Trump Likely to be Favored in 2020

The campaign-agnostic political science models predicted a toss-up in 2016 and again in 2020.

Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, warns: “Underestimate Trump’s Reelection Odds at Your Own Peril.”

One might have done better in predicting the 2016 presidential election, or at least in anticipating the very close eventual outcome, by basing a projection of the national popular vote on the findings of several political science models released prior to the election. These models, which were compiled by James Campbell of the University at Buffalo, SUNY and printed in both PS: Political Science and Politics and here at the Crystal Ball, generally pointed to a close election. These models mostly made their predictions several months in advance of the election and were based on the incumbent’s approval rating, the economy, and other “fundamental” factors.

Most of the models, accurately as it turned out, showed Hillary Clinton winning the national two-party popular vote. But the average of the 11 models showed Clinton winning just 50.8% of the two-party vote, with the median projection showing her winning 51.0%. Both the average and the median were basically spot-on, given that Clinton ended up getting 51.1% of the two-party vote. Donald Trump’s strength among white voters who do not hold a four-year college degree allowed him to win the Electoral College because of the overconcentration of these voters in several electorally important swing states in the Rust Belt. National polls showed a similarly small lead for Clinton on Election Day, although Clinton’s leads in these polls were generally larger than her eventual margin for much of the 2016 calendar year.

I bring this up just to note that, as we begin to assess Donald Trump’s reelection odds, it seems possible that the polls and the election models will again be at odds in 2020.

One of the models included in Campbell’s 2016 survey was the Time for Change model, created by Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz of Emory University. Abramowitz’s model was one of just two to project Trump winning the national popular vote in 2016 (by three points), in part because it emphasizes the electoral advantage that an incumbent running for reelection enjoys, and 2016 lacked an incumbent. Trump underperformed the model’s prediction by five points in terms of margin, as Abramowitz himself suggested Trump would prior to the election.

The model gives a bonus to an incumbent who is seeking his party’s second straight term in the White House, meaning it very well could smile on Trump in 2020 while being more bearish on someone like George H.W. Bush in 1992. That year, Bush was running for his second-consecutive term, but his party’s fourth-straight term (Bush lost to Bill Clinton). The Abramowitz model also incorporates the incumbent president’s approval rating in the Gallup national poll and the state of the economy, as measured by quarterly GDP growth.

It is, of course, absurdly early to make those projections two-and-a-half years out. But Kondik does so anyway to make a point:

The Abramowitz model will make its 2020 projection officially using 2020’s second quarter GDP growth and whatever Trump’s approval is at that time. Still, we can plug in current numbers to give a sense of what the model might project. Right now, Trump’s net approval rating is -16 points according to Gallup (39% approve/55% disapprove), and 2017’s fourth quarter GDP growth (the most recent quarter available) was 2.9%, according to the most recent revision from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Using those figures in Abramowitz’s model projects Trump with 51.6% of the national two-party vote. Even if Trump were to underperform the model again, like he did in 2016, it would still make the election a Toss-up, especially because Trump could win again without winning the national popular vote given the demographic patterns of his support.

So the United States could reelect an incumbent president with an average approval in low 40s? Yes. And, actually, that’s perhaps what we should even expect given the performance of similarly-situated incumbents across many different countries.

It seems absurd that an incumbent president who’s wildly unpopular and seems to make gaffes on an hourly basis could get re-elected, much less should be favored.  But political science research has demonstrated again and again that, despite the media and political junkie obsession with the horserace and minutia of the campaign, the underlying “fundamentals” are far more important.

The biggest mistake analysts made in 2016 was believing that Trump was such a weak candidate that he would prove to be unelectable even though a close reading of historical results, both in the United States and elsewhere, suggested that any Republican would be a formidable contender for the White House in a year like 2016, when the Democrats were attempting the difficult task of winning the presidency a third consecutive time (and they had nominated a weak candidate to face Trump). That same history, a history that is built into models like the Ipsos and Abramowitz models, suggests an incumbent in Trump’s position will not be a pushover unless his approval and/or the economy significantly decline from their present levels.

It is, of course, possible that Trump’s approval will indeed fall. But there’s good reason to believe that they’re about as low as they can go; the base—including white Evangelical Christians—is actually more staunchly behind him than ever.

It is also possible that Trump won’t be on the ballot. While he has already announced his plans to run for re-election, he could change his mind over the next two years. He would be 73, which is awfully old to be running for another four-year term in the most demanding job on the planet. Less likely, he could be beaten in the Republican primaries—although, again, he’s very popular among the hard core that comprises the nominating electorate. It’s also possible that a combination of damning findings from the Mueller investigation and a Democratic takeover of the Congress pursuant to this November’s midterms would lead to Trump’s impeachment and removal from office; that, however, is extremely unlikely.

