Trump 2020 campaign must prioritize union vote

Trump 2020 campaign must prioritize union vote
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With campaign surrogates starting their rounds from New Hampshire to Iowa, the clock is already ticking on the 2020 race for the White House. And as Trump and his team map their path to re-election, it is essential that they double down on efforts to retain the votes of the union workers that helped tip the scales toward the GOP in 2016

President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE charted a non-traditional course en route to White House. While no single factor proved decisive, Trump’s success in winning support from one traditionally Democratic constituency was critical: labor. 

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Union households have voted for Democrats in outsized numbers for decades. President Obama won the labor vote by 18 points in 2012, and that dominance was at its most pronounced in crucial battleground states like Ohio and Michigan. The math shifted in 2016, though. Trump took the union vote by 9 points over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE in Ohio, and union voters in Michigan swung 20 points toward the GOP.

 

The key to Trump’s success among union households was his direct appeal to the workers and families that make up their ranks. He repeatedly stressed the importance of preserving American competitiveness, and, in true populist form, he committed time and again to the nation’s coal workers. 

These positions resonated with voters who felt that the previous administration put their livelihood at risk. Trump committed to reversing those trends, and that commitment helped carry him to office. 

Trump can win these votes again in 2020, but doing so will require results.  One potential source of the requisite real-world results can be found on tribal lands in Northern Arizona, where Trump and his administration — especially Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE — have an opportunity to help prevent a key Southwest coal plant from closing decades ahead of schedule. Doing so would save hundreds of union coal jobs, nearly all of which are held by Native Americans.

The Navajo Generating Station was intended to operate through 2044, providing reliable power for millions of consumers throughout Arizona — including the Central Arizona Project, a massive canal system that delivers water to residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial customers statewide. The plant, along with the nearby Kayenta Mine, which serves as its exclusive source of coal, has a vital role to play in Arizona’s energy and economic future. It can’t fulfill that role, however, unless a new group of owners comes to the table and averts a shutdown that could occur at the end of next year — nearly 25 years ahead of schedule. 

The closure of NGS would mean the loss of 825 mine and power plant jobs along with thousands of support jobs. It would undermine the reliability of the region’s power grid, greatly increasing the prospects of brownouts from Phoenix to Los Angeles. It would also drive up the cost of water, and put considerable pressure on the economies of the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation, each of which derive much of their annual operating budgets from coal operations.

Through a broader, more political lens, the loss of NGS — and the union jobs it supports — would mark a step in the wrong direction in the minds of workers that cast their votes for Trump in 2016.

The administration recognizes the importance of this issue to Arizona’s future, and that of the nation’s coal industry at large. Zinke, for instance, considers the plant’s continued operations to be a priority for Interior. The administration’s continued vocal support will be invaluable as stakeholders in Arizona continue their work to finalize a new ownership structure that will sustain the plant’s operation well into the future.

Financial consultants overseeing the negotiations among potential new owners say that they are working toward a deal. That would be good news for Arizona — and a sign of real progress for the union voters the president needs to win re-election.

Darren Bearson is the president of Compass Point Strategies. He previously worked in the White House’s Office of Political Affairs under President George W. Bush from 2001-2005 and has advised Republican candidates in more than 30 states over the past 20 years.