New Year’s Eve 2019 Forecast (What is this?)
Barring certain contingencies, President Trump gets re-elected by a narrow electoral margin but loses the Senate and House. This is due to Trump leveraging a success-to-the-successful archetype in turning out “missing white” voters who mobilize to vote for him. But the success-to-him of this strategy costs the GOP overall in down-ticket Republicans from several factors. Increased retirements (loss of incumbency advantage), suppressed fundraising (war chest disadvantage), and that Republican candidates aren’t Trump, so they can’t replicate his specific appeal.
Missing white voters is the populist demographic who identified strongly with Reagan but turned away from “establishment” GOP Bush to Romney. This is a tremendously large bloc of voters, and Trump identified how to activate them. His activation method comes at a cost. And this is why success for Trump means increasing losses for Republicans, resulting in a Democratic House and Senate.
Contingencies that may prevent President Trump from being elected to a second term are that the Democrats nominate Senator Biden or Mayor Bloomberg, with Biden winning by a much more comfortable margin and Bloomberg eking it out barely in a slug fest of who can depress voters the least. Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg all aren’t showing strong enough against Trump in the key battleground states to take him on their own.
Other contingencies are a sharp-recession (very unlikely in the time left) or a brief war of significant consequence (I’m eyeing you North Korea or Iran) or some unexpected outcome of Impeachment which hinges on approving a secret ballot or Chief Justice Roberts using his position to tilt public perception. (Both of these are unlikely though.) In either of these I think Biden, Bloomberg and Sanders emerge as more clear winners, though Warren and Buttigieg would still struggle (unless the contingency is a war and Buttigieg can play the military veteran card.)
The final, and most predictable contingency is to engineer a Federal shut down over the summer heading into the fall. The President would leap to take credit, as he did before, and drop 5 points heading into the general. In that scenario the Democrats could nominate a ham sandwich and still win.
This forecast, absent contingencies, means a second-term President Trump immediately faced with a hostile Congress from day one and that means he’s effectively done. Either he plays nice and confines himself or, in a “payback is a bitch” move, Speaker Pelosi holds off sending impeachment charges to the Senate until after the election. Like the Senate held off on confirming Merrick until President Obama was out of office.
It’s completely within the power of Speaker Pelosi to do it – though that runs huge risks in popular backlash. (But note that Republican Senators didn’t pay the price and as I noted above Trump has no tail to help individual candidates running in the Senate against this…and he can only “win” the Presidency once in that election.)
The payoff of course is the impeachment charges are filed with a friendly Senate as soon as they are sworn in and it’s a question of Trump even making it to inauguration before he’s removed from office, censured.