The Briefing, Volume VIII, Issue 1: Seven predictions for 2020

Seven predictions for 2020

It’s a new year, and the presidential primary season is about to hit full stride. The Iowa caucuses will be held February 3 — just four weeks from now. Then come New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Super Tuesday is just eight weeks away on March 3.

So without further ado, here are seven predictions for 2020.

1. The Democrats’ nominee will be white. This is a pretty safe bet. The hilarious intersectional wokeness of the 2020 Democratic Party cannot overcome the fact that a white person — and most likely a very old, male white person (but more on that in a minute) — will represent them on the ballot in 2020. 

The non-white candidate with the best shot — Sen. Kamala Harris — raised more than enough money but spent far too fast and peaked early. She flamed out after being disemboweled by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Rep. Julian Castro, who just dropped out, was always and remains a joke. Sen. Cory Booker failed to make the most recent debate and almost certainly will not be back. Andrew Yang, a novelty candidate, will almost certainly not be the nominee.

2. The Democrats’ nominee will also be male. This should not come as much of a surprise either. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are the only serious contenders left, and Warren is falling behind in a number of measures. 

Warren’s only remaining viable female competition is Amy Klobuchar, decidedly a longshot candidate. 

Warren’s fourth quarter fundraising lagged behind her male opponents Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders. She no longer talks about her Medicare for All plan, a sign that her campaign feels it has harmed her. Her last debate performance was disappointing. She has shifted her focus away from being the woman with a plan for everything to cleaning up corruption in Washington — hardly a unique or an inspirational message, given the backdrop of impeachment. Warren needs a second wind of some kind — something entirely new. It’s unclear what could save her candidacy at this point. 

3. Joe Biden will not coast to the nomination. Despite a brief scare from an ascendant Warren, Biden seems to be in the lead once again. But the fact that Democratic primaries award delegates in a proportional manner makes a bitter, indecisive nomination process more likely than ever before. In general, anyone who can get more than 15 percent of the vote will win delegates, and the so-called “superdelegate” free agents will be forbidden from voting in the first-round of the Democratic convention.

Typically, everyone overestimates the possibility of a brokered convention. The nomination process has a way of sorting itself out usually. But this time things really might be different. 

In 2008 and 2016, the Democratic field was short on viable candidates, so nothing like this could have happened. In 2004, Iowa came down decisively to select John Kerry. This time, however, there is no clear frontrunner in Iowa (the most recent poll there shows a three-way tie with four candidates passing the delegate threshold) or in New Hampshire (four candidates are at or near the delegate threshold). Although Joe Biden leads in South Carolina, there has been no polling there for a full month. The most recent survey shows an underwhelming seven-point lead. That’s not the knock-out blow that Biden might need if he fails to put his opponents away in Iowa and New Hampshire. If there is no clear frontrunner at that point, then Super Tuesday could deliver an agonizing split decision.

4. Impeachment will make life more difficult for Biden. Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian sinecure forms an essential part of the case against Trump in impeachment. Every time it comes up, it is subtly damaging for Biden. No matter how inappropriate Trump’s request for an investigation of the Bidens was, it can’t change the fact that Hunter was trading on his father’s position as vice president. It was a corrupt arrangement, and one Democrat has already begun sniping at Biden over it.

5. Bernie Sanders will be a big figure again in 2020. At $34.5 million, Sanders just finished the year with the biggest fourth quarter fundraising haul of any Democrat in the race. It wasn’t even close. 

Previously, we had said that other candidates were hungrily eyeing his support base, waiting to inherit it after his candidacy died. But with Warren’s fortunes suddenly on the wane, the reverse may be true. Sanders may be the one preparing to gobble up the rest of the left-wing base. If he is given that opportunity, he will be very hard to stop, at least until the convention. And that could be very hard on the party.

The odds definitely do not favor Sanders’ winning the nomination in the first round. But things won’t go smoothly if superdelegates are called upon in subsequent rounds to stop him. If the 2016 process embittered Sanders’ supporters, it is likely that the 2020 process 

6. Impeachment will improve Trump’s chances of winning. At this point, everything about the impeachment charges is already out there. People have made their minds up about whether Trump’s actions merit impeachment. And the result has been a decline in popular support for impeachment. 

To be more specific, impeachment increasingly falls along party lines. Republicans who might otherwise have been less likely to side with Trump are reacting negatively to what looks like a Democratic power grab.

So far, impeachment seems like a plus for Trump, although not as positive as one might have expected. It could further prove to be especially unpopular in some of the important states.

7. The economy will remain the ‘Trump’ card. President Trump would be in some serious trouble, were he presiding over the weak sort of economy that President Obama had in mid-2012. But with the stock market finishing the year near a record high, wages up and unemployment at a record low, Democrats simply have no answer to the issue. 

During their presidential debates, the Democratic candidates have tried to make the case that the strong economy is somehow an illusion. But for most people, that just isn’t credible. They see what’s happening to their jobs, their pay and their retirement accounts.

They need genuine cracks to form in the economy, and fast. Next year, Census hiring is likely to tighten the job market even further, and any progress in breaking down the current trade impasse with China could open the floodgates to further economic opportunity. In short, the Democratic candidates need a downturn, and fast.

Reapportionment: The preliminary Census estimates for 2019 point to outcomes that appear to slightly benefit Republicans on the surface of things. But even assuming the estimates are accurate, it’s just hard to know with enough certainty what the 2020s will look like politically.

On net, states that President Trump won are poised to gain a net 3 electoral votes in time for the 2024 election. Of course, by then, Wisconsin could be a Red State and Arizona a Blue State. 

The distribution of House seats will be even less straightforward. Just because they go to Red or Blue states doesn’t necessarily dictate which party will benefit. That will depend on several things, including which party controls the state legislature next year and whether there is any chance for that party to draw itself additional districts. As Sean Trende points out, it probably won’t be possible for Ohio Republicans to make a Democratic House seat disappear, nor for Oregon Democrats to create an additional Democratic House seat.

There are some places where Democrats clearly lose. Rhode Island, Illinois, California, and New York — all part of Democrats’ structural presidential base — are each poised to lose a seat. The same is true of swing states Michigan and Ohio, and deep red Alabama and West Virginia are also expected to lose one each, though, so it’s not as though Blue States are the only ones suffering. 

Still, it is significant that supposedly vibrant large and liberal states are falling behind in population growth right alongside supposedly backwater states. California, with its burgeoning homeless problem, radical wealth inequality and flight of the middle class, could be considered a showcase of policy failure, and one that could potentially get much worse with the introduction of laws that will erase many gig economy jobs.

Senate 2020

Alabama: A new poll out over the holiday week showed nearly every Republican leading Sen. Doug Jones, D — except for Roy Moore, who trails him by 14 points. Interestingly, this poll shows only 54 percent of Alabamans opposed to impeachment.