Trump 2.0 will be formidable for Dem contenders

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Trump 2.0 was officially scheduled to launch Tuesday night as Donald Trump prepared to kick off his 2020 campaign with a rally in Orlando, Florida. In Cumberland County, area Republicans set a watch party at Morgan’s Chop House on McPherson Church Road; it was one of many such events happening around the country as Trump seeks to prove his 2016 election was more than a fluke.

Recently, internal poll numbers from his campaign leaked and showed him trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden in 11 swing states. The polls also indicated his support had weakened in bright-red states that he carried last time. Some of the pollsters were fired but not before some of Trump’s critics latched on to the prospect that he will enter next year’s contest behind.

Democrats should refrain from popping champagne just yet. They should instead listen to one of their party’s up-and-coming stars, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who said that there is a “very real risk” Trump would win again if the party did not choose a reformer, to which the president cheekily responded via Twitter: “I agree.”

We would go a bit further than Ocasio-Cortez and say that, despite what polling may show about Trump, he is likely to be a formidable opponent. Factors in his favor include incumbency and a strong economy. Some analysts who forecast presidential elections say a good economy by itself is historically enough to secure the White House for an incumbent president. A model by Yale University professor Ray Fair, which accurately predicted Trump’s 2016 win, looks at gross domestic product growth and inflation, and on those metrics Trump looks solid for 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times, which notes it could change if the economy starts to sputter in the first part of next year.

Trump has also shown that version 2.0 will employ similar tactics that helped propel him to a surprise victory over heavily favored Hillary Clinton. Most prominently: A laser-like focus on his No. 1 campaign issue in 2016, undocumented immigration. Timed to his 2020 launch was a tweet where he said that next week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would: “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

Let’s leave aside that this idea was apparently news to ICE and that some legal experts question whether it is even workable. All of that is beside the point. What Trump wants is to be seen fighting as hard as he can against undocumented immigrants, whom he portrays as sweeping across the Southern border with Mexico. It was an issue he also brought to the fore with threatened tariffs against Mexico.

What should most worry Democrats is that Trump does not just have support from his hardcore Make-America-Great-Again crowd but from rank-and-file Republicans, too. His polling among Republicans has hovered near 90 percent, though it has dipped in recent polls.

It’s an indicator that some of Trump’s more controversial issues, like separating families at the southern border, or his ongoing battles with the FBI and Justice Department, have not eroded support on his side of the aisle. Then too, by appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices and a bevy of lower-court judges, as well as passing a tax cut, he is hitting the sweet spot of many party regulars, whose main issues are abortion and tax cuts.

Meanwhile, polling shows the Democrat race is wide open — which one would expect of the party out of power this early in the race. Back-to-back debates scheduled for next week may move the ball definitely toward one Democrat or another out of a crowded field of more than 20 candidates. In a twist, Trump announced Tuesday evening that he would be live-tweeting the two Democratic debates — a brilliant move, it must be said, if he goes through with it.

It was a sign that whomever emerges victorious in the Democratic primary will find Trump 2.0 all she or he can handle.