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The key for Democrats hoping to beat Trump in 2020

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist
Local resident Kendra Isaacson (L) waits in-line with her 11-month-old daughter Katie Isaacson for casting her ballot outside a polling place on Election Day November 8, 2016 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The biggest factor in American politics — the economy — is likely to favor President Trump’s reelection bid. So how can Democrats win?

One word: Turnout.

new forecast by Moody’s Analytics finds that by Election Day 2020, key economic factors such as job stability, wage growth, gas prices, and inflation will be more or less as they are now. Stock prices are harder to predict, but without a recession, they ought to be okay.

That’s all good for Trump. Voters tend to stick with an incumbent president when they feel their lives are improving, even modestly. The Moody’s Analytics model predicts Trump will win in each of three different economic scenarios, including one in which the S&P 500 stock index declines 9% from now until Election Day. Other forecasts based on economic factors also predict Trump will win.

The maximum-turnout scenario

Trump loses, however, if Democratic turnout is unusually high. In addition to three economic scenarios, Moody’s also estimated vote totals under three turnout scenarios: Democrats voting at average turnout levels, maximum levels, and minimum levels. If Democratic turnout is close to historical records, the party’s nominee will snag 279 electors votes, nine more than needed to win, according to the model.

In the maximum-turnout scenario, six states that might otherwise go to Trump turn blue: Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Ohio, long considered a bellwether that predicts that national outcome, sticks with Trump in all the Moody’s scenarios.

Source: Moody's Analytics
Source: Moody's Analytics

Democratic turnout is, in fact, likely to approach record levels in 2020, as it was in the 2018 midterms. Trump is obviously a polarizing figure who triggers aggressive opposition. Ongoing impeachment proceedings should further energize Democrats, who are fully aware that weak turnout in 2016 contributed to Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

Other measures suggest a Trump reelection is far less likely. State-level polling by Morning Consult, for instance, shows that Trump has a negative approval rating in key battleground states where Moody’s Analytics predicts a Trump victory. Disapprovers outnumber approvers by 6 percentage points in Ohio, and 1 point in Florida and New Hampshire. That’s an obvious advantage for Democrats, even though the Moody’s Analysis gives Trump those three states.

It also matters who the Democratic candidate turns out to be, and there, too, Dems seem to be well aligned. A variety of polls suggest Democrat candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders would each beat Trump in a head-to-head matchup, although that doesn’t account for the Electoral Vote. There’s also a chance Trump may end up not even running. Much will change by Election Day, and not all of it will be predictable.

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.

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