Trump is likely to use his 2016 playbook to defeat Joe Biden, his presupposed opponent from the Democratic Party in November, US political observers have predicted outlining key factors facilitating the incumbent president’s re-election.
The 2020 election contest between Donald Trump and the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is going on despite the COVID-19 lockdown. The two rivals are going head-to-head in major battleground states that will determine who wins the presidential race.
In 2016, Trump managed to edge Hillary Clinton in Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which were won by Barack Obama in 2012. In three of them – Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – the then Republican nominee broke through the “blue wall”, while four states flipped from Obama to Trump gave the would-be president a great deal of electoral votes. American observers have weighed up how many blue and purple states may turn red in November 2020.
Trump is Likely to Use His 2016 Plan
“The 2020 presidential election will be unprecedented”, predicts Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka. “Because of the coronavirus pandemic it could feature virtual conventions, no large rallies, and debates without audiences. However, the actual strategies of the campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden may end up being tried and true: Get out the most of their voters in the key states to win the Electoral College”.
This strategy – commonly called a “base” election or “turnout” election – is not used every election, the political scientist explains, suggesting that in 2020 Trump will most likely resort to “his 2016 plan of banking on high turnout of his loyalists to beat Biden in the key states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, and Ohio”. Furthermore, the incumbent president may “attempt to steal” Minnesota and New Hampshire from Democrats, Beatty presumes.
“Trump looks to be going back to a pure base strategy”, he says. “This is a strategy that worked for him in 2016, especially in those key swing states. Hillary Clinton racked up huge overall popular votes numbers, but Trump got his voters out in the states that mattered in the Electoral College”.
For his part, Biden can use the Dems’ 2018 congressional elections playbook, where high turnout of anti-Trump voters, including among women and minorities in many areas helped them to win back the US House, according to Beatty. Apparently therefore, the presumptive Democratic nominee has already pledged to pick a female vice president, “an open acknowledgement of the power of women voters in 2018”, he highlights.
“A key part of the Democratic base is the progressive wing, the wing that supported Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for president in the Democratic primaries. In a base election, Biden will need those progressives to turn out in a way they didn’t in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. This factor makes Trump’s job much easier than Biden’s”, the professor says, suggesting that “Trump at the moment has to be a slight favourite to win in November”.
It also depends on how US states will follow Trump’s re-opening guidelines amid skyrocketing unemployment and economic recession caused by the COVID-19 crisis, remarks John Truscott, a veteran Republican consultant in Michigan. According to him, if the Trump-driven reopening proves successful it could give him additional political points in states like Michigan. “If states that open up early, like Georgia, do well, and Michigan doesn’t follow suit in May, then it could be a problem for Democrats here”, he presumes.
Four Factors Defining Trump’s Likely Win
There is a 91% probability of the incumbent president’s coming out on top, deems Helmut Norpoth, a political science professor at Stony Brook University, forecasting that Trump would get 362 electoral votes, and the former vice president just 176.
To clarify his point Norpoth cites “the Primary Model”, i.e. a statistical algorithm that uses presidential primaries as the key predictor of the general election.
The pattern that has held up for more than 100 years indicates that “the party nominee with the stronger primary performance defeats the nominee with the weaker primary performance”, he elaborates citing Trump’s victories in the Republican primary in Iowa and New Hampshire where Biden only finished in fourth and fifth places, respectively, during the Democratic caucuses.
What will also play into Trump’s hands is “the operation of the electoral pendulum of presidential elections” which has worked since 1960, according to Norpoth: “When the party in the White House was in its first term, it won re-election six out of seven times, meaning the electoral pendulum generally stayed put”, he highlights.
“In short, Trump is favoured to win because of his superior primary performance and the tendency of the electoral pendulum to hold steady after one term in the Oval Office”, he explains. “On the off chance of a mismatch between electoral and popular votes, as happened in 2016, the forecast for 2020 targets the vote of the Electoral College (assuming a majority of electors for one nominee)”.
In addition, there is no sign that Trump’s base is fading, the academic remarks, citing nationwide opinion polls. At the end of March, the incumbent president’s job approval rating soared to 49% in a Gallup poll, the highest of his tenure in the White House. Although this figure has slightly plummeted in April, Trump is largely regarded as “a wartime president” during the coronavirus pandemic, “which may help his re-election prospects as it has done with other wartime presidents”, Norpoth concludes.