Democrat Overconfidence May Be Their Undoing in 2020

Member Group : Matt Mackowiak

The power of incumbency has never been greater in modern American politics.

This is especially true for the president of the United States.

The last three incumbent presidents were reelected, and four of the last five were.

Head-to-head polls right now show many of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates leading President Trump in national matchups. These polls are essentially meaningless at this stage.

National polls don’t tell us anything about the battleground states that will decide the election. Modeling the 2020 turnout 15 months out is an absurd task. Democratic candidates are viewed mostly positively (almost as generic candidates) and have not been well-defined.

These polling leads are forming a foundation of overconfidence that is permeating the Democratic Party and the left-wing base. From their perspective, if anyone can beat Mr. Trump, then why not run on a progressive platform?

By early next summer, we will know the general election matchup and the race dynamics will come into view.

What will matter next year are specific variables.

What is the strength of the economy? Has the trade disagreement with China been favorably resolved? Where is President Trump’s job approval? And most importantly, who is the Democratic presidential nominee and what are his or her strengths and weaknesses?

If Democrats were smart, they would value electability over purity given the stakes of the 2020 election.

Right now, their overconfidence is removing electability from the discussion.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden appears to be the only candidate talking about electability, and his message is falling flat.

I believe Mr. Trump is at worst a 50-50 shot for reelection as things stand today. There are several reasons for this.

First, he will easily be renominated and have a unified Republican Party behind him. This will not be the case on the Democratic side until the middle of next year.

Second, he is running a far superior reelection campaign than he did in 2016. His campaign is raising record sums of money, collecting unrivaled amounts of data, and building a nationwide organization that will pay dividends next year.

Third, it is unclear whether the Democratic nominee will be able to take Mr. Trump on directly. As he showed in 2016, Mr. Trump was able to master debates and earned media, all while cutting down his opponents by defining them.

Fourth, the Democratic candidates are taking litmus test positions on major issues that will make it easier for Mr. Trump to win back voters the GOP lost in 2018, especially in the suburbs.

Democrats are almost uniformly in favor of “Medicare for All,” which would end the employer-based health care system enjoyed by more than 180 million Americans. Where health care was a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, it may be neutralized in 2020.

Democrats are in favor of open borders, through their opposition to border security, desire to “decriminalize” illegal border crossings, and their support for providing free health care to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

Democrats are going to threaten the strong economy, with expensive plans such as the Green New Deal, college debt forgiveness, reparations, and new regulations on businesses. These ideas cost tens of trillions of dollars and will require middle-class tax increases.

The 2020 election is highly likely to come down to three states: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Democrats must flip two of them to win the election. This is not an easy task.

Mr. Trump showed he can win them in 2016, when he was outspent and predicted to lose.

Polls are snapshots. They are only as good as their samples.

I do not believe they are intentionally inaccurate (in most cases), but I do believe Trump supporters are underrepresented in most polls.

In 2018, Democratic enthusiasm was at a record high. It cannot be higher in 2020. It represented a high-water mark.

Republican enthusiasm in 2020 will be much higher than in 2018. This fact makes it a 50-50 race dependent on several variables that will be determined next year.

Overconfidence can be detrimental to campaigns. Democrats right now they can’t lose. Hillary Clinton’s campaign thought the same thing.

 Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.


Matt Mackowiak


Potomac Strategy Group, LLC


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