Regardless, as I’ve often noted, re-electing presidents is the default position. In elections in my lifetime, we’ve re-elected Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama (making back-to-back-to-back two-term presidents). We’ve only failed to re-elect Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.*


*I don’t count Lyndon Johnson or Gerald Ford, both of whom assumed the presidency initially without being elected. Johnson was elected in his own right in 1964 and declined to run, knowing he would likely lose, in 1968. Ford was defeated, quite narrowly, by Carter but had never been elected.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, Political Theory, The Presidency, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. We’ve only failed to re-elect Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

    You forgot Gerald Ford (as did I in my initial draft of this comment) although his case was unique in that he had not been elected POTUS or VPOTUS prior to becoming President.

    And before Carter and Bush, only seven other Presidents who were the nominees of their party failed to win re-election — John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison (defeated by Cleveland who won a second term), William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Gerald Ford. Ford’s case is unique, though, in that he was not elected either President or Vice-President before becoming President and faced a particularly strong bid While the 19th Century saw many other one-term Presidents, most of them failed to win their party’s nomination or didn’t run for some reason.

    Since I don’t see Trump losing the Republican nomination in 2020, I would make him the favored winner in 2020 depending on how things go between now and then. If he is re-elected, that would make four consecutive two-term Presidencies, something we’ve never seen before but which could very well be the norm going forward.

    [This comment was edited because I forget to include Ford in the tally above in my original comment]

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yes, it’s really quite something. It’s really hard to imagine Trump being re-elected. Then again, it was hard imagining him getting the nomination, much less being elected president, in 2016.

  3. Mu says:

    My boss said it’s too early to start drinking. Showed him this article. Now we’re both toasted.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He would be 73, which is awfully old to be running for another four-year term in the most demanding job on the planet.

    Who knew executive time could be so exhausting?

  5. Kathy says:

    I’ve always thought Bush the elder was done in by a mild recession. Oh, there was more going on, but I’m sure without the recession during the campaign he might have won a second term.

    Back more on topic, though, I was very concerned during the general election campaign that trump might win. It was one of those times where observation says one thing, while reason said it was impossible for such a clearly unqualified, imbecile of an a**hole to get elected.

    What I don’t get is why he won the GOP nomination to begin with. How did a once respectable political party, as well as a handful of better qualified candidates, let such a thing happen?

  6. @Kathy:

    There were a number of things working against Bush 41. The economy was certainly one of them, but also the fact that he had been subjected to a rebellion in his own ranks led by Pat Buchanan and the third-party challenge from Ross Perot. While there has been a lot of scholarly examination of the issue, I still tend to believe that without Perot in the race Bush would have had a much better chance of winning re-election.

  7. @Kathy:

    As for why Trump won the nomination to begin with, I think it was a perfect storm that combined to make it possible. He faced a huge field of competitors, which meant that in the beginning the opposition to him was heavily divided and never managed to coalesce behind an acceptable candidate. Had the GOP field been smaller it’s possible that a candidate like Jeb Bush, Kasich, or possibly even Marco Rubio could have found themselves become the “not Trump” candidate. As it was, the field was so large that by the time it got whittled down, it was too late to stop him.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What’s funny in the Bush the elder saga, is that he looked invincible in early 1991 right after the Gulf War. This kept some prominent Democrats from even seeking the nomination, which left the door open for Clinton.

    My inner historian tells me this is the turning point that would result in a partisan division of America.

  9. Todd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think you make a valid point about that 1992 race. Looking back over the Presidents in my adult lifetime, George H.W. Bush is perhaps the one I admire the most (although I think there are many similarities between pappy Bush and Barack Obama, so we could probably call it a tie). None-the-less, in that election, being a dumb just barely not a kid any more, I cast my ballot for Ross Perot. Maybe I liked the charts or something, I don’t know. But of all the votes I’ve cast since, that’s still the one I regret the most.

  10. @Kathy:

    This kept some prominent Democrats from even seeking the nomination

    Yep, the most famous of those being Mario Cuomo, who literally waited till the last minute before deciding not to run.

  11. @Todd:

    In some respects I think Bush was the victim of some of his own successes, such as the manner in which he handled the final collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. With that issue off the table, it was harder for Republicans to make the argument against Clinton about inexperience in the face of crisis. Also, Clinton was, let’s admit it, a great campaigner and smart politician. Even with Perot on the ballot, I’m not sure that another Democrat could have beaten Bush in 1992.

    Of course, the interesting thing is how history might have been different had Bush won. We most likely would not have seen the GOP take control of Congress in 1994 for example.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Related: GOP Lawmakers: It’s ‘Too Early’ to Back Trump in 2020

    Donald Trump has made no secret of his intention to run for reelection in 2020, holding rallies, raising money, and joking that he plans to also run in 2024 and 2028. In a normal world with a normal president, that would be enough for high-profile members of Trump’s party to back his reelection. But this world isn’t normal and CNN reports that a “wide array of House and Senate Republicans are not yet ready to endorse President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term.”

