Feb 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why Trump is very beatable

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

There is a growing sense among top Republicans and Democrats that President Trump is stronger than ever and very hard to beat this fall, but several data points suggest otherwise.

Why it matters: Amid record-high stock markets and record-low joblessness, Trump trails almost every 2020 Democrat nationally, and is in a statistical tie in swing-state polls.

  • Yes, he has a big early edge in raising money and gaming Facebook to target voters. But Michael Bloomberg is willing to spend $2 billion (some say twice that) to easily level things — and will spend big even if he's not the nominee.

The data points:

  • Trump won in 2016 by 80,000 votes, thanks in part to low Democratic turnout. There is scant evidence he has broadened his base, even as he solidifies it.
  • Trump ties or trails every leading Democrat in virtually every national poll, including a Fox News poll out Jan. 26.
  • In most swing-state polls, Trump is within the margin of error — and often well below 50% — despite a booming economy.  In many cases, he trails most of the top-tier candidates. 
  • Bloomberg has more money than Trump ever did, and unlike the president, plans to spend it, either on himself or the party’s nominee. Republicans would have no answer financially if he dumps several billion into ads and manpower.
  • There's a significant gap between the optimism about the economy (60%+) and Trump himself, an unusual decoupling for an incumbent. This data point worries top Republicans a lot. 

Between the lines: Don’t forget 2018. Democrats enjoyed record turnout and won back the House.

  • After lackluster voter participation in Iowa, Democrats broke the New Hampshire turnout record set in 2008. (But it's worth noting that turnout was on par with recent cycles where only one party had a competitive primary, per the N.Y. Times.)

The bottom line: Trump is no doubt strong and getting stronger, despite impeachment. But Democrats are so traumatized by Trump’s 2016 win that they're overlooking real signs of his vulnerability. 

  • Even Bernie Sanders, whose socialism establishment Democrats fear could tank their chances, looks strong against Trump in relevant polls.

Axios' Rashaan Ayesh contributed reporting.

Go deeper

Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money

Data: Advertising Analytics, FEC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Michael Bloomberg’s prolific spending aims to make him as legitimate and familiar as his rivals. It also confronts two realities: President Trump is out-raising all the other Democrats with ease, and the Democratic National Committee is anemic.

Why it matters: Bloomberg is betting that enough exposure — through a $300m+ ad campaign and a non-traditional run that looks past the early four states — will make him competitive in Super Tuesday, and make all Democrats stronger in the general election.

The Sanders surge shapes the Iowa caucuses

Data: Axios research; Note: (*) indicates a year where the majority was uncommitted; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bernie Sanders' momentum is shaping the final hours of the race to win tonight's Iowa caucuses, forcing his rivals to lower expectations and feeding the Democratic establishment's fears about what a Sanders victory could do to the party.

The state of play: Advisers to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are already insisting that Iowa's not everything in advance of possible disappointments tonight. "We view Iowa as the beginning, not the end," Biden adviser Symone Sanders said Sunday.

Focus group: What some Florida swing voters think of Bloomberg

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Contributor

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Some swing voters here are unbothered by the way Michael Bloomberg is spending heaps of his own money to help him win the race — but they're split over whether they'd actually vote for the New York billionaire over President Trump.

Why it matters: Bloomberg is the only Democrat who was even slightly intriguing to these voters. They're happy with Trump and don't feel like they recognize the current Democratic Party relative to when they voted for Barack Obama.