Without new Democratic message, Donald Trump is the 2020 favorite

Without new Democratic message, Donald Trump is the 2020 favorite
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What are the major takeaways from the 2018 midterm elections?

First, that there was clear benefit and strength in President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE appealing to the Republican base on immigration. This advantage was realized rural red states like North Dakota, midwestern states like Indiana and Missouri, and even in Montana, where the Republican candidate Matt Rosendale came very close to beating Democratic incumbent Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Senate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE. While many in the media argued that Trump, in ignoring the economy and focusing on immigration, it is clear that, in these jurisdictions, and potentially even in Florida as well, Trump made major headways. However, it would equally be the case that for the Republicans, led by Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: House GOP struggles to get votes for B in wall funds | Fallout from Oval Office clash | Dems say shutdown would affect 800K workers | House passes 7 billion farm bill GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand House GOP blocks lawmakers from forcing Yemen war votes for rest of year MORE, who focused on the economy, that the president missed a huge opportunity in not touting the current strength of the economy.

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Second, had the Republicans run a campaign focused exclusively on the economy, including employment, tax cuts, and past versus future, they would have undeniably lost fewer than the 30 and counting seats that flipped blue. This dynamic is especially true in suburban districts that voted for Trump in 2016, certainly due to the strength of his message on the economy, but then largely swung for Democratic representatives in 2018. For example, in the 8th district of Michigan, where Trump won by 8 points, Democratic candidate Elissa Slotkin unseated the Republican incumbent Mike Bishop by 4 points.

Third, the tax cut bill ended up ultimately hurting Republicans in districts with high state and local taxes, especially in California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington. Roughly, among the 33 competitive districts, Republicans lost over 15 seats in these states. The Republicans clearly should instead go along with the Democrats and increase the cap on the state and local tax deduction, which will not cost that much and will help the Republicans in these key districts.

Fourth, the Republicans need a united message if they are going to maximize their impact going forward, and the president cannot be a lone wolf with a party whose fundamental issue points appear to be at odds with his. The Democrats, with a message on health care, have only started the process. There is a lot more to winning an election than health care and climate change. The Democrats need a message on inclusivity, education, job training, and the overall economy. They also need, as we had in the 1990s, a message on the federal budget and entitlements to demonstrate some degree of fiscal prudence and social compassion.

Put another way, if the Democrats are to beat Trump in 2020, they need an overarching message that highlights the economy and recognizes the realities of the deficit, but also recognizes that the party has a historic commitment to providing a social safety net, protecting entitlements, and offering people a way to advance themselves. Democrats have begun very tentatively the process of a campaign on preexisting conditions and protecting ObamaCare, but that campaign, which largely focused on resisting and opposing the Trump administration, is only a start for the next election. Absent a new centrist message by the Democrats, the favorite for 2020 will remain the incumbent Donald Trump.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”