Thursday, October 17, 2019

Can Democrats stop Trump cakewalk in 2020? -- Oct. 17, 2019 column


A national research firm this week had great news for President Donald Trump and awful news for Democrats.

“The 2020 election looks like Trump’s to lose,” said Moody’s Analytics, which has correctly predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1980 – except Trump’s victory in 2016.

“If voters were to vote primarily on the basis of their pocketbooks, the president would steamroll the competition,” the report said. 

The report was discouraging to Democrats since most national polls show several candidates would thump Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden remains the putative frontrunner, although Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been gaining ground. 

After missing the unexpected Trump turnout surge, the analysts retooled their economic models. For 2020, they created three models based on state economic data and factors such as stock market performance, unemployment and how people feel about their finances.

Each model projected Trump in 2020 will win at least 289 electoral votes. A candidate who wins 270 captures the White House.

Moody’s concedes the economy can change, though its analysts do not see a recession next year. Even so, there was a shred of hope for Democrats in the gloomy forecast. 

“Democrats can still win if they are able to turn out the vote at record levels,” the report said, adding, “but, under normal turnout conditions, the president is projected to win.” 

Absent a charismatic figure like Barack Obama to juice turnout, the quadrennial problem facing Democratic candidates is how to appeal to the party’s base to win the nomination without alienating independents and disaffected Republican voters in the general election.

Several candidates have staked out ambitious, if aspirational, positions left of center, promising to save the environment, remake health care and redistribute wealth.

“The way you win an election in this time in history is not the same old same old. You have to inspire people. You have to excite people. You’ve got to bring working people and young people and poor people into the political process,” Bernie Sanders said Tuesday at the Democratic debate. 

But Biden, among others, favors a more realistic, incremental approach to change,  promising to work with Republicans. Compromise isn’t exciting, but it’s often necessary to get anything done.

Democrats should be honest and direct with voters – not confuse people and hand Trump fodder for his attacks. 

Warren is inexplicably evasive by refusing to say whether her Medicare-for-all plan will cost taxpayers more. And her intentionally misleading Facebook ad was clever – but baffling to Americans who don’t follow the social media wars. 

She bought an ad that said, “Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election.” Except it wasn’t true, as the ad quickly said. 

Warren’s point was to shame Facebook for allowing political ads that contain false claims. The social media giant had accepted a Trump ad blasting Biden and his son Hunter with a barrage of unsubstantiated and false “facts” about Ukraine. 

The Trump ad, which other news outlets refused to run, was “so misleading as to be inaccurate,” PolitiFact found. But when Biden tried to get it removed, Facebook refused, saying it would not subject political ads to fact-checkers.

Warren charged Zuckerberg has given Trump “free rein to lie on his platform – and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”

At the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris tried to enlist Warren in an effort to shut down Trump’s Twitter feed. Warren wisely declined.

The idea of cutting off Trump’s access to social media plays right into his hands. He relishes the role of victim.

Similarly, Democrats should tread carefully on impeachment. It’s not a game. It’s  a constitutional issue and a way to demonstrate Trump is unfit for office. 

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should have let the reconstructed transcript of Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine speak for itself. Instead, Schiff read his own fictionalized summary of the call to show, he said, “it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.” 

That episode last month gave Trump the opportunity to launch many a poor-me Tweet and led House Republicans to call for a censure vote of Schiff.

Now more than ever, Democrats need to show they are smart, serious and sincere.  

They need to find ways to preach to the choir but also reach those who aren’t in church.

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