WASHINGTON – Few political pundits expected Donald Trump to win the 2016 Presidential Election.
More than three years into his presidency, and with the threat of impeachment over the Ukraine scandal looming, many of the same pundits say Trump is unlikely to win re-election next year.
But don’t count Trump out just yet.
“Right now he’s in a very strong position for re-election and that’s just looking at it objectively and following what’s happening on the ground and you got to be cognizant of that fact,” former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele told the Baltimore Post-Examiner. Steele has been a frequent critic of Trump on national television.
It’s always been the case. Incumbency has its benefits and the president not only will use those benefits to his advantage but then, of course, will double-down on other strategies that he likes from the 2016 campaign that will also stoke his base and get them turned-up and turned-out.”
Strong economic record
One issue that Trump is banking on to win re-election is the economy. The stock market has broken more than 100 records since he took office in Jan. 2017. Unemployment is at its lowest rate in nearly 50 years and interest rates are below 2%. And even suggested the DOW Jones industrial average could hit 30,000. Last month alone the economy grew by 266,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Approval rating the same as Obama
Trump’s approval rating stands at 43% according to the latest Gallup poll. Pundits have said those numbers may foreshadow electoral doom but Barack Obama had the same approval rating at roughly the same point in his presidency, according to Gallup. Obama went on to win re-election in a landslide in which he garnered 322 electoral votes.
Robert R. Johnson, professor of finance, Heider College of Business, Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska, said Trump is likely to win.
“While I think it is entirely too early to speculate on whether President Trump will be re-elected if I had to choose I would say yes. My rationale is based upon the condition of the economy and the unlikelihood that we will be in a recession around election time.”
Without question, the condition of the economy is the most important factor in determining whether an incumbent President- or even the incumbent party -will be successful in being reelected. And, yes, if Trump is not re-elected, he would be an anomaly in that sitting presidents running for reelection in a strong economy are in a very powerful position.”
Election trends and the economy
In the post-World War II era, no president has lost re-election when the economy is strong. The opposite occurred when the economy is weak. Pundits say Jimmy Carter lost the 1976 election in large part because of long gas lines that stemmed from an Arab oil embargo against the U.S. and an economic recession and others claim George H.W. Bush lost the 1992 election because of an economic recession and the public perception that he was out of touch with the middle class.
Re-election campaign has raised more than $300 million this year
The Trump campaign has raised more than $3 million since public impeachment hearings began in mid-November and more than $300 million so far this year. The numbers for leading Democrats pale in comparison. Former Vice President Joe Biden has raised about $38 million. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has raised about $75 million. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has more than $60 million. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has raised about $52 million. Environmental activist and philanthropist Tom Steyer has raised about $50 million.
Las Vegas also has made Trump the frontrunner in terms of being re-elected. Trump has a 125-1 chance of being re-elected according to Vegas Election Odds – this surpasses all the other Democrat candidates by a wide margin.
Division among Democrats
The Democratic field includes 15 candidates. Polls show a three-way contest for the top of the ticket between Biden, Sanders and Warren, which could result in a brokered convention next summer. Iowa has Buttigieg ahead, according to a recent Des Moines Register/CNN poll.
Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) served on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment hearings and as majority leader during the Senate trial of President Bill Clinton. He said Democrats have thus far failed to move public opinion with the Trump impeachment hearings.
“So far it appears the hearings in the Intelligence Committee in the House did not move people very much one way or the other.”
However, Lott cautioned: “I think it would be premature to jump to conclusions.”
Lott suggested impeachment could hurt the Democrats as it did with Republicans in 2000 election in which the GOP lost two seats in the House and five seats in the Senate.
“The election results show that it actually worked against Republicans in the next election which was historically unusual at that time.”
Lott said the public may get tired of the hearings.
“The fact that we’re gonna have another two or three weeks of it in the House and then perhaps a month of it in the Senate-it could hurt the Democrats.”
Asked of Trump’s re-election prospects, Lott said: “I think he’s in a good position to win.”
Tom DeLuca, a professor of political science at Fordham University in NYC, said it is possible the electoral college again propel Trump to victory, but that that scenario is unlikely.
“I think it’s very unlikely that President Trump wins the popular vote, but he does have a path to win the election and that’s because of the Electoral College. It’s conceivable the Dems could win by a substantially larger popular vote margin than Clinton won by and lose the election.”
Having said that, I think Trump is likely to lose the election and that the economy alone will not enable him to win. For him to win he needs the good economy, he needs to ramp up turnout among his core on a number of symbolic issues (from immigration to abortion etc) and he needs to minimize his losses among suburban voters and independent voters. One problem he faces is that the issues that ramp up his core also alienate some independents and/or suburban voters.”
Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Trump is likely to be defeated.
“If the election were held today, the Democrat would win Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and maybe Georgia, Arizona and Ohio, all states that Trump won in 2016. Unless the Democratic candidate simply disintegrates after the nomination, the way that Francois Fillon did after winning the conservative nomination for President of France in 2017, the Democratic candidate will win.”
Grayson said it is not a given that the Republican-controlled Senate will acquit Trump if the House decides to impeach him.
“If [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) turns against Trump in order to save McConnell’s own loose skin next year, the impeachment vote in the Senate will be something like 80-20 against Trump.”
Bryan is a freelance political journalist whose experience includes three and a half years covering Congress and two years covering Maryland state government.
His work includes coverage of the election of Donald Trump, the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions-as well as that of the Maryland General Assembly, Gov. Larry Hogan, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bryan has broken stories involving athletic and sexual assault scandals with the Baltimore Post-Examiner.
His original UMBC investigation gained international attention, was featured in People Magazine and he was interviewed by ABC’s “Good Morning America” and local radio stations. Bryan broke subsequent stories documenting UMBC’s omission of a sexual assault on their daily crime log and a federal investigation related to the university’s handling of an alleged sexual assault.