Stories

How Trump wins in 2020

Illustration of a chalk board that says Trump 2020 with a map of the United States and diagrams like a football play
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's re-election campaign wields more money, staff, infrastructure and advanced digital operations than the Democratic competitors — and a fan base that hears "impeachment" as a rallying cry.

Driving the news: Over a 90-minute PowerPoint session at a hotel in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Brad Parscale and other senior Trump campaign officials presented dozens of national political reporters their theory of how Trump can win again in 2020.

  • The briefing took place as the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment against Trump — setting up his near-certain impeachment by the full House next week.

The top takeaways:

1. Crushing the Never-Trumpers: They've "remade" the state parties in "the president's image," per one official — with 42 state party chair elections since the 2018 midterms. The Trump campaign isn't tolerating anti-Trump officials in state party leadership positions in 2020.

  • The delegates team, Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, veterans of Trump's 2016 campaign and the White House, spent months ensuring that Trump loyalists command key party positions across the country, muscling out those cool to him.
  • The campaign studied how modern-day incumbent presidents lost re-election. An important "commonality" was that the losing incumbent's team didn't pay enough attention to delegates and had to fight drawn-out primary campaigns, per a senior campaign official..

2. "New math": Tiny counties traditionally overlooked by candidates helped deliver Trump his 2016 victories in states like Wisconsin (where the smallest 48 counties = 22% of the statewide vote) and Pennsylvania (where the 45 smallest counties = 20% of the statewide vote), senior officials said.

  • They think they can work that dynamic next year in Minnesota, which Trump narrowly lost last time.
  • The campaign also sees Trump's grip on the party's message and the retirement of more old-guard Republicans as ways to redefine the party and appeal to new voters.
  • Kushner said: "I was not a Republican. Now I'm a Republican. I think the Republican Party is growing now that people like me feel comfortable being part of it."
  • They say they see a path to improve Trump's low standing with black voters by focusing on strong economic numbers and criminal justice reform.

3. "The DJT Disengager": This is another focus for the campaign. These are voters who remain enthusiastic about Trump but didn't vote in the 2018 midterms when Trump wasn't on the ballot.

  • The Trump campaign says it has identified nearly 9 million of these voters and will throw everything at ensuring they vote next November.

4. Making the best of his unpopularity: Impeachment has been good for business, advisers said.

  • The campaign has been raking in millions through text message and online fundraising, as we've previously reported, selling "Bull-Schiff" t-shirts and other impeachment merchandise on the Trump online store.
  • Trump has been telling audiences variations on the idea they'll have "no choice" but to vote for him even if they don't like him personally — because his policies help them or Democrats' plans will hurt them.
  • Through a recent commercial, the campaign is putting a positive spin on the reality that more than half of American voters consistently say they don't like him. The campaign is betting many of them will vote for him anyway.

5. The machine: They're now trying to turn a single Trump rally into a "four or five day experience for that location," an official said, by building in an extra stop by Vice President Mike Pence, local media hits from surrogates, targeted fundraising drives and volunteer outreach.

  • Trump rallies have become massive data capturing opportunities, more sophisticated than in 2016, built for message testing as well as churning out new donors and volunteers.
  • They say they already have 300,000 volunteers, and that their list of supporters has grown by nearly 200 percent since 2016.