Trump will win reelection in 2020 for three reasons: First, the voters are always reluctant to replace a president in a time of peace and prosperity, regardless of his perceived flaws. Second, a transparently partisan impeachment vote in the House followed by a fair trial and acquittal in the Senate will seriously damage the Democratic brand while sparking an internal civil war between its moderate and left-wing factions. Finally, this ideological conflict within the opposition party will result in the nomination of a weak compromise candidate to face a vindicated and politically stronger incumbent president awash in cash and supported by highly motivated voters.
Anyone doubting this last point should peruse this article from the BBC about Trump’s recent Minnesota rally: “The centre of the city is a bobbing sea of red and white. The slogan is on t-shirts: Women for Trump, Pilots for Trump, Cops for Trump.” This was in Minneapolis, mind you, just after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Democrats would launch an “impeachment inquiry” into the president’s purported misdeeds. They weren’t impressed by Pelosi’s decree: “If anything, it has galvanized the thousands of supporters some of whom queued for days to be at the front of the Target Center crowd.” USA Today reports a very similar phenomenon:
While Trump has faced intense criticism in Washington … he has reveled in the rock-star reception he has received at rallies thousands of miles away in Minneapolis and Dallas.… Supporters echo the president’s attacks on impeachment, House Democrats and what Trump calls the “swamp” of Washington, D.C. Like the president, they view impeachment as an illegitimate effort to take him down.… Impeachment, many said, will wind up re-electing Trump in 2020.
Imagine what these rallies will be like after House Democrats impeach him and he is acquitted in the Senate. Trump will repeatedly remind his supporters that, after two partisan witch hunts perpetrated by unscrupulous antagonists with little regard for evidence and less for ethics, he is still standing and ready to take on any challenger the Democrats nominate. Moreover, he will hang the embarrassingly inept Mueller investigation and the inevitable implosion of impeachment around the neck of that unfortunate candidate. Trump will force him to explain why the Democrats wasted two years in the House and accomplished nothing but failed attempts to oust him.
The 2020 Democratic nominee will be Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders. All of these people have called for Trump’s impeachment. Two of the three are, inconveniently, members of the upper chamber of Congress that will eventually acquit him. If Biden is the nominee, the president will remind voters that the former VP is on video bragging about doing exactly what he calls an impeachable offense in Trump’s case — threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine in a quid pro quo arrangement. Ironically, impeachment is actually a blessing in disguise for the Trump campaign. Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, writes in the Guardian:
Impeachment is sucking huge amounts of oxygen from the political air, and will continue to do so for months. Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign is in full gear. His fundraising machinery — the Republican National Committee, Super Pacs, his official campaign — has raised more than $736m. That’s more than any presidential candidate at this point in a campaign. Trump has never stopped campaigning. It’s time for Democrats to hunker down.
What Reich means is that Trump is stealing a march on them while congressional Democrats waste their time on impeachment, and half a dozen megalomaniacs are still participating in a magical mystery tour in which people like Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer pose as presidential candidates. While all these second- and third-stringers try to bring Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders down a peg, Adam Schiff is holding secret interrogations of various Trump officials past and present and leaking out-of-context quotes that have far more to do with public relations than impeachment.
All of this nonsense plays into President Trump’s hand during a time of peace and prosperity. Trump is bringing troops home from abroad, and the most recent jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was full of good news: “In September, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 percent. The last time the rate was this low was in December 1969, when it also was 3.5 percent.” Hispanic unemployment fell to 3.9 percent, a record low, and black unemployment is at an all time low of 5.5 percent. Is this news reaching voters? In North Carolina, which will be an important 2020 swing state, a new poll suggests that it does indeed:
The October Meredith Poll asked state voters their preferences in matchups involving Trump and the five leading Democratic challengers for the party’s nomination: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. The poll results had Trump with slight leads over Biden and Warren, but larger leads over Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg.
This is a state poll, of course, and thus more useful than the national surveys typically discussed in the media. The 2020 election, like all presidential contests, will involve 51 separate races (50 states, plus D.C.). Few will be decided based on a partisan impeachment process that ends in the acquittal of the president. Nor will a majority of voters in the important swing states be inclined to support a weak candidate nominated by a fragmented party whose only consistent principle is animosity toward Donald Trump. In the end, the choice will be peace and prosperity versus incoherent rage. Trump’s voters will be out in force and will choose the former.