by Jeffery Rendall
An old saying goes that bad news travels fast. When the message reaches its destination, things change quickly.
It’s amazing to witness how attitudes often switch on a dime. One moment a huge crowd of football fans is euphoric with joy and the next they’re dead silent when the opposing team runs back a kickoff for a touchdown or returns an interception a hundred yards to seal a game. We all prepare for the ebb and flow of life yet it still shocks whenever something bad occurs. A knock at the door or ring of the phone sometimes makes all the difference. Change scares us.
It’s equally true in politics, albeit the momentum switches are typically somewhat slower to materialize. For months Democrats have been buoyed by polls which showed their candidates competing well against (and in most cases soundly beating) President Donald Trump nationally – and especially in crucial states needed to prevail where it counts, in the Electoral College. But there are new and troubling signs the trend is slowing down, if not reversing. If you’re a Democrat – or someone who just can’t stand Trump – you should be afraid, very afraid.
Niall Stanage reported at The Hill, “New battleground state polls sent tremors through Democratic circles Monday, underlining that President Trump has a fighting chance of reelection despite his mediocre national standing.
“The polls, from The New York Times and Siena College, tested the three leading Democratic 2020 candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – against Trump in the six states that Trump carried by the narrowest margins in 2016…
“The differences between the Democratic candidates were also not large enough to come to confident judgments as to their real strengths — often, all three were bunched together within the polling margin of error in each state. But the more troublesome aspect for many Democrats was Trump’s showing.”
The poll’s actual numbers aren’t important at this point in time. In a nutshell, the three top Democrat contenders still enjoy leads in a few of the all-important swing states, but the margins aren’t big enough for comfort for those whose momentary happiness depends on encouraging reports from the opinion statistics crunchers. These people have nightmare recollections of the across-the-board sunny forecasts from liberal pundits and media talking heads who couldn’t fathom their anointed next-in-line, Hillary Clinton, losing to a brash outsider with no political experience and an unwillingness to toe the “presidential” line in 2016.
Theoretically speaking, a year away from the actual votes, Democrats should be trouncing Trump everywhere. While national surveys continue to show the incumbent trailing badly in the “I hate that guy” popularity contest, it doesn’t really matter whether Trump is losing by fifty points in all the solid blue states as long as he comes out ahead in the constitutional sense on Election Day. As is true every four years, about a quarter to a third of the states will decide the election (the others being out of reach to a partisan switch). Trump is running strong where he needs to be (Stanage’s article mentions Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).
It’s true, Trump still lags slightly behind in most of these so-called battleground jurisdictions, but his deficit isn’t significant. And if history is a guide, his standing will only get better in these places. This is true for several reasons. First and foremost, the Democrat nominee isn’t yet settled. “Generic” polls are of little value in presidential contests; therefore, surveys pitting Trump against each of the top-tier Democrats are all hypothetical matchups. Every political candidate looks good before the campaign season starts. But wait until the “machine” is switched on and the blood is exposed to oxygen.
It goes from blue to red pretty fast. Just saying.
Each of the top Democrats has enormous flaws. Enumerating all of them would take hours, but mentioning just a few will suffice here. Joe Biden is too old to serve as president. He’ll be older on day one than Ronald Reagan was when he left office. Biden’s notorious tendency to gaffe-himself will only serve to reinforce the plethora of doubts about his mental competency – and he’s never been one to expertly explain his policy positions. Grampa Joe doesn’t have the stamina to endure a long struggle against Trump and then step into the Oval Office and carry out his duties as president.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren’s stack of red flags rivals the tally in a dust-gathering museum full of old Soviet banners. She’s a senator from one of the most liberal states (Massachusetts) in the nation, the ancestral political home base of such notorious recent losers as John Kerry and Michael Dukakis; she’s white as a banshee yet frequently used to claim minority (Native American) status to advance her career; and her Medicare for All healthcare plan is panned by anyone with common sense, including some within her own party. Hating Trump isn’t enough for an American public that values economic success and individual freedoms.
Bernie Sanders is even older than Biden, recently suffered a heart attack and his coalition shows no signs of expanding. It doesn’t take vast intellect to conclude you can’t win a national election based on the ignorant enthusiasm of today’s safe space dependent, entitled and angry youth alone. “The Bern” may enjoy the love and boundless adoration of the disgruntled class but the people who fuel America’s prosperity engine aren’t wild about turning over the reins of power to a senile old coot who claims climate change is the number one national security threat today.
