CHICAGO — Psssst, Mr. President, you will not be running against Hillary Clinton in 2020.
This past week, President Trump and Vice President Pence kicked off their reelection campaign in Orlando and while he repeated the premise for another four years - “Promises made, promises kept” - it was also an exercise in grievance, with nary an aspirational echo from those like President Kennedy or Reagan.
“Our political opponents look down with hatred on our values and with utter disdain for the people whose lives they want to run,” Trump said. “They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny. But we will never let them do that, will we? They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign — probably the greatest election in the history of our country.”
Trump brought up Hillary Clinton’s “33,000 emails” as the capacity crowd chimed “Lock her up!”
Trump won his historic upset in 2016 in part because of his own shrewd strategies and fulsome use of social media. But there were many of his supporters, particularly in Indiana, who loathed Hillary Clinton and voted for the billionaire. But folks, Hillary ain’t runnin’. She’s back in Chappaqua.
While the economy is humming, GDP is meeting his prediction of close to 3 percent growth, and jobless levels are at 50-year lows, Trump is not reaping the political windfall that most presidents do with such a positive economy. He appears to have survived the Robert Mueller investigation and the American people have little appetite for impeachment.
A Fox News Poll released last Sunday showed Joe Biden leading Trump by 49-39 percent, while Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders held nearly the same advantage over the president, at 49-40 percent. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Trump 41-40 percent. Polls show the right/wrong tracks are working against Trump, standing at 44/52.7 percent by the Real Clear Politics polling composite as of June 13.
In Indiana, Morning Consult notes that since Trump took office, his net approval has decreased by 19 percent (Trump won Indiana in 2016 with 56.6 percent to Clinton’s 37.5 percent). But He filled Hoosier arenas last year and helped elect Sen. Mike Braun.
With the good economy, most presidents’ approval would be at or north of 50 percent, perhaps approaching the 60th percentile. Trump’s problems are that he often steps on his own messaging. The controversial Mexican and Chinese tariffs have injected widespread anxiety across a significant portion of his base that includes farmers and ranchers, manufacturers, union workers who migrated from President Obama in 2008 to Trump in 2016, as well as moderates and independents.
The Fox News poll shows 45 percent believe tariffs hurt the U.S., while 33 percent believe they help. Some 52 percent opposed Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico. And 55 percent oppose building the border wall, Trump’s signature issue that he stokes his base but doesn’t grow it. The wall isn’t being built (he rejected a $20 billion plus deal with Democrats last December in return for legalizing Dreamers) and it won’t be paid for by Mexico.
Trump promised “great health care” for everyone, adding, it will be a “lot less expensive.” But he and Republicans don’t even have a plan to replace Obamacare, and expenses continue to skyrocket. On tax reforms, the Fox News Poll revealed 31 percent feel everyone has benefitted under Trump’s economic policies, but 48 percent think only “people with more money” have.
Another bi-product of the tax reforms is exploding federal debt (now a lofty $22 trillion) and a federal budget deficit that Fox News reports will rise from $779 billion last year to more than $1 trillion this year. This occurs in a good economy. What happens when we go into the inevitable recession?
This comes as the Baby Boom retirement is in full swing, and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will soon run out of money. Remember Gov. Mitch Daniels warning of the “red menace?” Well, it’s not in Beijing or Moscow. We’ll all get to see it from coast-to-coast and no one in Washington is even talking about it.
As with any reelection sequence, anything and everything can change more than a year out. But Trump faces an unprecedented array of hurdles unlike any other president before him, many of his own making.
Can Trump reverse his electoral scenarios?
Of course. If he were to cut a significant trade deal with China that truly solves many of the long-term issues, Trump would certainly benefit. If the economy keeps humming, historically citizens vote their pocketbooks.
Even among his supporters there is Trump fatigue. The president dominates the news cycles, but his M.O. is chaos and he constantly does shoot-from-the-hip things that keep his staff and supporters scrambling for justification (like the Mexican tariffs).
If Trump were to lose, it might be more of a death-by-a-thousand-cuts scenario than any one big thing or any one opponent.
There is no doubt that in 2016, Donald Trump came up with an incredible plan and pulled off a historic upset that virtually no one saw coming. In view of today’s events and circumstances, a 2020 Trump reelection victory might also belong in that “historic upset” category.
The huge question today is, despite all of Trump’s unprecedented proclivities, could he find history repeating itself? Or will he be consumed by his own chaos? Time and the American people will tell.