After more than two years of vicious and sustained attacks on his person and presidency by Democrats and the national media, Donald Trump looks to be doing better than expected in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
While Trump faces legal challenges with the Russia probe and personal challenges with the perception that he is dishonest, the humming economy and a lack of strong Democratic challengers gives him a good chance to be re-elected.
Just four in 10 voters say they would re-elect him next year; 58 percent don’t think he’s been honest and truthful regarding the Russia probe; and 60 percent disapprove of his recent national emergency declaration to build a border wall.
But Democrats who want to defeat Trump have hurdles of their own. The president’s job rating remains stable with nearly 90 percent of Republicans approving of his job. And a majority of Americans remain confident in the economy, believing that there won’t be a recession in the next year.
Add it up, and 2020 is shaping up to be yet another close presidential race, say the Democratic and Republican pollsters who conducted the NBC/WSJ survey.
“It’s a 45-55 against the president at this stage of the game,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart.
Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster, added, “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race.
Voters long ago made up their minds about Trump. His numbers probably won’t change much regardless of what the upcoming Mueller report says. So it is likely that Trump’s re-election chances will hinge on how the economy is doing on Election Day 2020, and how enthusiastic Republicans will be to vote for him.
Nick Gillespie of Reason.com thinks that Trump’s two-hour CPAC speech may have won him the 2020 election:
There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn’t be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.
In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire (“Crooked Hillary,” “build the wall,” “America is winning again,” and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams’ genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, “This is how I got elected, by going off script.” Two years into his presidency and he’s just getting warmed up.
And Trump is beginning to display a Reaganesque vision of optimism and confidence that has always appealed to Republican voters:
But the 2020 presidential race is not going to be decided based on which candidate is more tightly moored to reality. It’s going to be decided, like these things always are, by the relative health of the economy and the large vision of the future the different candidates put forward. As the economy continues to expand (however anemically compared to historical averages) and he continues to avoid credible charges of impeachable offenses, Trump is becoming sunnier and sunnier while the Democrats are painting contemporary America as a late-capitalist hellhole riven by growing racial, ethnic, and other tensions.
National elections over the last decade have not been a battle for “moderates.” Barack Obama created a hyperpartisan political culture that Donald Trump is only exploiting for his own benefit and will tap into in order to win in 2020.
There is no “center” in American politics anymore. Elections are won or lost based on how many of your partisan supporters you can get to the polls by any means. Trump’s sky-high numbers among Republicans is a sign that he is in pretty good shape going into the campaign that will begin in earnest next fall.