Dear All, "Donald Trump will be re-elected.”
When NYT columnist Bret Stephens dropped that bombshell over lunch back in March, his voice was steely with certainty. Gobsmacked, I didn’t trust myself to speak. But, my husband shot back, “That’s your fear talking. You’re worried about calling it wrong again.” Stephens, formerly an editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal, had predicted Clinton would trounce Trump during the 2016 presidential election — a major misstep that presaged the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist's subsequent move to the New York Times.
Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Stephens wrote a piece detailing his scenario for “How Donald Trump Wins.” Based on the sputtering outrage that jammed my inbox, apparently a lot of people had to be peeled off the ceiling after reading it.
But come this Sunday, I get to ask Stephens about the latest cache of data that overwhelmingly casts doubt on Trump winning a second term. Along with MSNBC Republican strategist Susan Del Percio and former Congressman David Jolly from Florida, Stephens will appear at a speaker series I moderate called “Conversations on the Green.” The session, entitled “Is the Party Over? Rebuilding the GOP,” will focus on what happens to the party of Lincoln and the two party system after Trump is gone. (I can see you smiling.)
Like a harried PhD candidate prepping for the big finish, I’m currently immersed in research for the event. But since Stephens stirred up so much angst with his recent prognostication, I thought I’d pass on toplines that refute his claim Trump will cruise to re-election.
I understand that analysts who live by making predictions in public don’t want to buck the gale force tailwinds provided by a strong economy and the power of incumbency. After all, most of them got it wrong back in 2016 and can’t afford to be wrong again in 2020. But, as the pieces below highlight, if you look objectively at the political data, Trump enters the cycle in a uniquely weak position. Based on the current numbers, experts who say Trump is a lock for re-election are more likely giving voice to their own fear than the facts on the ground.
First, Talking Points editor Josh Marshall breaks down the latest poll from Quinnipiac: "I’m of two minds on these numbers,” Marshall says. "The consequences of President Trump being reelected are so catastrophic that nothing can be taken for granted. We’ve seen his unconventional politics do the unthinkable and impossible before. And his particular coalition has a big, big electoral college advantage. Having said that, these are terrible numbers for a President seeking reelection.”
Next, from The Hill, comes the warning of severe headwinds ahead for Trump’s 2020 bid primarily because he’s elevated polarization to an art form: "In four separate polls over the past month, more than 50 percent of respondents said they would not vote for him again or were unlikely to do so. The percentage who said they would vote for him never rose higher than 38.”
To wrap it up, back to Josh Marshall with a scenario that will make your day. Marshall starts with the obvious premise that Trump is the most consistently unpopular President in at least a century. He then builds a deliciously strong case that Trump will be crushed at the ballot box in 2020.
So this time I’m forearmed for my encounter with Bret Stephens. Stay tuned for how he responds to my challenge to his forecast of victory for Trump. Until then, if you want tickets for this Sunday’s session, shoot an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org (“Angel" tickets for the charitable event are still available or you can be wait-listed for general admission seats.)
I’ll be dedicating the Father’s Day program to my late father who hewed to a moderate “Rockefeller Republican” line for most of his life. A socially liberal, fiscally conservative Marine veteran, he left the GOP when George W. Bush declared war on Iraq. My father was a “compassionate conservative” in the truest sense; a champion for social justice who actively worked to level the playing field in a nation riven by income inequality. In the last two decades of his 94 years, he jokingly referred to himself as politically “homeless.” Thankfully, when he cast his final presidential vote, Barack Obama brought him home.