…from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.…
Is Trump a favorite?
In less than 10 months, Americans will be heading to the polls to decide whether Donald Trump deserves a second term in the White House — assuming that he survives an impeachment trial in the Senate, as appears likely to be the case. Despite his chronically low approval ratings and his status as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, Trump is being touted as a solid favorite to win a second term in the White House by commentators ranging from Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker to economic forecaster Mark Zandi.
The reasons basically boil down to two factors — the advantage of incumbency and a strong economy. But will these be enough to overcome the president’s other liabilities?
There are reasons to be skeptical….
Claims that President Trump should be viewed as a clear favorite to win a second term in the White House based on the normal advantage of incumbency and a growing economy in 2020 may be overstating his advantages. The advantage of incumbency in all U.S. elections has been diminishing due to growing partisan polarization and the modest expected growth rate of the economy may not be enough to overcome Trump’s persistently low job ratings.
This doesn’t mean that Trump can’t win the election, of course. For one thing, the Trump campaign and its political allies will probably be able to outspend the opposition by a wide margin. Nor can we rule out the possibility that Russia will again conduct a stealth social media campaign to discredit the Democratic nominee — just this week, news emerged that Russian operatives hacked Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, served as a board member. It seems possible that they were hunting for dirt that could be used against Biden.
The biggest unknown about the upcoming election is the identity of President Trump’s Democratic opponent. While a presidential election with a running incumbent is largely a referendum on the incumbent’s performance, the political appeal and campaign ability of the challenger also matters. The more the campaign and the election revolve around the president’s record and performance, the better the chance that he will be defeated. And while Trump and his allies will undoubtedly try to portray any Democratic challenger as a radical socialist whose extreme policies would destroy the economy and embolden America’s adversaries, some potential Democratic candidates might make that task easier than others….