    Some of the lawmakers who went on the record with reporter Manu Raju tried to avoid the question of endorsing Trump in two years.

    “I don’t know what the world is going to look like,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said. “But let’s say it’s not something I’ve given any thought to.”
    “Look, I’m focused on opioids,” Senator Lamar Alexander said.

    Others suggested that Trump, who filed 2020 campaign paperwork on the day he was inaugurated, might not be even be running.

    “We need to make sure that he’s actually moving forward and wants to go after this,” Representative Bill Huizenga said.
    CNN’s New Day continued to pull the thread in interviews with Republican senators Thursday. “It’s way too early to be talking 2020,” Senator Ron Johnson said when asked about his support for Trump’s reelection. “It could be a completely different world by 2020. We have a 2018 election first.”

    Apparently a fair # of Republicans are not nearly so optimistic.

    These are not normal times. I think it is way too soon to be predicting anything about 2020 when ’18 has yet to assert itself on the political landscape.

  13. Todd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yes, imagining alternate history is always interesting. If Bush Sr. gets reelected, we likely don’t see the rise of Gingrich’s House, and most of us probably never hear of Bill or Hillary Clinton again. I wonder who would have been the Democratic favorite in 1996 in that scenario?

    Of course, we can go back even a little further. Imagine how different our political landscape might look if Bobby Kennedy hadn’t been shot in 1968, and Richard Nixon was never elected.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    If people in the US are dumb enough to reelect Donald Trump as POTUS, they deserve all that they get.

  15. teve tory says:

    If trump won more votes than Hillary, I could agree with that.

    ETA: mibad, I misread your comment as saying elected, when you actually said reelect.

  16. Todd says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I agree with you, let’s see what happens in 2018. IF the Democrats don’t end up fulfilling the “wave” predictions in 2018 midterms, and IF Donald Trump somehow avoids legal issues that even Republicans can’t ignore (both seem unlikely), then it would be very fair to assume he (Trump) is the front-runner going into 2020. Especially since if Democrats don’t win at least the House in 2018, the 2020 Presidential primary will almost certainly be a repeat of the progressive vs. establishment civil war we saw in 2016.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Todd: I fear that “wave” expectations may be excessive with some feeling that a simple House majority is not enough. That anything short of a filibuster proof majority is a defeat. Yeah, I know, there is no filibuster in the house, but reality was never a barrier to impossible dreaming.

  18. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    While there has been a lot of scholarly examination of the issue, I still tend to believe that without Perot in the race Bush would have had a much better chance of winning re-election.

    Steve Kornacki pretty much demolished the Perot myth conclusively, from several lines of evidence–the exit polls, Clinton’s overwhelming lead over Bush after Perot temporarily dropped out of the race, and the fact that Bush was heading into the election as an unpopular incumbent while the country was recovering from a recession that struck on his watch. Of course it’s impossible to prove a counterfactual, but the simple fact is that there’s no reason to believe Perot hurt Bush more than Clinton other than people’s preconceived assumptions that this must have been the case.

  19. @Kylopod:

    I’m not sure how much I trust the exit polls. Guessing who people would have voted for if Perot was never a candidate is an exercise in alternative history that can’t be answered in such a manner, in my opinion.

    The presence of Perot in the race, along with the state of the economy and the challenge from the right by Buchanan in the nomination fight, did much to change the tenor and tone of the race to Bush’s disadvantage. That, combined with Clinton’s favorable factors and the fact that Bush, for as good as President as he was, was not as good a campaigner as either Clinton or Reagan, combined to bring about the result we saw.

  20. Kathy says:


    Alternate history is one of my favorite genres. Indeed, you can keep going back to “what if Theia doesn’t impact the proto-Earth?” But keeping to the immediate Bush the elder period, one set of good questions are:

    What if Gary Hart doesn’t have an affair?
    What if the affair isn’t disclosed?
    What if the affair isn’t disclosed until after the general election?

    I don’t know if Hart could have beaten Bush, but Dukakis surely was one of the worst possible candidates to ever run.

  21. CSK says:


    I recall that when Dukakkis expressed interest in running again in 1992, the near-universal reaction among Mass. Democrats was: “Oh, sh!t, noooooooo.”

  22. Kylopod says:

    On the subject of whether incumbent presidents running for reelection have an inherent advantage: Most of the examples of incumbents winning reelection happened when their party had only held the White House for a single term. That was the case with Obama, Dubya, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, LBJ, Eisenhower, and several more. Like Herbert Hoover, George H.W. Bush was running for his second term but his party’s fourth term. Similarly, Ford was running for his party’s third term, William Howard Taft for his party’s fifth.

