Trump Far From Doomed in 2020

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Republicans are almost certainly going to have a dismal midterm election in 2018, but 2020 could go either way.

The election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States last year is widely regarded by his many detractors as something between a con and a fluke. Outside the ranks of Trump supporters, reelection (absent some sort of authoritarian move that disables the opposition) in 2020 seems even more far-fetched as his initial victory.

But there are a couple of new data points that, at least on first blush, would seem to make a second Trump term more plausible.

A new ABC/Washington Post poll has Trump’s net approval rating 11 points underwater, and finds, predictably, mixed-to-negative assessments of his performance so far.

But the same poll shows almost no “buyer’s remorse” among Trump voters, with only two percent saying they regret their vote for the mogul, and another two percent indicating their vote might go elsewhere in a do-over. More to the point, in terms of the alleged flukiness of 2016, only 85 percent of Hillary Clinton voters say they’d vote for her again, if the election was somehow rerun. Very, very few of them would vote for Trump, but a decent number say they would vote third- or fourth-party, or would not vote at all. All in all, the poll shows a “do-over” resulting in a three-point Trump win (43-40), and quite possibly a popular-vote victory for the 45th president.

Now, it is well-known that poll-takers don’t like identifying with losers (though that usually manifests itself in how they remember actually voting, rather that how they might have voted in a do-over). So maybe the drop-off numbers for Clinton just reflect that bias, rather than anything that might benefit Trump in 2020.

But there’s another bit of data today that suggests the bar Trump needs to surmount for reelection isn’t as high as we might think. From David Shor of the very much pro-Democratic Civis Analytics firm:

Shor believes Trump has a built-in “electoral college advantage” due to his strength among non-college-educated white voters, who are very strategically concentrated in battleground states. Thus, Trump could win with a slightly negative net approval rating, much as George W. Bush and Barack Obama won reelection with near-breakeven net approval ratings.

None of this analysis factors in how voters might think about Trump a year from now, much less three and a half years from now. Nor does it suggest Republicans will avoid significant losses in 2018. After all, with just one exception (George W. Bush in the post-9/11 midterm of 2002), every single president going back to Harry Truman has lost House seats in their first midterm, including some (e.g., Clinton and Obama) with calamitous losses who managed nonetheless to win reelection two years after that. But as bad as things look for the GOP in the House in 2018, 2020 remains another matter. So Democrats might want to take great care in choosing a candidate and preparing a campaign next time around.

Trump Far From Doomed in 2020