Trump’s approval has hardly moved since his election; he hasn’t suffered the gradual decline most presidents do, instead remaining static in public ambivalence. This means he’s above the curve of presidents who lost at the next election.
Of course, the election will be just as much about Trump’s opponent as it will be about Trump! Whilst we don’t yet know who it will be, the Democratic field of candidates is currently looking decidedly weak. Let’s look at the front runners.
Take Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren first. She is a slightly awkward, not very charismatic woman in her late 60s; she’s been a national political figure for well over a decade, and Trump already has that devastating nickname for her. Sound familiar? She’s basically Hillary 2.0, and we all know how it went last time. Add to that the damage done to her reputation by falsely claiming to be Native American, receiving a sharp rebuke from the Sioux community and being forced into a grovelling apology, and her chances don’t look that good.
Bernie Sanders is polling well in the primaries. But I find it hard to believe that the wider electorate would vote for an ardent socialist when things are going pretty well. Add to that his recent scandals justifying breadlines in socialist countries and that video of him, shirtless, honeymooning in the USSR belting out the Soviet national anthem at the top of his voice in 1988, and he doesn’t look so rosy red.
Kamala Harris might have a shot. She’s currently polling behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but that could change. However, she’s on the left of the Democratic consensus, and having made her recent gaffe over a U-turn on the abolition of private healthcare, she would give Trump very effective lines of attack if she did win the nomination. He could paint her as a Bernie Sanders-style radical, and easily spook swing voters into sticking with the devil they know.
Joe Biden would be the Democrats’ best bet here. He has unrivalled experience in government, is scandal free, is reasonably centrist (so if any Democrat can take votes off Trump it will be him) and is also unlikely to face a serious Ralph Nader-esque independent candidate running to his left at election, splitting the vote. However, he hasn’t even declared if he will run. Even if he does, he may well not secure the nomination.
Of course, we could still see a Democratic candidate win in 2020; I won’t write it off. Trump could lose the nomination, given the toxicity he’s earned at the RNC. The economy could still go pear-shaped, or a candidate like Biden could well run, giving Trump a serious challenge at the election. For these reasons, it’s far from a forgone conclusion – but as things stand, my money’s literally on Trump.