    In point of fact, it’s historically rare for a party to be turned out of the White House after just a single term. The one glaring exception is Jimmy Carter–but that was literally the only time that’s happened since the 19th century.

    The reason for this pattern is up for debate. I personally think one of the contributing factors has to do with the cycles of economic expansions and recessions. I think the voters are likelier to blame the incumbent president for lingering economic problems if their party has controlled the White House for longer than a single term. So, for instance, Reagan and Obama were reelected during a time of high unemployment, but it was clear to most people that the problems were rooted in problems that began before they took office, while the other party was still in power.

    Likewise, one of the major factors that leads to a switch in the party controlling the White House is a recession or economic crisis–which was the case with FDR, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama. It much less often happens during a period of economic growth, as happened with the elections of W. and Trump, both of whom lost the popular vote. The case of W. is instructive. He did face a recession early in his term, but it was relatively small and short-lived, and was drowned out to some extent by 9/11. Even then, he was only very narrowly reelected–in fact by the smallest popular-vote margin of any incumbent in history.

    Looking at the current presidency, obviously a lot will turn on how well the economy does in the next couple of years. If there’s a recession at this point, Trump is probably doomed–I just don’t see how there’d be enough time for him to recover. But what if the economy continues to grow? According to conventional assumptions (and poli-sci theory) that would indeed suggest that Trump would be a favorite for reelection. But it’s hard to know how much that applies to a president who’s unprecedentedly unpopular for an economy this good, and who was elected in the first place right on the knife’s edge, meaning he can’t afford to lose even a marginal amount of his original supporters unless he somehow gains support elsewhere. (Reelected presidents nearly always win by a larger margin than they did the first time around. Obama is an exception–but he did so well the first time that he could afford to lose a lot of that support and still retain a popular and electoral majority.)

  23. Kylopod says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Like I said there’s no way to know for sure, and you can explain away every bit of evidence Kornacki presents, but the simple fact is that there’s no good reason to think Perot hurt Bush more than Clinton, and all the available evidence–as well as the fundamentals of the race, having to do with the state of the economy and Bush’s unpopularity–point strongly in the other direction.

  24. Hal_10000 says:


    What’s funny in the Bush the elder saga, is that he looked invincible in early 1991 right after the Gulf War.

    I remember SNL did a sketch where Democratic candidates were competing to *not* be the 1992 nominee because it was assumed they would get crushed. Don’t remember much except the Mario Cuomo character saying, “Don’t vote for me; I have mob ties!”

    As with Bush, so it is with Trump. Unless he’s caught in bed with a naked business recession (which is always a possibility), he has a chance of being re-elected. But even that depends on whom the Democrat nominate.

  25. grumpy realist says:

    Somewhat OT, but a very interesting article on how social media and financial fraud are wrapping up together in one nice neat package.

    I also notice how the SEC has protected us from similar activity in the US. Which, of course, Trump probably wants to get rid of…

  26. barbintheboonies says:

    Well come on who is running against him. If someone can come along and actually want to make America great again and has a better way BRING IT. Hillary lost because she had nothing to run on. Obama’s change was for the worse. Look around our country is F-ing crazy. and that is what Democrats want. I used to be a Democrat and it was not like this. I would say I was independent, but that ties your hands so I am forced to be Republican, I at least can recognize the America I once knew. PS I am not a raciest I know you all will start that nonsense.

  27. Kathy says:


    I remember SNL did a sketch where Democratic candidates were competing to *not* be the 1992 nominee because it was assumed they would get crushed.

    I vividly remember two cartoons from that period, both featuring a donkey character representing the Democratic Party.

    In one he’s reading the comic book with the death of Superman, and thinking “How does he come back to life?”

    In the other he’s reading “Final Exit” a controversial book for end of life methods.

  28. Kylopod says:


    Obama’s change was for the worse.

    The polls don’t back up your hypothesis. Obama was way more popular than either Trump or Hillary on Election Day. According to CNN’s exit polls, 53% of voters had a positive opinion of Obama as president, 45% negative. In contrast, Trump’s favorability was 38% positive, 60% negative, Clinton’s 43/55.

  29. Charon says:


    There is a lengthier underlying story at CNN, here is the linkie :


    Model shmodels, models are not built to handle people who face an expectation that proof of crimes will inevitably surface. And the behavior and statements by GOP congresscritters make clear they do take the eventual surfacing of crimes for granted.

