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

Trump's revenge tour has the House in its sights

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In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections — buoyed by Republican control of both chambers — President Trump viewed campaigning for the House as a lower-tier priority and instead poured his energy into rallying for the Senate.

But after the GOP reckoning in 2018, and experiencing firsthand how damaging a Democratic-led House has been to him, Trump is now personally invested in helping Republicans regain the majority in November, several people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Focus group: What some Florida swing voters think of Bloomberg

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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.

The evidence doesn't back Democrats' panic that Bernie can't win

Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane at a rally in Austin on Sunday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lots of Democrats are in full panic that Bernie Sanders will win the nomination and get clobbered in the general election — and bring the party down, too. But the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn't back those doomsday warnings.

Why it matters: Virtually every national and swing state poll shows Sanders tied with or beating President Trump.  And, unlike every rival, he has a huge base of fervent, unshakable supporters he can only grow.