Trump was a win­ner and a loser – but he only needs to do a lit­tle bet­ter to get re-elected in 2020

The Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - Jour­nal Jonathan Freed­land Page 3 David Smith

The sig­nals from the midterms were mixed. The Democrats won the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives but Repub­li­cans tight­ened their grip on the Se­nate – and the pres­i­dent tight­ened his grip on the party. The bru­tal truth is that Trump’s di­vi­sive rhetoric, ra­cial dog whis­tles and men­da­cious fear-mon­ger­ing about a mi­grant car­a­van mov­ing to­wards the US-Mex­ico bor­der, which he branded an “in­va­sion”, ap­pears to have worked – up to a point. White men in ru­ral ar­eas turned out for him. Red states be­came red­der. He demon­strated that his stag­ger­ing vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016 was no fluke. Frank Luntz, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant and poll­ster, said: “All the states that Trump went to, the num­bers were bet­ter on polling day.”

Trump again showed him­self to be a for­mi­da­ble cam­paigner. Full of sound, fury and lies, his ral­lies still make a vis­ceral con­nec­tion with peo­ple want­ing to be part of a move­ment big­ger than them­selves. Luntz added: “He tells them they mat­ter. He tells them their votes count.” And yet be­neath the ban­ner head­lines, the pic­ture of Trump’s im­pact was more com­pli­cated.

An anal­y­sis by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion think­tank found that of 75 House and Se­nate can­di­dates en­dorsed by the pres­i­dent, only 21% had won their races as of noon on Wed­nes­day, though 58% of the can­di­dates he ac­tively cam­paigned for pre­vailed.

Democrats won the pop­u­lar vote by more than seven per­cent­age points. The gen­der gap was huge: exit polls found that white women with col­lege de­grees went Demo­cratic 59% to 39%, whereas white men with col­lege de­grees favoured Repub­li­cans 51% to 47%.

Henry Olsen, a se­nior fel­low at the Ethics & Pub­lic Pol­icy Cen­ter think­tank, said Trump had both won and lost. “The vot­ers who made him came back and he main­tained a 46% coali­tion. He lost the vot­ers he lost two years ago in slightly big­ger num­bers. The Clin­ton coali­tion is strong and grow­ing stronger but it’s elec­torally in­ef­fi­cient. Trump has kept his mi­nor­ity coali­tion to­gether and all he needs is a slight improve­ment to be as­sured of re-elec­tion.”

Olsen noted the grow­ing per­cent­age of women in the Demo­cratic party and sug­gested: “I think it’s very likely that Don­ald Trump will be fac­ing a woman. And if Trump wanted to change the odds in his favour, I think he should dump Mike Pence and se­lect [his for­mer UN am­bas­sador] Nikki Ha­ley.”

Two years ago Trump lost the pop­u­lar vote by nearly 3m votes. His vic­tory in the elec­toral col­lege turned on just 77,000 votes in three mid­west­ern states: Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin. No­tably in 2018, Repub­li­cans suf­fered ma­jor setbacks in all three, for ex­am­ple, los­ing the gov­er­nors’ races in Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin. If Democrats find the right can­di­date to win th­ese in 2020, Trump will al­most cer­tainly join Jimmy Carter and Ge­orge HW Bush as a one-term pres­i­dent.

Some ar­gue that the for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Joe Biden, born in Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, is ide­ally placed to win back blue-col­lar vot­ers. Oth­ers con­tend that a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian white man steeped in the po­lit­i­cal estab­lish­ment sends pre­cisely the wrong mes­sage at a mo­ment when the party elected more women and peo­ple of colour than ever be­fore.

White women with col­lege de­grees went Demo­cratic 59% to 39%. White men with de­grees voted Repub­li­can 51% to 47%

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