  30. Charon says:

    Here is what they think in the alternate reality at the New Yorker:

    Adam Davidson

    I thought of those earlier experiences this week as I began to feel a familiar clarity about what will unfold next in the Trump Presidency. There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded. Last week, federal investigators raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the man who has been closer than anybody to Trump’s most problematic business and personal relationships. This week, we learned that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months—his e-mails have been read, presumably his phones have been tapped, and his meetings have been monitored. Trump has long declared a red line: Robert Mueller must not investigate his businesses, and must only look at any possible collusion with Russia. That red line is now crossed and, for Trump, in the most troubling of ways. Even if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then have Mueller and his investigation put on ice, and even if—as is disturbingly possible—Congress did nothing, the Cohen prosecution would continue. Even if Trump pardons Cohen, the information the Feds have on him can become the basis for charges against others in the Trump Organization.

    I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace. Remember: we knew a lot about problems in Iraq in May, 2003. Americans saw TV footage of looting and heard reports of U.S. forces struggling to gain control of the entire country. We had plenty of reporting, throughout 2007, about various minor financial problems. Somehow, though, these specific details failed to impress upon most Americans the over-all picture. It took a long time for the nation to accept that these were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.

    The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad global operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

    Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

    There is no longer one major investigation into Donald Trump, focussed solely on collusion with Russia. There are now at least two, including a thorough review of Cohen’s correspondence. The information in his office and hotel room will likely make clear precisely how much the Trump family knew. What we already know is disturbing, and it is hard to imagine that the information prosecutors will soon learn will do anything but worsen the picture.

  31. teve tory says:

    “Obama’s change was for the worse.”

    I know a guy with sarcoidosis who was uninsurable before Obamacare. Out of pocket, the medications and treatments he needs cost more than he makes, and he’s self-employed with a decent income. He will quickly tell you that it is a literal fact that if it weren’t for Obamacare he would be dead now.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Charon: Read an article this morn (I forget where TPM?) filled with quotes from trump and Cohen associates. Every single quote was about the inevitability of some thing or another being bad for one or more likely both. The unspoken assumption behind each statement was that they were guilty.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @teve tory: As far as barb is concerned, that is not a positive outcome.

  34. teve tory says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “Read an article this morn (I forget where TPM?) filled with quotes from trump and Cohen associates. Every single quote was about the inevitability of some thing or another being bad for one or more likely both. The unspoken assumption behind each statement was that they were guilty.”

    People are saying on twitter, “Can’t the republicans at least act like Cohen might not have any information about Trump committing crimes?”

  35. Charon says:


    There is an election in six months and those GOP congresscritters are desperate to not lose the Senate – which is a long shot, but might happen if some really bad stuff comes out about Donald. So, they are pulling out all the stops to hinder Mueller, Rosenstein, SDNY anyone they can.

    After November, the considerations change to 2020, where Trump is a rotten stinky albatross on their collective neck. So, after November, they will be distancing from and avoiding Trump.

    Trump might finish out his term, though I would call it odds against. But by January 2021 he will be gone.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:


    But by January 2021 he will be gone.

    From your keyboard to the FSM’s noodley appendages.

  37. Bob Hahn says:

    I find it fascinating that in an article filled with speculative developments that might upend the usual models — everything from GDP growth in 2020 to the outcome of the Mueller investigation — there is no consideration whatsoever given to the even larger investigation being conducted by the DOJ’s Inspector General and U.S. Attorney John Huber. It’s as if most people don’t know this investigation is even happening, or if they do know they can’t imagine it being a very big deal.

    We may find out, sometime in the next six months (if not in the next few weeks), that politically partisan leadership in the DOJ performed actual criminal acts in the course of trying to help Hillary Clinton become president. It is obvious from the lack of knowledge about this inquiry that most people will be stunned by the idea that people like AG Lynch, FBI Director Comey, Assistant AG Yates, and others, might be indicted between now and the November election. But make no mistake: this is no less likely than criminal charges against Trump.

    If we’re going to speculate that the 2020 election could be affected by the impeachment and removal from office of President Trump, we should be willing to equally entertain the possibility that the election could be affected by the discovery that the previous Administration obstructed justice and used the intelligence-gathering machinery of the U.S. government as an opposition research tool to aid their party’s candidate in the 2016 election.

    I am aware that none of what I have written above falls in the category of conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, the existence of these investigations is documented in public announcements on the DOJ web site. I am not going to debate people about whether such matters are being investigated. They are. At this point, the outcome of these investigations is unknown… which is the point. No one is factoring in what might happen if indictments start flying.

  38. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @barbintheboonies: I don’t know whether you’re racier or raciest, but then again, I don’t think of you as racy to begin with.

