Why Donald Trump Isn’t a Shoo-in
Author: Greg Valliere
February 7, 2020
HIDE ALL SHARP OBJECTS from Democrats — they’re despondent after the Iowa caucus fiasco, Donald Trump’s acquittal and the growing belief that he’s likely to win, perhaps easily, in November. Trump is the front-runner today, but let’s take a
contrarian look this morning at how he could lose.
WE’LL DISCUSS SPECIFIC ISSUES below, but there’s one over-riding factor that could deny Trump a second term — he’s very unlikable. Listening to his rants just yesterday, filled with obscenities and vitriolic criticism of his opponents, you have to wonder if the public will simply conclude that he’s too unhinged to warrant a second term.
THE POLLS SHOW TRUMP’S JOB APPROVAL RATING is now close to 50% positive, but that’s nothing special. He still trails most of the leading Democrats by a few percentage points. More ominously for the president, his polling numbers are terrible among key groups — college educated women, suburbanites, young people, minorities, etc.
FIVE CRUCIAL ISSUES: The major reason why we’re not inclined to predict a Trump re-election just yet — no need to make that call in February — is his mis-reading of five crucial issues:
1. Negative interest rates: Trump apparently envies the ultra-low interest rates in
Western Europe, and frequently says he wants something similar here. Yet when we talk with retirees and others in the “savers’ class,” they’re virtually unanimous — they
want rates to be higher, not lower; they’re looking for good yields. Calling for negative rates confuses and alienates senior citizens.
2. Dwindling support from the military: If there’s a surprise lurking for Trump, it could be his shaky support from the military, based largely on two factors: First, troops on the ground in the Mideast were angry and embarrassed when Trump abandoned the Kurds, after all they did to fight ISIS.
Second, Trump shrugged off brain injuries suffered by U.S. troops who were at the base that was hit by Iranian rockets earlier this winter. You don’t shrug off brain injuries, especially considering Trump’s draft evasion, and this infuriated the Pentagon.
3. Health care: Mike Bloomberg has polled extensively, and he knows that anxiety over health care is the most dominant issue of the 2020 campaign. Trump wants to dismantle anything that Barack Obama ever did, we understand that, but the president’s court challenge of Obamacare could jeopardize coverage for pre-existing conditions, and that’s a huge albatross for the Republicans.
4. Social Security: We were stunned when Trump casually told CNBC in January that he favors reforms. Politicians correctly view this as touching a hot stove; you talk about Social Security reform after an election, not before. Trump got such push-back from Republicans that he now pledges to save Social Security, but this is an issue he needs to avoid; Democrats will pounce at even a hint of changes.
5. Climate change: Trump ignores this issue — or mocks it as a hoax — at his own
peril. Young people in particular are alarmed; they point to fires in Australia and
floods in Venice, and they want action. Not only has Trump refused to take any action, he can’t even display empathy on this issue, and he has given young people a powerful incentive to vote.
THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHER ISSUES that could backfire on Trump, and there’s the most important factor of all — how to patch together 270 electoral votes. The Democrats have a plausible path to 270 if they can flip three narrow 2016 losses, in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
SO WE WOULD ADVISE DESPONDENT DEMOCRATS that elections aren’t won or lost in February; there’s still a chance that this race could be far, far closer than the financial markets and the oddsmakers expect. Can the Democrats get their act together? That’s crucial — yet the fissure between leftists and centrists is widening, not narrowing, as a divisive brokered convention looms in Milwaukee this summer.
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