Trump 2.0 Begins

martes, 13 de noviembre de 2018


By Daniel Henninger

The presidential election begins today. With only about 103 weeks left before Americans return to the polls in November 2020, the big question is whether Donald Trump will rerun his victorious 2016 strategy or make adjustments after what happened in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The results suggest it’s time for Trump 2.0.

It is now part of U.S. election lore that Mr. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by unlocking overlooked blue-collar votes in the rural and rusted-out industrial areas of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This then became the core of Trumpian populism.

That margin of support gave Mr. Trump a narrow victory in the Electoral College to offset his deficit in the nationwide popular vote. That’s the system in the U.S., and it’s a good one, preserving the relevance of all 50 states in picking presidents. But can Mr. Trump rethread the same electoral needle?
On Tuesday, all three of the now-famous Trump states went decisively blue, with the reform governorships of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Snyder in Michigan now in the hands of Democrats.

The intriguing Upper Midwest outlier was the Ohio governor’s race, where Republican Mike DeWine defeated Richard Cordray, an Elizabeth Warren clone. Bucking the regional trend Tuesday, suburbanites in Ohio’s collar-counties around Columbus and Cincinnati voted decisively for Mr. DeWine. But no one will mistake the immeasurably low-key Mike DeWine for Donald Trump.
The results in Florida and Texas-two must-win states on almost any Republican Electoral College map-were also problematic.

Mr. Trump won Florida by 1.2 points in 2016. A victory Tuesday in the Florida governor’s race by Tallahassee’s left-wing Mayor Andrew Gillum would have created a nightmare for Mr. Trump by instantly putting Mr. Gillum in the national conversation for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Trump dodged that bullet when his candidate, Ron DeSantis, defeated Mr. Gillum. For that, Mr. Trump deserves credit. But the margin was microscopic-0.6% at last count. And against a candidate in Mr. Gillum whose politics essentially duplicate those of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City’s left-wing wonder woman, or Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mr. Gillum’s astonishing performance at least suggests that Florida is in play.

Popular Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s apparent win over incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson looks like solace for Republicans in the state, but Mr. Scott has invested heavily in courting the Hispanic vote, and he steered clear of Mr. Trump’s closing argument against immigration.

At his news conference Wednesday, Mr. Trump gratuitously singled out Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo and several others who lost as Republicans who “didn’t want the embrace.” Vito Corleone aside, the fact remains that the Democrats flipped Mr. Curbelo’s seat in Florida’s 26th District, whose population is nearly 70% Hispanic and which Mrs. Clinton won by 16 points.

Before Tuesday, no one would have thought Texas, with 38 electoral votes, could be in play for Democrats in 2020. Some will argue that Sen. Ted Cruz’s narrow Senate win over Rep. Beto O’Rourke can be explained by Mr. Cruz’s personal unpopularity. But with the help of extraordinary turnout, surely energized by anti-Trump sentiment, Mr. O’Rourke overran Mr. Cruz in the state’s two biggest population centers, Dallas and Houston.

Democrats also flipped two notable Texas House seats, defeating GOP Reps. John Culberson in Houston and, somewhat shockingly, Pete Sessions in Dallas. The millions of dollars out-of-state Democrats poured into the O’Rourke race to drive voter turnout will return in 2020.

One of the great political slanders of the past two years is that the “party of Trump” consists mainly of nativist, even “racist,” white males, or what PBS’s White House reporter at Mr. Trump’s bear-baiting news conference called a “white nationalist” appeal. This, presumably, covers all 63 million of the people who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016.

The reality is that Mr. Trump’s 2016 “base” included many traditional, suburban Republicans. Some voted for him, some against Hillary Clinton and some for a conservative Supreme Court majority.

Mr. Trump’s presidency has delivered what those voters wanted on policy, the economy and the judiciary. But exit polls and Tuesday’s suburban results suggest he hasn’t delivered what many of them want in a presidential persona.
On paper, the least complicated path toward a second Trump presidential victory should be straightforward. Since the Democrats’ argument to the American people opens and closes with “hate Trump,” Mr. Trump might pull their plug by making himself less an engine of Democratic turnout and fundraising. In short, dial it back. In short, he won’t.

Since the summer of 2017, Mr. Trump’s unfavorable rating has run in virtually a straight line at 55%. Perhaps he can sit on his unexpanded 2016 base and roll past that strong unfavorable number into a second term. But it’s difficult to see how it adds up to an Electoral College majority-unless the Democrats cave in to their own unappeasable base and nominate a left-liberal loser, as in 1972, 1984 and 1988. As always, lady luck remains Donald Trump’s greatest ally.

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