The bipartisan Battleground poll is out with some useful data about the 2020 electorate. It confirms the challenge Republicans face defending an unpopular president, but Democrats have their own issues.
President Donald Trump remains hugely unpopular (41 percent to 55 percent), as it has been for nearly his entire presidency. One could argue that nothing voters learn, good or bad, about him personally will change many minds. Democratic pollsters at Lake Research Partners point to the intensity of disapproval. “The intensity of the animosity towards Trump is also quite stunning, as 48% of voters have a ‘strongly’ unfavorable opinion of the President compared to only 27% who have a ‘strongly’ favorable opinion of Trump. The President’s personal profile is also heavily underwater among independents, with 57% viewing him unfavorably, including 43% who feel that way ‘strongly.'”
Both parties are highly engaged and enthusiastic about the race already. Democrats have a five-point lead in the congressional generic polling, but both parties get unfavorable ratings from voters. (“Congressional incumbents, even newly elected Members, will face the additional challenge of running against their institution.”)
The real question mark remains the economy. Fifty-nine percent say they are very or somewhat worried about an economic downturn. Democratic pollsters warn the Democrats still need an economic vision of their own. (“Democrats have major advantages on healthcare and education which contributed largely to their success in 2018. The challenge facing the Party ahead is to translate those advantages into a bigger economic frame.”) Nevertheless, Trump gets high marks on handling the economy (57 percent to 38 percent), in contrast to his handling of foreign policy (41 percent to 54 percent), immigration (41 percent to 56 percent) and health care (58 percent to 34 percent).
Democrats enjoy a broad coalition of groups that dislike Trump, Lake Research points out. “As has been the trend since he was elected, African Americans (83% disapprove, incl. 69% ‘strongly’ disapprove) and Latinx voters (69% disapprove, incl. 59% ‘strongly’ disapprove) continue to be among the President’s strongest detractors. … His ratings among millennials (34% approve, 58% disapprove) is an ominous sign for the Republican Party’s future, and highlights the complexity of the GOP’s challenge, which continues to be not just racial, ethnic, and along gender lines, but generational too.”
Republican pollsters from the Tarrance Group concede that one of Trump’s biggest problems is women, whom he seems to have permanently chased out of the GOP:
“Men are voting Republican by 44% to 35%, or a nine-point margin, while women are voting Democratic by 48% to 30%, or an eighteen-point margin. In our past Republican analysis of the gender gap, we have always put forward the hypothesis that women cannot be looked at as a monolithic group and that the gender gap was more of a ‘married gap’ and a ‘racial gap.’ …
“With White women overall, instead of a single digit advantage for Republicans we now have a six-point disadvantage and with married White women, instead of a double digit advantage, in this latest Battleground Poll, Republicans only have a 4-point advantage (40% to 36%).”
Gender now rises above race and marital status. Women in just about every sub-group seem to dislike Trump.
In sum, Trump is a weight around the necks of Republicans, and is sending women fleeing from the party. His re-election rides on a continued booming economy (hence his fury at the Fed for not juicing it further) and on drawing an opponent as problematic for Democrats as Hillary Clinton.
Democrats need to pick their candidate wisely and avoid picking someone as divisive or unlikable as Trump. They must turn out their base without turning off those white and married women whom Trump chased off. They should focus as they did in 2018 on health care, but they cannot avoid talking about the economy. They need a big-picture vision for economic security, wage growth and job creation. It will not be enough (as it was not enough for Mitt Romney in 2012) to say the economy isn’t doing all that well.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a center-right perspective. Follow her @JRubinBlogger.