I know that it’s only March of 2019, that there’s another 9 months before the Iowa caucus (although, the first debate is only three months away), and it’s maybe too early to start talking about Trump’s reelection chances. Or maybe it’s not. In my mind, if only so that I can get through the day, I have convinced myself that the Democratic nominee will be President because the thought of Trump actually winning re-election has to be the most dispiriting, discouraging, and deflating thought imaginable. I mean, can you imagine waking up on November 4th, 2020 — after a four-year nightmare — only to learn that we’ll have to suffer another four years of this?
But, you guys, it’s possible. Trump’s approval rating sits at around 40 percent, and it’s been at around 40 percent for most of his Presidency. I don’t think it’s going to change much, up or down. People have made up their minds about Trump. If the economy goes off the rails, that might hurt him some. On the other hand, Trump voters are fine with a dictatorship, so they probably won’t give a shit about that, either.
That means the decisive factor is not likely to be Trump, but the Democratic nominee. Five Thirty Eight boils the issue down to its essence in their discussion on the matter this morning:
natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): The case against Trump is that he’s pretty darn unpopular. The case for Trump is that the Democratic nominee might be pretty darn unpopular too.
sarahf (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): In other words, 2016 all over again.
natesilver: Yeah. A huge question is whether Clinton’s performance was unique to Clinton and her particular problems, or whether her position was closer to a “generic Democrat.” If it’s the former, Trump is an underdog. If it’s the latter, he might be the favorite.
perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): Part of the question is whether you think Hillary Clinton was uniquely unpopular or that by 2020, Joe Biden or whoever the Democratic nominee is will be viewed by most Republicans and many GOP-leaning independents as an abortion-loving socialist who hates Midwestern voters and the police, no matter what that person’s actual views are. And, I guess, I take the second view — negative polarization will do a lot of the work in 2020 for Trump.
Perry Bacon Jr. is probably right, isn’t he? No matter who comes out of the Democratic nomination process, Trump is going to demonize him or her. The question is: Who can he demonize the least? Who is the least susceptible to the characterization as an “abortion-loving socialist who hates Midwestern voters and the police”? Probably Beto? Kamala has the attorney general tough-on-crime thing going for her, but she’s also from California. Klobuchar could probably escape that characterization, too. Julian Castro, if he could catch fire, might be a good choice, too. Who is the most susceptible to that characterization? Probably Warren, maybe Mayor Pete. Bernie is highly susceptible to it, too, except that I think that Bernie is also the “Democrat” for whom Trump voters would most likely vote. Biden could probably escape it, too, but the problem with both Bernie and Biden is that, while appealing to independents and Trump voters, they’re also likely to be less appealing to certain segments of the Democratic party (centrists for Bernie, lefties for Biden).
And if you think that 2020 will come down to who is best positioned to beat Trump in the general, it’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? But given the possibility that we might wake up on November 4th, 2020 to find that the nightmare has not yet ended, maybe that should be the decisive factor in how we vote? I do very badly want a progressive Democrat as our nominee, but even more badly, I want Trump out of the f**king White House.
Given all of that, I’m curious about how things are shaping up for our readership. Things are probably going to change a lot over the next nine months. Some Dem candidates may drop out, or be forced out. Some Dem candidates who are not polling well now might catch fire. The debates might move things around a lot, too. But knowing what you know now, and taking into consideration that we have to put the candidate most likely to beat Trump forward, who would you vote for if the primary were held today?
You folks know how much I hate to use actual photos of Donald Trump as the header photo, but before you make your decision, I want you to look at that photo again and try to remember that, more than anything, we’re voting to remove that man from office. That is the ultimate goal. Universal health insurance, a higher minimum wage, and more affordable college education would be amazing, but first and foremost, we’ve got to unf*ck the country after four years of Trump.