The Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy, a research institute at Christopher Newport University, accurately predicted that Democrats would pick up more than 40 seats in the U.S. House in the 2018 midterm elections. Now they believe President Donald Trump will lose key battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in 2020.
Rachel Bitecofer, the creator of the center’s forecasting model, thinks Trump is in “trouble in the Midwest.”
“First, and probably most important, is the profound misunderstanding by, well, almost everyone, as to how he won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the first place,” she said.
Bitecofer believes that since “five times the normal number in those states cast their ballots for an option other than Trump or Clinton,” combined with a low African-American turnout and left-leaning Independents turned off by Clinton, Trump was allowed to “pull off an improbable victory.”
She doesn’t think his path to victory will be as easy to “replicate in today’s less nitpicky atmosphere.”
“The complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped. Under my model, that distinction is not only important, it is everything,” Bitecofer writes in her analysis.
Trump’s second issue, according to Bitecofer, is that he is “deeply unpopular among Independents because of all the abnormal, norm-breaking and according to the Mueller report, even illegal things, he does as president.”
“This is why even the Democrats’ sharp drift to the left as they chase their party’s nomination, following the Republicans down the path of ideological polarization won’t have the impact on the vote choice of Independents Republicans are hoping for,” she writes.
At the end of the day, Bitecofer continues, Independents will be asked to weigh “what Democrats might do against what Republicans, particularly Trump, are already doing.” She calls this the “reverse situation” of 2016 when Democrats “suffered from the referendum effect among Independents.”
As for whether the Democratic Party’s nominee matters, Bitecofer thinks only to “an extent.”
If the ticket has a woman, a person of color or a Latino, or a female who is also a person of color, Democratic Party turnout will surge more in really important places. If the nominee is Biden he’d be well-advised to consider Democratic voter turnout his number one consideration when drawing his running mate to avoid the critical mistake made by Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is true for any of the white male candidates. If the nominee hails from the progressive wing of the party, it will provoke massive handwringing both within the party and the media that if not controlled could become self-reinforcing. But the Democrats are not complacent like they were in 2016 and I doubt there is any amount of polling or favorable forecasts that will make them so. That fear will play a crucial role in their 2020 victory. We will not see a divided Democratic Party in 2020.
As for Florida, Bitecofer concedes that she knows “something about Florida” that her model doesn’t.
“Florida is really, really old. No state hosts more members of the Silent Generation, and Silents are more conservative, more white, more Republican, and thus less hostile to Trump than their generational counterparts,” she writes.
Bitecofer concludes by noting that America is in the “midst of a long-term, multifaceted coalition realignment in both parties.”
“Trump is a product of this realignment and of the hyperpartisanship and polarization that accompanies it. He is not a cause! But he is an accelerant, like kerosene on smoldering coals,” she writes. “The realignment that was puttering along has picked up tremendous speed.”
Bitecofer’s full analysis can be read here.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rachel Bitecofer” by Christopher Newport University. Background Photo “Christopher Newport University” by Cnucaptain. CC BY-SA 4.0.