What we know, ex­pect, and can only guess in 2020

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - Steve Brawner is a syn­di­cated colum­nist in Arkansas. Email him at brawn­er­[email protected] Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @steve­brawner.

As 2019 fades into 2020, some things in pol­i­tics we know, some things we can ex­pect, and some things we can only guess.

First, here’s what we know: Pres­i­dent Trump has been im­peached. Here’s what we can ex­pect: The Se­nate will cer­tainly ac­quit him (when­ever the House fi­nally presents the case), with Arkansas Sens. Tom Cot­ton and John Booz­man vot­ing along­side their Repub­li­can col­leagues in sup­port of the pres­i­dent. We also can ex­pect an ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing greet­ing, or lack of one, be­tween Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi when Trump ar­rives to give the State of the Union ad­dress Feb. 4.

But here’s what we can only guess: the dif­fer­ence it will make in the 2020 elec­tions. Will a ma­jor­ity of swing vot­ers de­cide im­peach­ment was an over­reach and pun­ish Democrats? Or will it in­crease their de­sire to re­move Trump the old-fash­ioned way, at the bal­lot box? Or will im­peach­ment even mat­ter by next Novem­ber?

As­sum­ing the Se­nate trial oc­curs early in the year, the next ma­jor event will be Arkansas’ pri­mary elec­tions. Here’s what we know: Early vot­ing be­gins Feb. 17, with the elec­tions con­clud­ing March 3. Eigh­teen names are on the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary bal­lot, while three are on the Repub­li­can side.

Here’s what we can ex­pect: Trump eas­ily will win Arkansas’ Repub­li­can Party pri­mary.

But we can only guess who will win among the Democrats. By March 3, most of those 18 can­di­dates will have left the race. Some have al­ready quit, while oth­ers will be forced out by dis­ap­point­ing show­ings in early states. Some can­di­dates who seem strong now will weaken af­ter Iowa and New Hamp­shire. In De­cem­ber 2003, for­mer Ver­mont Gov. Howard Dean was the Demo­cratic fron­trun­ner, while Mas­sachusetts Sen. John Kerry was polling at 10%. Then Kerry won Iowa, Dean’s “scream” speech played worse on tele­vi­sion than it re­ally was, and Kerry steam­rolled to the nom­i­na­tion.

The next event in Arkansas pol­i­tics will be the Leg­is­la­ture’s once-ev­ery-two-years fis­cal ses­sion. Here’s what we know: Law­mak­ers will meet start­ing April 8 to con­sider bud­getary mat­ters. Here’s what we can ex­pect, though not with cer­tainty: It will be un­event­ful. Most will want to do only the bare min­i­mum with the elec­tions loom­ing.

While all of this is hap­pen­ing, we know var­i­ous groups will be col­lect­ing sig­na­tures to place ini­tia­tives on the Novem­ber bal­lot for stricter leg­isla­tive term lim­its, le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana, and other causes.

We can ex­pect that many of the ef­forts will not sur­vive the sig­na­ture-gath­er­ing process or the law­suits that will fol­low, but one or more could.

Mean­while, we know the Leg­is­la­ture has al­ready re­ferred three amend­ments to vot­ers: to per­ma­nently ex­tend a half-cent sales tax for high­ways; to change term lim­its so law­mak­ers must leave of­fice a lit­tle sooner but can re­turn af­ter a four-year break; and to make it harder for vot­ers (and leg­is­la­tors) to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion.

But we can only guess how Arkansans will vote on all th­ese bal­lot is­sues. It would have been rea­son­able to ex­pect re­cent pro­pos­als le­gal­iz­ing casino gam­bling and med­i­cal mar­i­juana would fail. They passed.

Even­tu­ally, all the sound and fury will end, and we’ll vote. Here’s what we know: Early vot­ing be­gins Oct. 9, with Elec­tion Day oc­cur­ring Nov. 3.

Here’s what we can ex­pect will hap­pen in Arkansas. Trump will win the state’s six Elec­toral Col­lege votes. Cot­ton eas­ily will be re-elected. The state’s four Repub­li­can con­gress­men also will win, with only 2nd District Rep. French Hill forced to break a sweat. Rep. Rick Craw­ford in the 1st District doesn’t even have an op­po­nent. The cur­rent state leg­isla­tive break­down – three-fourths Repub­li­can, one-fourth Demo­crat – will re­main roughly the same. Repub­li­cans will in­crease their lead in county level of­fices.

Here’s what we can only guess: what will hap­pen na­tion­ally.

Thanks to the Elec­toral Col­lege, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion once again will be de­cided by a rel­a­tively small num­ber of swing vot­ers in a few pur­ple states. Turnout na­tion­wide could be very high, and we can only guess how that will af­fect the pres­i­den­tial and con­gres­sional races.

Fi­nally, we know this: On Nov. 4, the 2020 elec­tions mostly will be over, ex­cept for maybe a few runoffs for lo­cal races and the for­mal­ity re­quired by the Elec­toral Col­lege.

Which leads us to one more thing we know: The next elec­tion cy­cle be­gins that day.

STEVE BRAWNER

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