Donald Trump is the 2020 Underdog; Electoral Math Turns Against Him
Author: Greg Valliere
May 21, 2019
A MAJOR SHIFT: President Trump still has a plausible path to re-election, but as of now the Electoral College math has turned significantly — and suddenly he’s the underdog to Joe Biden in 2020. The major reason why? A dramatic plunge in Trump’s support among females.
MUCH OBVIOUSLY WILL CHANGE between now and November 3, 2020, and Trump is a ruthless campaigner who will skillfully demonize Biden and the Democrats, labeling the party as socialist. Las Vegas odds-makers still make Trump the favorite, but there’s no denying that his prospects have slipped in the upper Midwest, where several states propelled him to the presidency in 2020.
WE’RE MORE THAN A YEAR AWAY from making a final prediction on the race; for now, we’re simply asserting that Trump is no longer the favorite. Some reasons:
THE MATH IS COMPELLING: Trump won 304 electoral votes in 2016 (with two Texas abstentions), but is trailing in recent polls in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Michigan (16), which would bring him down to 270 (270 are needed to win). Wisconsin (10), which Hillary Clinton lost without showing up, is a tossup. If he loses all three, Trump’s total could fall to 260 votes, assuming the rest of the map stays roughly the same (Iowa and other states in the farm belt are in a recession and look shaky for the GOP). Significantly, it now appears that Trump could win Ohio (18) and still narrowly lose the election.
FEMALE VOTERS: Their antipathy toward Trump is remarkable. Recent polls show women oppose him by 59-32, while his 52% total from white women in 2016 has fallen to a 55-38 deficit. Suburban and college-educated women overwhelmingly oppose him; even non-college educated women now oppose him. Most Republican politicians have distanced themselves from extreme anti-abortion bills in Alabama and elsewhere, but re-litigating Roe vs. Wade hardly helps Trump with these pivotal voters.
ISSUES TO WATCH: Health care is the top concern, and the Republicans still don’t have a plan. Other issues such as climate change have actually eclipsed the economy, where Trump gets credit, but it’s not the top issue. Perhaps the ongoing trade uncertainty will begin to erode his support on the economy; Trump proclaims that he’s a great negotiator, but a long trade war with China could erode that boast.
THE INVESTIGATIONS: When we’re outside of the Beltway, people tell us they don’t care about the Mueller report or the ongoing congressional investigations. We get that, but there’s a lurking issue that could do great damage to his candidacy: increasing signs that his companies engaged in money laundering. Trump will insist that he personally had nothing to do with it, and we still don’t anticipate impeachment and conviction. These endless investigations and litigation could backfire on the Democrats — or, they hope, “Trump fatigue” could take hold.
MUCH DEPENDS ON WHO TRUMP RUNS AGAINST: Biden is the most formidable Democrat, but he’s gaffe-prone and virtually unknown among young people; he’s the shaky front-runner despite his comfortable lead. The early polls are eye-opening — he leads Trump by about 10 points nationwide, and that’s enough to persuade us that Biden is the front runner to become president.
MARKET IMPLICATIONS: We think the markets can live with Biden, although he will have to wrestle with persistent pressure from his progressive wing on issues such as health care and climate change. As usual, the Senate may be the firewall — blocking many left wing initiatives with a requirement that 60 votes are necessary to pass major bills (unless there’s a risky “nuclear option”). Regulatory policy could flip back from laissez faire to activist. It’s too early to make sweeping predictions about a Biden presidency, but it’s not too early to conclude that Trump is in serious trouble.
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