Democrats fear Trump could win despite impeachment
Democrats say it’s entirely possible that President Trump could be reelected in November, despite the shadow of impeachment cast over his presidency.
While Trump on Wednesday became just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, the Democrats say he is boosted by a robust economy and a strong base of support from voters in swing states such as Wisconsin and Michigan.
He’ll be the first president to be impeached and then run for reelection, assuming a likely acquittal in the Senate, and Democrats don’t see him as an easy opponent to defeat.
“Yes, he can win,” said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. “And presuming otherwise is a recipe for repeating the mistakes of 2016. This isn’t a national election. He is going to lose the popular vote by 2 to 3 million votes, but the battlegrounds are still competitive and he won the Electoral College.”
Putting a fine point on it, Kofinis said Trump could be reelected “because if you look at past elections, no incumbent president has lost an election with a growing economy and peacetime conditions.”
While Trump has a disapproval rating around 52 percent, Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics said next year’s election “is Trump’s to lose.”
“Trump wins if the economy and his approval ratings are about the same a year from now as today, and turnout is typical. But if the economy stumbles, his popularity flags or Democrat turnout is big, the Democrats win,” he told Bloomberg News in an interview last month.
Fair’s model uses the nation’s gross domestic product to calculate shares of the two-party presidential vote. It currently projects the Democratic share as being only 45.9 percent as of October.
It should be noted that Fair’s model was off in 2016 by 7.1 percentage points. In a note, Fair wrote that while it is impossible to test why the model was so far off, it was probably due to Trump’s personality. While Trump still won the Electoral College, he concluded the GOP might have done much better with a more mainstream candidate.
Democrats are questioning whether they will have the right candidate to defeat Trump.
Some worry that former Vice President Joe Biden is a weak front-runner. At the same time, they are nervous that Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are too progressive to appeal to more moderate voters in swing states.
The lack of a dominant front-runner has caused more candidates to enter the race, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor.
“I could be completely wrong, but I don’t see a candidate yet who can deliver,” one Democratic strategist said on the eve of the next Democratic debate, scheduled for Thursday night. “They all have their problems.”
A USA Today–Suffolk national poll released Tuesday found Trump ahead of Biden by three points, though the poll also gave voters the option of picking an unnamed third-party candidate.
The survey also showed the president leading Sanders by 5 points, Warren by 8 points and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) by 10 points, also with a third-party candidate option.
The Democratic strategist said Thursday night’s debate could give one of the party’s candidates a chance to stand out. But to date, no one has dominated the debates, leaving Democrats feeling even more unsettled about their choices — and their chances of winning next year.
Last weekend’s cold open on “Saturday Night Live” encapsulated the Democratic mood.
“Trump is definitely getting impeached and definitely getting reelected,” a father played by “SNL” cast member Keenan Thompson says while speaking to his kids around a dinner table on Christmas.
“If white people tell you ‘I might not vote for Trump this time,’ you know what that’s called? A lie. Nobody was going to vote for Trump in 2016 either and then guess who did? Everybody.”
Some Democrats say that while Trump could win, the nervousness in their party is actually a good thing.
“A healthy dose of apprehension is a good thing,” said Basil Smikle, a former aide to Hillary Clinton who also served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.
“The party needs to quickly narrow its field of contenders, embrace and support a candidate and buttress the campaigns of vulnerable House members who supported impeachment while Republicans revel in their perverse unanimity,” Smikle added. “They’ve essentially got a head start on presenting a united front to voters, albeit a warped one.”
At the same time, one Democratic operative said Trump can “definitely win” while a long and divisive primary season drags out, echoing what other strategists and donors have said in recent days even with impeachment front and center in the headlines.
Kofinis said that in the end, it’s all likely to boil down to Trump. Voters will either decide they want another four years of a president who has dominated the news cycle and attention spans of the public like few before him, or they will tire of it.
“The question is how many Americans are tired of his horrible antics and behavior,” he said. “If they are, he likely loses. If they aren’t, he likely wins.”
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