by Jeffrey A. Rendall
With most of the recent media buzz focusing on the swelling clown car (Rep. Eric Swalwell? and Alec Baldwin? Seriously?) full of 2020 Democrat presidential candidates it’s easy to lose sight of the other side of the contest. President Donald Trump’s already launched his reelection effort complete with a campaign manager, staff and fundraising operation. There are few certainties in politics, but it’s clear Trump’s operation will be primed and ready when the need arrives.
Still, there’s much to be worried about on Trump’s side. Polls are what they are, but when surveys show trouble ahead, stay alert.
Paul Bedard reported at The Washington Examiner, “It’s never good for a sitting president heading into reelection to be compared to Jimmy Carter…
“[A]s 2020 nears, President Trump is finding himself constantly behind Democrats in reelection polls and the latest has compared the Republican to Carter. ‘Perhaps the closest analogy to Trump in terms of approval ratings is Jimmy Carter, whose average approval rating for his term was 45 percent,’ said a survey from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University.
“Carter, of course, lost his reelection bid. Trump’s average approval rating for his first 27 months in office has ranged between the high 30s and the mid-40s. President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling,’ said the poll analysis that put Trump at 37% and a generic Democrat at 48%.”
If Lloyd Bentsen were still with us he might comment in response to this poll, “I knew Jimmy Carter; he was a friend of mine. Donald Trump, you’re no Jimmy Carter.” Maybe not… Bentsen was a Democrat.
Bedard’s article featured additional impressions from other pollsters who offered more encouraging assessments of Trump’s chances, though all were cautious in speculating about a controversial man that a good many swampy GOP establishmentarians still won’t give the time of day.
Only a fool would be unconcerned about Trump’s seeming inability to move the opinion needle in a positive direction, however; but there’s also the fact that nothing he does — or does not do (build the wall, close the border, fix Obamacare) — visibly impacts his favorability either. Much has been written about Trump’s uncanny talent for retaining support from his 2016 voters, but the same observers emphasize he hasn’t added many backers either.
Will 2020 contradict 2016, when the amazingly polarizing Trump lucked out by facing a Democrat who was loathed only slightly more than he was?
Here’s thinking Trump has more than enough time to boost his poll rating another three to four points, which should be good enough to win in the Electoral College again next year. Trump’s Real Clear Politics average holds steady at around 44 percent, notable mostly for its remarkable stability. Earlier this year Trump’s unfavorable line ticked up a bit during the government shutdown, but not a whole lot. Likewise, the White House occupant’s favorable rating rose a tad recently, buoyed by the Mueller report’s confirmation of no Russian collusion.
In other words, it looks like nothing Trump does impacts the way Americans think about him either way. Not even his powerlessness to move the GOP establishment and Democrats to build the border wall caused him to lose support — or gain it either.
Therefore Democrats must produce a candidate who can best take advantage of Trump’s popular intractability. It should be noted the “generic” Democrat candidate (in the Wason poll) didn’t break the 50 percent threshold even before the party field begins its unpleasant task of exposing the individual weaknesses inherent to every presidential contender. Anyone might look good on paper, especially a nameless, faceless Democrat who longs to give everyone free healthcare and college tuition, solve the climate change conundrum with a sweep of the hand and unconditionally loves despite race, sexual orientation, gender, national origin and religion.
If only Democrats set up a “generic” lectern on their debate stage and positioned someone who looks and speaks like JFK behind it — they’d do pretty well. But they can’t.
Instead there’ll be Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren screeching her way through another anti-Trump diatribe. Or the intellectually bankrupt Kamala Harris stumbling and bumbling while droning on about how white men ruined the world and she’s the answer to every problem. Or Cory Booker rambling about slavery reparations and how he’s the only one plucky enough to risk his career (“I am Spartacus”) to prevent the evil Trump from succeeding.
And then there’s the aged frontrunners, creepy Joe Biden and “senile old coot” Bernie Sanders, two men who would become the oldest president ever the moment he raised his right hand and recited the oath of office (anyone hear thunder and detect a bolt of lightning from above?).
In other words, there aren’t any Democrats who immediately fit the description of a winning candidate with a solid platform and intangibles so impressive he or she will cruise to victory without hindrance. All of them have enormous flaws and that’s before Trump’s people dig down below the surface to unearth questionable aspects of their backgrounds. Joe Biden alone has almost five decades of votes and statements to pore over.
No one’s saying Trump will emerge smelling like a rose but it’s easy for Democrats to hide behind the “generic” designation and see doom for the Republican incumbent today. Trump’s life was already picked over and examined with a fine-tooth comb the past four years (and for decades before that). Next year he’ll have a record to run on — and a pretty good one to boot. Could it be people will be more interested in talking about Trump’s job performance than his love life from the 1990’s?
With the Democrats certain to expend months and tons of dough separating the political wheat from the worthless chaff, the eventual winner (assuming one is chosen before the convention) won’t be all-purpose any longer.
He or she will have a “brand,” one that’s easy to assail. And there’s no one better than Donald J. Trump at picking out a competitor brand’s weakness and exploiting it. That’s what he did during his life in the private business sector, right?
The Democrat nominee will also tote the baggage of the ineffective Nancy Pelosi-led House. Pelosi’s been downplaying expectations of her caucus and her second tenure as Speaker — and it’s only a hundred (or so) days old. Gabriella Muñoz reported at The Washington Times, “[Pelosi says] the focus should be on what they can actually pass.
“’While there are people who have a large number of Twitter followers, what’s important is that we have large numbers of votes on the floor of the House,’ Mrs. Pelosi said in an interview with USA Today…
“Mrs. Pelosi told USA Today she has credibility with her left wing, which allows her to make a pitch to them that she’s on their side — even if she can’t pursue the full agenda they want to see. ‘I’m a progressive from San Francisco,’ Pelosi said in Ferguson, Missouri, last month. ‘I think I can have some credentials on the left, as a person who has represented a very liberal city. But you have to govern mainstream.’”
Huh? Did San Fran Nan say “mainstream”? There’s nothing normal about Pelosi or her caucus. And it’s curious how the Democrat Speaker already is making excuses for the Democrats’ lack of legislative production just a short time into their two-year cycle. What happened to all those “healthcare, healthcare, healthcare” campaign promises from last year?
Democrats boast about Trump and Republicans not getting the border wall — but the malaise works both ways. The Democrat party is so ineffective it can’t even obstruct Trump’s judicial and administration nominees any longer. And they hate it.
Pundits’ analysis and poll results shed little useful light on the 2020 presidential race over a year and a half before America chooses its next president. Donald Trump will be there, paired against a Democrat with his or her own apple cart full of problems. Nothing is “generic” in politics today.