When the Democrat primary race is over and a nominee is determined, those battleground polls will slowly move more in Trump’s favor. You heard it here.
Second, the enthusiasm of Trump’s base hasn’t subsided an ounce since 2016 and will rise to a fever pitch by Election Day next year. Trump is a master of peaking at exactly the right time and he’ll be primed to turn on the campaign after-jets as the time winds down. Whereas the true presidential race used to begin after Labor Day, Trump is gearing up to extend the tension well into the summer — and maybe even the spring. And he has plenty of issue fodder (as well as campaign cash) to rely on.
If the post-impeachment House fails to approve the USMCA trade deal, for example, Trump can rightfully claim the Democrats are obstructing progress for naked partisan political gain. Or if the immigration situation continues to fester, Trump will be primed to pin the lack of movement on the Democrats and their nominee. Further, if the economy keeps humming and the unemployment rate keeps falling, the case is already made for Trump’s reelection. And then there’s genuine energy production versus climate change alarmism. Which excites people?
All of these topics get conservatives and Republicans juiced, especially since past candidates (like John McCain and Mitt Romney) were so poor and weak on the issues liberty lovers value most. The president’s rallies are already standing-room-only — and that’s outside the arenas. Trump the showman provides a couple solid hours of entertainment as well as substance whenever he speaks. Think those tens of thousands of people aren’t going to be motivated to help with the campaign? Why would they wait hours to see him and not work their tails off to reelect him?
Lastly, Trump will only get better in the battleground states because Republicans have finally learned how to win in those places. Instead of playing to the center (like the aforementioned GOP figureheads), Trump takes the fight to the enemy – and he’s not afraid to call people out either. Mitt Romney wouldn’t get down and dirty with Obama over Benghazi; McCain similarly shied away from bringing Jeremiah Wright into the fray to exploit Obama’s cultural inadequacies and weaknesses.
Trump didn’t replicate those fatal errors in 2016 and he’ll be more than primed to repeat the feat next year. It also shouldn’t be discounted how Trump can credibly claim he’s simultaneously waged war against the elites in his own party. After former Speaker Paul Ryan failed to deliver on conservative agenda items — most notably a total repeal and replacement (with a market-oriented cost-effective solution) of Obamacare and a palatable immigration fix even when Trump offered a compromise — it proved the swamp isn’t just populated by Democrats. The rot is truly bipartisan.
Trump can go to all the swing states and make his case. It’ll only improve for him in the hard to win places. That’s bad news for Democrats, isn’t it?
And Democrat presidential candidates aren’t helping their own cause by failing to go after each other to highlight where they’re different from their intra-party competitors. Emily Larsen reported at The Washington Examiner, “Democrats seeking their party’s 2020 nomination have largely avoided bludgeoning each other with lines of attack that President Trump has already signaled he’s ready to weaponize. That’s likely to change soon.
“Whether overseas business activities of Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden or Elizabeth Warren’s self-proclaimed Native American heritage, vulnerabilities of top-tier 2020 Democrats are likely to become targets, with the first primary contests less than 100 days away. Rivals of former Vice President Biden, 76, and Massachusetts Sen. Warren, 70, will start to draw sharper personal contrasts rather than sticking solely to policy…
“The candidates hope that they will not have to directly point out their opponents’ personal vulnerabilities. In a best-case scenario, they are exposed and scrutinized via a debate question or news story. But as the field whittles to a handful of candidates, it is likely that they will start drawing contrasts on personality and demographic differences such as gender or age, which are easier to grasp than subtle policy differences, while leaving the harshest attacks to Republicans.”
In politics, if you don’t define yourself – and your competitors – somebody else will. My personal theory is Democrats, individually and as a group, have so many defects that their rivals don’t know where to begin itemizing them (without looking mean or hostile – potentially fatal bugaboos to sensitive liberal voters!). In contrast to the ultra- prickly 2016 Republican primary race, everyone’s being super-duper nice to each other in Democrat-land!
That will end. Soon. And when the Democrats start going after each other, watch out. Maybe Hillary & Bill Clinton will drop in to mediate the hurt. And Donna Brazile. And Oprah! How about Lebron James? It’ll be a true tearjerker and gripe-fest. Can’t wait to see it!
Like the old saying suggests, bad news does travel fast. By now, Democrats must’ve received word that President Trump is more than competitive with them in many of the states they’d need to win next year. Trump will be on offense, Democrats on defense. Which candidate will hold the line?