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What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020

What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020

Democratic presidential candidates should prepare for another change election in 2020. Americans voted for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE and for change in 2016 but all they got was chaos.  Midterm voters were in a bad mood. A majority of voters felt that things in the United States were going in the wrong direction.

We can look backward at what voters were thinking just after they cast their ballots. But the data also points forward to likely events in 2020.

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The nasty political environment translated into sour ratings for Trump.  More than half of the voters gave the president a negative job rating. What is even more striking is that half of the voters assign the president a very negative performance score.

Trump probably never will be a popular president. His rating is struck in the 40 percent range. Democratic presidential candidates should gird themselves for a steady stream of abuse from the White House because the only way the president can win in 2020 is to completely trash his opponents. He proved in 2016 that he is completely capable of doing that. 

The president’s aggressive approach to international relations has not won over our allies or American voters.

Displeasure with the president’s reckless foreign policy is certainly a consideration in evaluations of his tenure. Almost half of the midterm voters indicated they felt less secure under Trump than they did before he became president.

Foreign policy was not an important factor in the midterms but it’s likely to be big factor in a presidential campaign.  Trump’s approach to international relations is leading to international chaos so foreign policy might loom large in 2020.

Voters may look for a president who can bring clarity to the worldwide chaos that Trump created. This scenario might be an advantage for Joe BidenJoe BidenObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Brad Pitt narrates Biden ad airing during World Series MORE who has an impressive foreign policy resume from his long tenure in the U.S. Senate. The former vice president gained a lot of experience as an international trouble-shooter for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump hits Biden as 'disrespectful' to Obama MORE.

Economics 101

The Democratic Party’s basic kitchen table approach to the big issues worked in 2018 and should work for Democratic White House hopefuls with refinements in 2020.

The president and Congressional Republicans hoped that big jobs gains and tax cuts would sustain them. But the economy didn’t help the GOP much because the party ignored the structural problems with the economy. Democratic presidential candidates ignore underlying economic problems at their own peril.

The talking points the Democratic Congressional and Campaign Committee sent its candidates was a useful guide to reaching the hearts and minds of voters. 

  • Lower your health care costs and prescription drug prices.
  • Increase your pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding.            
  • Clean up corruption to make Washington work for you.

The cost of health care is a big obstacle to creating a dynamic economy that serves all Americans. People die because they can’t afford medical care. Many Americans go bankrupt from a major medical crisis in their families. 

Midterm voters worried about health care more than anything else. Two in five voters said that it was the most important issue. On top of that, seven in 10 voters said they wanted “major" changes in the health-care system. 

Voters, especially Democratic primary voters won’t be satisfied with health half measures. The desire for a complete overhaul of the health care system puts pressure on the Democratic presidential candidates to do a full Bernie and embrace Medicare for All.

No. on the midterm issue hit parade was the economy. One out of every five midterm voters cited the economy as their most important issue. 

The math is simple. There are a lot more jobs but many of them are low wage jobs that don’t pay an employee enough to support a family. An economic recession looms and Americans who still struggle to make ends meet will be even in worse shape financially than they are now.

Only a third of the midterm voters indicated that their financial situation was better than it was two years ago. Only three out of 10 voters believed the new Trump tax law helped them. Only a quarter of the midterm electorate thought Trump’s trade policies had benefited them.

Back to basics 

Democratic presidential hopefuls need to steer clear of shiny objects and stick to the basics. Sex scandals and financial abuses get a lot of attention but garner few votes. In 2016, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event MORE was so preoccupied with the Trump scandal of the week that she neglected to articulate an economic message that appealed to financially strapped Americans. The 2020 bumper crop of Democratic candidates will suffer the same fate of Clinton if they make the same mistake.

If you believe as many Americans do that health care costs are an economic problem, then six in 10 midterm voters cited the economy as the problem that drove their votes.  The exit poll proves the president’s demagoguery of the immigration problem did not distract Americans from their economic worries. There was twice as much concern about health care as there was about immigration. 

There are several Democratic hopefuls like Democratic Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks MORE and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Plaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation MORE who are capable of bearing the torch of economic populism. Their dedication to economic concerns will be a major roadblock to Donald Trump’s return route to the White House.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics.