May 22, 2019

The Democrats' 100-year flood

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The midterm elections may have been a sign of what's ahead for the 2020 presidential election: experts say the voter turnout could be the highest in a century.

The big picture: According to Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida, turnout for the 2020 presidential election could be as high as 67% — the highest it's been since at least 1916. If that happens, President Trump will have a tougher fight for a second term.

  • He's driving turnout among those most unhappy with him (younger voters and people of color) even when he's not on the ballot.
  • And Trump voters aren't a growing demographic group. The share of whites with less than a 4-year degree — Trump's constituency — dropped by 3% from 2014 to 2018.

Between the lines: McDonald is basing his prediction of "a hundred-year storm" on the 2018 midterms, which had the highest off-year election turnout in more than a century (50%). He says that momentum will only get stronger.

"It doesn't seem to be the candidates who were running in 2018; there wasn't hyper competition driving turnout; some states made it easier to vote, but that can't explain it because the increase was happening in every state," McDonald said. "So the only explanation is Donald Trump because he’s the only major factor that’s changed in our politics since 2014."

  • Turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 60%.

"The safest prediction in politics is for a giant turnout in 2020," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "Nobody's going to believe the polls after 2016, and everyone will assume a tight race."

  • "Anti-Trump Democrats and the pro-Trump base will both set human adrenaline records — the intensity across the country is going to be spectacular. Let's hope the polling places can accommodate the crowds."

With that kind of increase, turnout rates would likely go up for everybody. But:

  • Older white people already tend to vote at high rates, and they're close to their maximum turnout already.
  • By contrast, you'll see bigger turnout increases among young people, people of color, and low-income people — generally important constituencies for the Democratic Party — because they vote in lower numbers.
  • From 2014 to 2018, turnout among whites with a 4-year degree went up 17%, while non-white voters' turnout increased by 15%.

Yes, but: There could be some increase among Trump voters, too. Turnout among whites without a 4-year degree went up by 12% in the same period. "I'd imagine these people are going to be activated in 2020 with Trump on the ballot," McDonald said.

While the country is becoming more diverse, it's also getting older, particularly in places like Ohio and throughout the Midwest, according to the 2020 Census Bureau projections.

  • That's another group that Trump tends to perform well with with, especially older white voters.

The Trump campaign isn't buying it. "Predicting turnout this far in advance of an election is a fool's errand," said campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, noting that there's no sure way to know which voters will turn out.

The bottom line: For all of his struggles in the polls, Trump is the incumbent and he has a booming economy. But a historic election turnout could wipe out those advantages — and the early signs suggest that's exactly what we're about to get.

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog finds flaws in FBI surveillance process beyond Page application

Carter Page. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Justice Department inspector general found errors in 29 out of 29 randomized FBI applications for acquiring wiretap warrants through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, according to a report released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The broad DOJ audit of the FISA program stems from a damning investigation into the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which uncovered "serious performance failures" by some FBI officials during the Russia probe. The IG's final findings come as Congress debates whether to renew the authority it grants to the FISA courts.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 838,061 — Total deaths: 41,261 — Total recoveries: 174,115.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 177,452 — Total deaths: 3,440 — Total recoveries: 6,038.
  3. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with other health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  4. Federal government latest: The White House and other institutions are observing several models to better understand and prepare cities for when the coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S.
  5. In Congress: New York Rep. Max Rose deploys to National Guard to help coronavirus response.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Misinformation in the coronavirus age.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

U.S. coronavirus updates: White House studies models projecting virus peak

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The White House and other institutions are observing several models to better understand and prepare cities for when the coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S.

The state of play: The coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S. in two weeks, but many states like Virginia and Maryland will see their individual peaks well after that, according to a model by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health