Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem

Top Democratic strategists on Friday predicted a candidate for their party would narrowly defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE in the Electoral College if the election were held today, but warned that Republicans had erased an enthusiasm gap that bolstered Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

The strategists said races in presidential battleground states will be close and gave a pessimistic outlook for their party winning the swing state of Ohio, which they said was less likely to go for their party than Texas.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Democrats do not walk into the 2020 election with the same enthusiasm advantage they had in the 2018 election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC.

Cecil unveiled a new poll that found a generic Democratic presidential candidate leading Trump 47 percent to 38 percent in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A nationwide analysis by Priorities USA gave 279 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee against 259 for Trump if the election were held today, with the margin of victory decided by the Democrats winning back Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Cecil said polling in the core battleground states remains close, particularly in Wisconsin, where the president only trails by half a percentage point.

And he warned that Democrats would not be able to rely on the advantage in enthusiasm that led to their takeover of the House in 2018.

“We’re seeing some changes around enthusiasm for the election that are not to our benefit,” he said. “Not because our side has become less interested in the election, but because Trump supporters are more interested in the election because he’s on the ballot.”

Priorities USA will spend $100 million on digital advertising and election infrastructure on the ground in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania this cycle. On Friday, the group announced it would spend an additional $4 million on a mobilization effort in those states that will target young voters and African Americans after polling found enthusiasm lagging among those groups.

“We know we need to increase our enthusiasm,” Cecil said. “We know we have a slight gap and we know we have an opportunity with younger voters and African American voters.”

The Priorities USA data largely paints a rosy picture for Democrats 18 months out from Election Day.

The model has Democrats rebuilding the blue wall in the Midwest by winning back Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, all three of which went for the GOP presidential candidate in 2016 for the first time in decades.

Trump also carried Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina in 2016, but the Priorities USA survey found that a generic Democratic candidate is only trailing Trump by 2 or 3 points in those states. Cecil said Georgia would also be in play for Democrats.

“We’ve improved in some of our key states over the last month and a half,” he said.

However, Cecil said Ohio, a longtime presidential election bellwether, has moved further away from Democrats, and he predicted it would be easier for the party’s nominee to win Texas this cycle.

Democrats will also be playing defense in New Hampshire, Nevada and Minnesota, which Priorities USA has rated as the most susceptible to flipping after going for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Top Trump ally says potential Amash presidential bid could be problematic in Michigan Chaotic Trump transition leaks: Debates must tackle how Democrats will govern differently MORE in 2016.

The survey did find that Trump’s support has softened considerably from 2016, when Cecil acknowledged that many people who voted for him did so because they opposed Clinton.

“A significant number of Trump voters voted for Trump because they didn’t like Hillary, that’s just a factual statement,” Cecil said.

Among those who voted for Trump in 2016, the Priorities USA survey found that 79 percent said they would likely vote for him again in 2020 — but only 54 percent said they would definitely vote for him again.

That’s compared to 89 percent of Clinton voters who said they would likely turn out for the Democratic nominee, including 71 percent who said they will definitely vote for the party’s nominee.

“[The Trump campaign] actually has work to do among their base,” Cecil said. “In every way that we measure, Democratic voters are more consolidated than Trump supporters, so they have a real problem. The challenge they have is the undecided voters won’t matter if they don’t increase their share among their previous voters.”

The president does not appear to be getting a boost from the economy, with 63 percent saying they’ve benefitted only a little bit or not at all and 37 percent saying they have benefitted a lot or to some degree.

On the issues that Trump focuses on the most — tax cuts, immigration and border security — a plurality of voters say Trump’s handling of those matters is a reason to elect someone else.

“The views of Donald Trump continue to get worse,” Cecil said. “We’ve always had pretty significant number to our benefit when you look at Donald Trump’s personal rating. Now, we’re seeing pretty significant changes to his job performance rating.”

But Cecil warned that an obsessive focus on Trump would be a dead end for the party.

He implored Democrats to narrowly focus on the core issues he said would drive voters to the polls: Economic insecurity, wage stagnation, drug prices, the GOP tax law and access to affordable health care.

“We have to be talking more about these issues, not just because these will help us beat Donald Trump, these are actually the issues that will help [the candidates] win the Democratic primary,” Cecil said. “The Democratic base voters want to hear about these particular issues.”

Cecil said that zero of the 1,600 people in battleground states polled by Priorities USA described special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE’s report as an important issue for them.

“The lived experience of most human beings is different than me and the people in this room, and the successful candidate is going to find out a way to talk directly to them, even if they’re going to get asked those questions,” Cecil said.