A Christopher Newport University professor who accurately predicted that Democrats would flip 40 House seats in the 2018 midterm elections believes that President Donald Trump will lose the 2020 election because the Democrat challenging him will begin the race with 278 Electoral College votes.
Rachel Bitecofer, the “assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia,” told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Tuesday evening that her model has Trump down 278 Electoral College votes even before Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona are decided. She believes that Florida will likely go for Trump because of the state’s older voters, but that still won’t be enough for Trump to win back the White House.
Bitecofer also told O’Donnell this week that “the election of Donald Trump is a needed kerosene on” a “lazy and complacent Democrat electorate” that was taking former President Barack Obama’s coattails for granted and “didn’t show up in big numbers in 2016” because they “took for granted that Trump would not be elected.”
According to Bitecofer, Democrats will not be complacent in 2020, and she argues that Democrats will be better off turning out their base than trying to persuade the mythical moderate swing voter.
“My model for 2020 starts off with Democrats at 278 Electoral College votes, and that’s a problem for Trump, because of course you need 270 to win. It does that because of my model’s prediction, based on turnout and predicted vote share, that Pennsylvania and Michigan will slip back to the Democrats,” she recently told Salon. “I’m uncertain about Ohio, but even if Trump wins Ohio, he can’t win the other three Midwestern states. Then as you point out I have four tossup states: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Iowa. Even if he wins all four of them, the Democrats have already won the election — and the idea that he would win all four is pretty unlikely.”
Bitecofer argued to Salon that midterm voters turned out for Democrats because of “negative partisanship”—“Trump Inc.” made them “enraged”—and told O’Donnell on Tuesday evening that Trump is also trying to use “negative partisanship” to his advantage by trying to run against the left-wing “Squad.”
Bitecofer, though, argues in her paper, “With 16 Months to go, Negative Partisanship Predicts the 2020 Presidential Election,” that “barring a shock to the system,” Democrats will “recapture the presidency” in 2020 because “Trump’s 2016 path to the White House, which was the political equivalent of getting dealt a Royal Flush in poker, is probably not replicable in 2020 with an agitated Democratic electorate.”
She concludes that the “Blue Wall of the Midwest was then, and is now, the ONLY viable path for Trump to win the White House” but the climate will be completely different in 2020 because “the complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped.”
Bitecofer further explains why Trump is in deep trouble in the Midwest:
Why is Trump in so much trouble in the Midwest? First, and probably most important, is the profound misunderstanding by, well, almost everyone, as to how he won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the first place. Ask anyone, and they will describe Trump’s 2016 Midwestern triumph as a product of white, working class voters swinging away from the Democrats based on the appeal of Trump’s economic populist messaging. Some will point to survey data of disaffected Obama-to-Trump voters and even Sanders-to-Trump voters as evidence that this populist appeal was the decisive factor. And this is sort of true. In Ohio, Trump managed the rare feat of cracking 50%. Elsewhere, that explanation runs into empirical problems when one digs into the data. Start with the numerical fact that Trump “won” Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan with 47.22%, 48.18%, and 47.5% of the vote, respectively, after five times the normal number in those states cast their ballots for an option other than Trump or Clinton.
This, combined with the depressed turnout of African Americans (targeted with suppression materials by the Russians) and left-leaning Independents turned off by Clinton (targeted with defection materials by the Russians) allowed Trump to pull off an improbable victory, one that will be hard to replicate in today’s less nitpicky atmosphere. Yet, the media (and the voting public) has turned Trump’s 2016 win into a mythic legend of invincibility. The complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped. Under my model, that distinction is not only important, it is everything.
In what will be music to the ears of Democrats who believe the way to beat Trump is to turn out the left-wing base and not worry about mythical moderate swing voters, Bitecofer told O’Donnell that “this ain’t our granddaddy’s electorate anymore” and “the time when you could persuade large swathes of the electorate over has passed.”
“I’m not saying that moderates aren’t important or that there aren’t moderates, there certainly are and they can be appealed to – although Democrats don’t do it well – but really it’s all about the base,” said Bitecofer, who believes Trump will have to spend resources and play defense in Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia.