With Election Day 2020 exactly one year distant, the bases of both political parties are squarely in their corners and the rest of the nation — independents and swing voters — are left shaking their heads.
National polls this far out are unreliable. For now, Democratic candidates for president need to concentrate on local polling in primary states, while President Donald Trump must watch his approval, right track/wrong track feelings, and consumer confidence polling in battleground states as the most reliable early barometer of his standing.
Adding to the tumult of Election 2020 is the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives — what that becomes, and how it affects Democrats, Republicans and, most importantly, the president.
In forecasting the possible outcome of Election 2020, one key consideration in many minds is congressional retirements. To date, 17 Republican House members and four Republican senators have announced they are retiring; just five House Democrats and one Senate Democrat have said they will retire.
In a Congress of 535 members, however, it is not out of the ordinary to have turnover — and, in my opinion, too much prognosticating weight is given to retirements. After all, elected service in America should be an opportunity, not a career. All 435 members of the House are up for reelection in 2020, along with 35 U.S. senators.
The current state of the House is 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one independent and four vacancies; Democrats hold a 37-seat House majority. The likelihood, as things stand today, of Democrats retaining their majority in 2020 is a safe bet. The odds are with them.
In the Senate, Republicans control 53 of the 100 seats; Democrats hold 47 seats, and two are held by independents, giving Republicans a six-seat majority. It is more likely that in a bad year for Republicans — meaning the loss of the White House — that Democrats would flip four GOP seats to take back the Senate. And, in 2020, Republicans will hold 23 of the 35 Senate seats up for election, which gives Democrats twice the number of chances to flip seats. Senate Republicans will need the political coattails of the president to stay in the majority. Thus, the Senate races in battleground states are the contests to watch in early polling that will give some good signals of what to expect a year from now.
Overall, Republicans are more united as a party but face uncertainty and unease with the looming impeachment in the House. Democrats are in disarray because of an identity crisis of who and what they are as a party; many Democrats running for president have embraced a “Democratic socialist” agenda that quite possibly could turn into a Democrat/socialist candidate for president and party platform.
Add to this the fact that Democrats may have bitten off more than they can chew with impeachment. Should Democrats not impeach and just censure the president, they know President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE will take a victory lap just as the 2020 campaign heats up. On the other hand, should the House impeach and the Senate not remove the president, that too could help Donald Trump, as he might be viewed by many voters as the victim of a political witch-hunt. The chances of the Senate removing the president, based on the evidence as it exists today, are slim and none. Thus, Democrats have more to lose from this folly.
Some Democrats in particular should be careful what they wish for. If the House were to impeach the president by the end of the year and the Senate were to take up a trial in the early part of 2020, then the Democratic senators running for their party’s presidential nomination — Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn Washington, the road almost never taken Senate poised to battle over Biden's pick of big bank critic Treasury says more rental aid is reaching tenants, preventing evictions MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn Washington, the road almost never taken Don't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTwo 'View' hosts test positive for coronavirus ahead of Harris interview Rep. Karen Bass to run for mayor of Los Angeles: report Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory BookerTim Scott says police reform talks collapsed with Dems over funding Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies Democrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuild Back Better Act must include funding to restore forests, make communities resilient and create jobs Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (D-Colo.) — must sit in judgment as jurors and will be taken off the campaign trail in early caucus or primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. A Senate trial could take months; a U.S. senator cannot be in two places at the same time. And some voters may wonder how those senators can sit in judgment of an impeached president and be impartial jurors when they have a vested interest in removing the person they are seeking to replace.
Public support for President Trump is a balancing act between rhetoric and results. While many Americans do not like his words, they do like many of his deeds in office — and a president’s greatest strength going into a reelection campaign is his record. Trump is blessed today with great economic numbers; from low interest rates to low unemployment, the nation’s economy is humming. Add to that the fact that we are not at war and our homeland is secure, and you have a recipe for success on Election Day. So President Trump’s prospects will be weighed by his success in keeping his promises thus far and his pledges to build on those in a second term.
If Democrats select a nominee who is unelectable because of a far-left or socialist agenda, then their beds will be made. It is not enough to “hate” Trump out of office — you have to vote him out. Thus, if Democrats overplay their hands on impeachment and removal, and if they select a nominee who is too leftist, they will hand President Trump a second term. Today, Democrats appear way too negative; it simply is not enough to be against something — you have to stand for something that Americans want and need.
Election 2020 will be a stark choice for the electorate. Never before in modern times has there been such a contrast between parties and candidates.
My prediction is that Democrats will keep their majority in the House, Republicans will keep their majority in the Senate, and Trump will be reelected. The reason is simple: Republicans have a record to run on, while Democrats have overreached and are out of touch with the nation’s values, direction and desires.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.