  39. Rick Zhang says:


    Disagree with you on several counts, but let’s have reasonable discourse on the matter.
    1. Your assumption that by looking around the country and seeing “crazy” or “worse change”. Myself and those I know would challenge you on this point. Our lives have steadily improved since 2009. America is “already great” and Trump’s policies would make our lives worse.
    2. Of all the candidates in both parties, I liked Hillary the best. So did most of the people I know. I disagree that she was a bad choice. She would have made a good president, but she was a bad campaigner/marketer. Lest you accuse me of partisanship, my next few choices for president would have been Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio.
    3. What do you mean by recognize the America you once knew? I will admit that life has gotten tougher for those in low income, rural communities, but this is more a reflection of a changing world. In this type of setting, you have to adapt or die. I see tons of educated people from “heartland rural America” and they chose to get the heck out of there and go to where the jobs and money are. Yes, this contributes to political polarization, but one can’t see one’s own surroundings and think that’s representative of the country as a whole.

  40. reid says:

    Whether she’s a troll or not, barb comes along and reminds me how a boob like Trump can become president.

  41. Rick Zhang says:

    Have you been commenting here for a long time? I want to give you a shoutout and say that I love your posts. They are consistently insightful, meaningful, and occasionally tinged with humour and pop culture references. You’re a credit to this site.

  42. Rick Zhang says:

    @reid: Of all the Trump supporters, I feel she’s the most genuinely authentic and the one who least sounds like a troll. This is why I try to reason with and challenge her points while I ignore certain other people. I don’t think ad hominem accusations are helpful with people like barb – they’ll just get defensive.

  43. Rick Zhang says:

    Going back to the general point, I like to look at things holistically and strategically. Trump won in the EC because he improved compared to past Republicans among the white working class in the Rust Belt. This combined with decreased D turnout in key battleground states (and a poor electoral strategy by Hillary) allowed him to barely creep over the finish line.

    For 2020, I can presume that certain things will be different:
    1. The D candidate won’t have the “baggage” that Hillary had with decades of Republican attacks
    2. The economy is in the tail end of the business cycle. We are overdue for a recession. If one happens, it will impact Trump’s popularity
    3. Dems will be motivated to turn out
    4. The wildcard is if Trump has a major scandal (i.e. true impeachment worthy stuff), but I think the propaganda machine of Fox News will keep his loyal core support intact

    This by itself I think skews the odds against Trump.

    The smartest thing for Dems to do is to go with the flow of realignment. Trump wants to shift his party to nationalism/populism to win WWC and rural whites? Let him, and pick up disenchanted former Republicans in the educated suburbs. Adopt an unabashed technocratic socially tolerant pro-trade pro-business pro-globalization policy. Focus your efforts on winning Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and NC. Expand the map and go to where the growth is.

  44. reid says:

    @Rick Zhang: I understand what you’re saying, and I generally feel the same way, but I am quite tired of reading the sort of nonsense she writes. If anything, it seems like she’s devolved into more of an “aggrieved white person” parody.

  45. Kathy says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Why, thank you!

    I’ve been posting here only a few months.

  46. CSK says:

    Jonathan Chait raised an interesting point this morning, which is that all of Trump’s allies who are worried Cohen will roll on him are in fact confirming that Trump is guilty of something.

  47. Rick Zhang says:

    I want to see how/if she response to determine if I should reply again in the future. Certain commentators I know are so unreasonable in their discourse they do not even merit a response.

    Not sure if you’ve mentioned it already, but I would love to know your professional background.

  48. Stormy Dragon says:


    If there’s a recession at this point

    When, not if.

    The last time a tax break actually helped the economy is 1981. Since then, every time Republicans have cut taxes, the economy has slumped. Every time the Democrats have cancelled a tax cut, the economy has recovered.

    The stock markets are already in a correction since Trump’s tax cut passed.

  49. reid says:

    @Rick Zhang: I don’t read quite all of the comments here, but as I mentioned, she doesn’t seem to be someone that converses in good faith here. I hope I’m wrong, but in a way that would be even more depressing.

  50. Eric florack says:

    @James Joyner: perhaps that has something to do with the anger of the electorate toward the establishment of both parties… Both parties failed to calculate with that in the last presidential election.

    And without factoring the totality of it, it simply would not make sense to you or anyone else for that matter.

  51. Kylopod says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    When, not if.

    The last time a tax break actually helped the economy is 1981. Since then, every time Republicans have cut taxes, the economy has slumped.

    I’d quarrel with the assumption that even the 1981 tax cut helped the economy, but in any case I’m sure the tariffs aren’t helping matters either. Trump’s economic policies are the worst of both worlds: they take the idiotic elements of GOP orthodoxy and combine them with idiotic policies the GOP establishment hates. It’s like a reverse-Darwinism where ideas thrive according to how dumb they are.

  52. Kathy says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    College dropout, mind-numbing job, trying to write in my spare time. I listen to lots and lots of history lectures and books.

    How about yours?

  53. Rick Zhang says:

    @Kathy: Physician with interest in policy, politics, economics, and history. I blog (see link) and am writing a series of books on developing wellness, financial well-being, love, and happiness.

