Democrats and their mainstream media allies are doing their best to create an aura of crisis and disarray in the Trump administration in the hopes that it might finally turn a majority of the country against the president.
But it’s clearly not working. Despite a daily political onslaught, including threats of a formal impeachment inquiry, Trump’s favorability rating is holding remarkably steady.
And now there’s more bad news: Moody’s Analytics, one of the nation’s most prestigious research firms, has just released data indicating that Trump is on track to win re-election handily in 2020 – with as many as 350 electoral votes, 47 more than he captured in 2016.
Among dozens of major research and polling firms, many of them with a strong partisan bias, Moody’s has proven uncannily accurate over the years.
Moody’s employs a sophisticated predictive model that tracks three state-level trends and measures their impact on voter perceptions: gas prices, home prices, and personal income. The firm also factors in stock market and unemployment trends at the national level.
Until 2016, when Moody’s wrongly predicted a narrow victory for Hillary Clinton, its model had allowed the company to successfully predict every presidential election since1980. No other firm has come close to matching Moody’s record over the same period.
Mark Zandi, an economist and lead architect of Moody’s predictive model, says the Democrats are still in denial about the way the electorate is assessing Trump’s performance, largely because they are minimizing the president’s extraordinary success on the economy.
“Democrats need to be on high alert. If history is any guide, and we get a typical turnout, they are going to lose,” Zandi told the news magazine Politico last week. “They need to be on DEFCON 1 or it is likely that Trump will be re-elected.”
Evidence of Trump’s success on the economic front is overwhelming. Unemployment is at an all-time low, and the labor force participation rate has rebounded to levels not seen in over four decades. The housing market is surging, and manufacturing is up, too. GDP growth, which has neared 4% for nearly two years, has exceeded expectations.
And the fruits of these gains are being widely shared, with record low levels of unemployment among African Americans and Hispanics and tax and income benefits for the middle class.
Moody’s data is especially challenging for Democrats because it suggests that Trump is still holding steady in the Rust Belt states he swept in 2016. While Democratic candidates like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are ahead of Trump in hypothetical head-to-head matchups in states like Ohio, Moody’s data points to a repeat of Trumps’ Red wave.
The one caveat? Whether Democrats can substantially increase their election turnout in 2020. In 2016, Hillary Clinton failed to mobilize African-American voters while White working-class voters surged in support of Trump.
Democrats are predicting that grassroots opposition to Trump is so strong that that turnout for their standard-bearer could reach historic levels. However, Republicans are also focused on mobilizing the GOP base, which has expressed overwhelming support for Trump thus far.
Moody’s analysis suggests that a surge of first-time voters in 2020 that tilt Democratic could well make the difference. However, there is little sign of such a pending tilt thus far.
Another factor is how voters react to Trump on a more personal level. The president’s favorability rating, which has hovered in the low 40s, is likely to be lower than the rating for any past incumbent that’s won re-election.
Moody’s was wrong in 2016, in part because the firm underestimated the electorate’s antipathy toward Clinton and its overwhelming desire for change. 2020 might also see the personality factor playing an outsized role.
“It could be that this election is so out of bounds with history that the models just aren’t going to work,” Zandi admits.
Moody’s projections include two other electoral vote outcomes that result in a smaller margin of victory for Trump. One projection has the president ending up with 332 Electoral College votes; another has him with just 298 votes. States like Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Trump won by less than 1% in 2016, could still go either way, Zandi says.
Overall, Moody’s report dovetails with past studies that suggest that incumbent American presidents typically win re-election, especially when the economy is strong.
Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1996, George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012 all recaptured the White House at a time of rebounding national fortune.
By contrast, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 failed to do so at a time of deepening economic crisis.
There is some indication that the U.S. economy may be slowing down – GDP growth projection is down to 2% annually — which could affect the magnitude of Trump’s 2020 victory, but if Moody’s right, not its overall likelihood.
Another possible wild card is the threat of a deepening trade war with China, which could result in significant job losses in the Rust Belt, turning otherwise Trump-trending voters against him.
However, Trump himself seems well aware of the potential danger. In recent weeks he’s taken steps to reduce conflict with China, efforts that are likely to persist until after 2020 election.