Yogi Berra (if he ever really said it) was right: Making predictions is hard, especially when they’re about the future. And only a fool would venture to make predictions about a presidential election still about a year down the road. So here goes.
If Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE loses next year, it won’t be because Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE or Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Sanders calls deadly Afghan drone strike 'unacceptable' MORE or Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership LGBT film festival to premiere documentary about Pete Buttigieg MORE or any of the other Democrats beat him. It will be because Donald Trump beat Donald Trump.
America was polarized before Donald Trump became president. He didn’t start the fire. But he’s been awfully good at pouring gasoline on it every chance he gets.
This is a man who craves applause, who needs to be adored. So he plays to his loyal base at the expense of everyone else, especially the moderates he would need to win reelection.
At a recent political rally in Minneapolis, he told his fans that Joe Biden was a good vice president only because he understood how to kiss President Obama’s posterior — except, subtlety not being Mr. Trump’s strongpoint, he didn’t say “posterior.”
Just one day later, in Louisiana, he told another rally that impeachment is B.S. — except he didn’t say B.S. He spelled out what the initials stand for.
His fans love the vulgarity, which they see as blunt honesty. They cheered every syllable. They love that he’s sticking it to the establishment, to the elites who think he’s crude and unpresidential — elites, by the way, who don’t think much of Mr. Trump’s supporters, either.
But being vulgar — in public, no less — isn’t the way to win the hearts and minds and votes of suburban college-educated moderate swing voters — especially women — a group the GOP lost in the 2018 midterms and that the president will need to win reelection.
It’s not just the crudeness, however. There’s his childish name-calling, his humiliation not just of political adversaries but also of once loyal allies, and his chronic dishonesty. His base isn’t put off by any of it. Which is more than can be said about the rest of America. So far, Donald Trump hasn’t reached the 50 percent mark in approval — the first U.S. president to claim such a “distinction” in the modern polling era.
With the stock market soaring, with unemployment at or near record lows, reelection should be a walk in the park for any president. Except, Donald Trump is not any president. And so it’s not far-fetched to believe that even a far-left progressive such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could beat such a divisive incumbent as Donald Trump.
The president’s base may laugh at such an analysis, but they’re so in love with their champion that they can’t see straight on these things. Many of them were convinced the only wave we’d see in the 2018 midterms was a red one. They confuse wishful thinking with reality — just as liberals, in and out of the media, confused their wishful thinking with the reality of a Trump victory in 2016.
But there is a way for the president to virtually ensure victory next November. All he has to do is change his ways, to turn himself into a new-and-improved Donald Trump; a “Donald Trump 2.0” — a more likable, more civil, more empathetic, more decent, more humane, less confrontational, less narcissistic, less mean-spirited Donald Trump.
I know. No way.
So here’s the bottom line: If the election is about the economy, he’ll likely win a second term. But if it’s about him, there’s a better than even chance that he’ll lose.
One way or the other, predictions are hard, especially when they’re about the future.
Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books, and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.