  54. al-Ameda says:


    None-the-less, in that election, being a dumb just barely not a kid any more, I cast my ballot for Ross Perot. Maybe I liked the charts or something, I don’t know. But of all the votes I’ve cast since, that’s still the one I regret the most.

    Actually, I thought Perot was a … I’ll say it … a nut.
    But I understood his appeal.
    Just as I understand the appeal of a rich-trash grease ball like Trump.

    I once ‘wasted a vote’ in 1980 for John Anderson.
    I could never get motivated to vote for Jimmy Carter. I have not, before or since, thrown a vote away – Jill Stein? Ralph Nader? Not a chance in the world I’d waste my vote again.

  55. Todd says:

    @Bob Hahn: Wow, talk about living in an alternate universe.

    Of all the people in the Justice dept/FBI who might end up having real legal problems as a result of things that happened during the 2016 election, Andrew McCabe seems to be in the worst shape. But he’s accused of lying about leaks that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    There is an investigation sure, but the idea that all of these people in the previous Justice Dept are going to be seriously accused of wrong-doing, let along indicted is really not too much different than the other Obama administration “scandals” such as Benghazi and Fast and Furious. There’s almost certainly nothing there, except in the imagination of right-wing ideologues.

    These seems like an apt description of what U.S. Attorney John Huber probably feels like right

  56. Todd says:

    p.s. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Rudy Giuliani comes under scrutiny at some point for his role in leaks out of the NY FBI field office.

  57. gVOR08 says:


    But he’s accused of lying about leaks that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    Thank you. The charges against McCabe, and against Mueller by Rosenstein, were for doing perhaps improper things that HELPED Trump. It’s gobsmacking that the MSM never seem to mention this.
    Well, not really, experience leads one to expect no better of the supposedly liberal MSM. Current events force one to speculate what would have happened had the FTFNYT spent 20% of the resources and column inches they devoted to Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation on reporting on Michael Cohen and Felix Sater’s ties to various mobs, domestic and foreign. It was in their back yard FFS.

  58. gVOR08 says:

    @Todd: Maddow had Comey on tonight for a full hour interview. Meanwhile, Rosenstein, playing the same fools game Comey did of giving the GOPs an inch, released to Congress the Comey memos on his conversations with Trump. The GOPs promptly leaked them, just as Rachel was going on the air. Rachel’s staff did a quick response and had video of Giuliani, thirteen days before the election, saying the Trump campaign had big news coming out. Two days later Comey made his statement to Congress, immediately leaked, that they had HILLARY!! EMAILS!! on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Then video of Giuliani a few days later saying yes, Comey’s statement was what he was hinting at. Comey said he had ordered an investigation into this apparent leak, but didn’t know what had come of it.

  59. Rick Zhang says:
  60. gVOR08 says:

    This may not be an issue. Rudy Guiliani is saying he can negotiate an end to the Russia investigation in two weeks. Presumably he’s lying, but if not the only way I can see it happening is some form of deal involving immunity in return for resigning.

  61. HarvardLaw92 says:


    p.s. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Rudy Giuliani comes under scrutiny at some point for his role in leaks out of the NY FBI field office.

    Not for nothing, but Rudy just agreed to join Trump’s legal team. Meanwhile, our buddy Jay is under investigation by two different state AGs for charitable org fraud. Sometimes you wish for Christmas in April and it actually happens 🙂

  62. CSK says:


    Sekulow has also represented Sean Hannity, as has Victoria Toensing.

    As a side note, Trump’s Evangelical support has gone up to 78%.

  63. CSK says:

    Trump has hired Marty and Jane Raskin to defend him.

  64. gVOR08 says:

    The fundamentals models generally reflect what I call the Rainbows and Unicorns Effect. ‘The Dems have been in the White House seems like forever and still no unicorns and rainbows, time for a change.’ As a result the models generally predicted Hillary would lose the popular vote. She won it with a fair margin. Adding in the headwinds from Comey, Russia, and FTFNYT, maybe she wasn’t really as bad a candidate as some want to harp on.

  65. Charon says:


    NY Mag

    Trump’s favorability ratio among white evangelicals now, says PRRI, is 75-22, as compared to 42-54 among the American population generally. And his popularity is just insanely high among men (81 percent) and the non-college-educated (78 percent) within the white Evangelical universe.

    Staring at these numbers, I got to thinking: I bet if you take white Evangelicals out of the picture, Trump’s standing with the rest of the population is really low. So I emailed the PRRI, and got the non-white-Evangelical numbers from the very same poll.

    They’re pretty compelling. Among Americans who are not self-identified white Evangelicals, Trump’s favorability ratio is 36-60, with 41 percent expressing very unfavorable views of the president. Among women who are not white Evangelicals, the ratio is 29-69, with about half — 49 percent — harboring a very unfavorable view of Trump. How about college-educated Americans who aren’t white Evangelicals? Trump’s at 32-65, with 47 percent holding a very unfavorable opinion of him. And outside the ranks of the white Evangelicals, even non-college-educated Americans have a dim view of the MAGA man, disliking him by a 39-58 margin (this obviously includes minority folks), though a mere 38 percent dislike him strongly.

  66. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Which is curious, considering that neither of them are admitted in NY – just FL and NJ. It raises questions about what sort of Love Canal he’s worried will bubble up through the playground.

    That said, they’re actually competent defense attorneys, so I don’t imagine that they’ll last long in this shitshow of a defense environment. 🙂

  67. teve tory says:

    As a side note, Trump’s Evangelical support has gone up to 78%.

    Having spent most of my life in the Deep South, I’d be hard pressed to think of a group of people more terrible than christian conservatives.

  68. Charon says:


    As a side note, Trump’s Evangelical support has gone up to 78%

    Here is some data I found at 538 a while back, which supports the demographic anxiety we see in a party that relies heavily on the (white) evangelical and frequent church attender voters.
    Age 66+:
    Evangelical 26%
    Mainline Pros 19%
    Catholic 16%

    White + nonwhite:
    Unaffiliated: 12%
    Age 18 to 29:
    Evangelical 8%
    Mainline Pros 8%
    Catholic 6%

    White + nonwhite:
    Unaffiliated: 38%

  69. Kylopod says:


    Adding in the headwinds from Comey, Russia, and FTFNYT, maybe she wasn’t really as bad a candidate as some want to harp on.

    But part of the reason she did as well as she did was because of Trump’s weaknesses as a candidate. That was the striking thing about Abramowitz’s predictions: his model pointed to a Republican victory, but he predicted his model would fail because of Trump’s weaknesses as a candidate. Many people were so surprised by Trump’s victory that they’ve completely reevaluated Trump and concluded that he was actually a strong candidate. In point of fact, it’s likely a conventional Republican like Rubio or Kasich would have more easily defeated Clinton. The fact that Trump just barely beat the least popular candidate the Dems ever nominated (while receiving millions fewer votes) isn’t the sign he was a strong candidate, it’s a sign he was a lucky one.

  70. CSK says:


    I think she also has a Massachusetts ticket. But, more to the point, she was prosecuting the mob in Boston when Mueller was.

  71. Charon says:

    The above comment was demographic data from 538 I had on my computer as a chart, so no link. (I tried to add this to my above comment but I got a message of not authorized to edit, strange as time had not expired).

  72. Charon says:


    Are you sure Trump was a weak candidate? He appears to epitomize most of what Republicans stand for, just dialed up to 11 or maybe 12.

  73. Kylopod says:


    Are you sure Trump was a weak candidate? He appears to epitomize most of what Republicans stand for, just dialed up to 11 or maybe 12.

    And yet (according to CNN’s exit polls), he did significantly worse among Republican voters in the general election than Romney, McCain, or Bush.

  74. Charon says:


    Headline at the Post:

    Democratic Party files lawsuit alleging Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks conspired to disrupt the 2016 campaign

    The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

    The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

    “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

  75. george says:


    The reason for this pattern is up for debate. I personally think one of the contributing factors has to do with the cycles of economic expansions and recessions. I think the voters are likelier to blame the incumbent president for lingering economic problems if their party has controlled the White House for longer than a single term.

    I suspect that is true. Its a pattern found in every parliamentary democracy as well; even if the Prime Minister is changed (resigns or loses leadership), its very hard for a party to keep in power for more than a decade. It happens of course (most often in countries with proportional representation and so a lot of parties to negotiate with), but far more frequently power changes hands.

    Even if the current Prime Minister is still personally popular, people blame the party in power for the inevitable financial downfalls. I think this was actually the biggest reason for Clinton’s loss to Trump; enough people had personal financial problems (always happens) that they wanted a change, any change, in hopes of that improving.

    Its why there are so few cases of a party staying in power for even three consecutive presidential elections (Reagon-Bush the only one post-WW2); enough people want change for change’s sake to swing close elections. Political wonks thought Trump should have been a game changer, but most people aren’t wonks, and vote on party, not the candidate; after two team-D terms they thought it was time for a team-R president, and who the captain of the team was didn’t really matter. People cheer for their favorite NFL team irrespective of who the captain is, its the team they support, not the leader.

  76. Rick Zhang says:

    This is why I’m in favour of restricting the electorate. As that’s very unlikely to happen, my next hope is for the “people” to get what they voted for, fast and hard, so they can learn the consequences.

    Add “disdain for the plebs” to my list of attributes.