Trump v. Democrats: Campaign 2020 Now in Full Swing – “Sunday Political Brunch” - June 23, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s now “official,” which is what we’ve all known for about two-and-a-half years. President Trump has declared his candidacy for a second term. Many
Democrats are predicting a blood-bath victory, but I say not so fast. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Location, Location, Location!” – The old real estate mantra holds true in politics as well. Location is critical. So where did President Trump choose to kick off his reelection bid? Why, Orlando, Florida. This was wise. Florida is truly five-states-in-one. Trust me, I’ve lived and worked there on-and-off for over thirty years. South Florida is a Democratic haven. The Jacksonville-Gainesville-Tallahassee corridor is very liberal, while the panhandle is quite conservative. The Daytona-Orlando-Tampa corridor is the moderate-to-conservative swing belt, of this swing state. If you win here, you win the state. Trump’s kick-off rally in Orlando was a smart choice. The same holds true for Democrats picking Milwaukee for their 2020 Convention, and the Republicans selecting Charlotte. You’ve got to go where you need to win!

“The Magnificent Seven?” – I love polls; I hate polls. They are over-rated, and often give us a very jaundiced view – one snapshot-in-time – of the electoral mood, which in no way is indicative of the end result. That said, as I look at the latest composite poll from Real Clear Politics, I see only seven viable Democratic candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden 32 percent; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont 15 percent; Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts 12 percent; Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana 7 percent; Senator Kamala Harris (D) California 7 percent; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas 4 percent ; and Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey 2.3 percent. The rest are buried in the weeds.

“What Have You Done for Me Lately?” – Politics is about performance. It’s a “what have you done for me lately?” business. The surging economy and markets are a bonus for Trump, but the 2020 election is still 18 months away. President George H. W. Bush was riding high in June 1991, but the economy tanked into recession – briefly - by the end of the year. While the economic downturn was relatively short and mild, it created a lot of anxiety and uncertainly and Bush lost to Bill Clinton.

“Here Come the Debates” – I’ve said this before. The Democratic nominee will not get to the main stage just by attacking President Trump. If he or she wants to be the Democratic nominee, the candidate will need to also attack other Democrats in the field. That’s why so many of the younger Democrats have criticized elder statesman Joe Biden for his comments about being able to work with, and get along with, two segregationist senators in his early Senate years. While what he said is true, critics found the statements insensitive, out of touch, and relics from a bygone era. I bet he gets hammered on it again in this week’s two Democratic debates in Miami.

“The Trump-Iran Factor” – The stand-off this week between Iran and the United States is one of those critical test moments in a presidency. It’s critical from a public policy standpoint (the response), but it’s also critical from a political standpoint (it’s role in the 2020 election). It’s a unique moment for any president, because he stands naked and alone at the decision-making podium. He can’t blame Congress, he can’t blame political foes, and he can’t blame previous presidents. In a crisis, the duty falls squarely on the shoulders of the president. The last U.S.-Iran crisis in 1979-80 was a watershed moment for President Jimmy Carter, who ultimately failed winning reelection.

“The Impact of Trump’s Options” – This was clearly one of the most fascinating moments in the Trump presidency. While many anticipated a tough show of force with a quick military retaliation, Trump stopped the mission ten minutes short of execution. I believe there are three possible explanations: 1) he flinched under pressure and relented; 2) he’s true to his word, and really was concerned about the proportionality in the response where zero died on one side, and 150 could die on the other side. I like option 3), that this was a Trump “Art of the Deal” moment where he purposefully and intentionally aimed to knock his enemy off balance. Was he trying to provoke Iran, being an unexpected “peacemaker?” My gut says scenario 3 was the plan. We’ll see!

“Trump 2.0” – To underscore my hypothesis from above, I submit “Exhibit B,” which was Trump’s reversal on Saturday’s promised ICE raids around the nation. The President said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would round up and start deportation proceedings against thousands of people who are in the U.S. illegally. Like the Iran strike, he pulled the threat at the eleventh hour. “At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution…” Trump said in tweet.

“What’s the Deal?” – Is President Trump trying to be like former President George H.W. Bush, who tried to appeal to, and inspire “a kinder, gentler nation?” Look, up until now, Trump has been the proverbial “bull in the China shop” on both Congressional relations and international diplomacy. He’s not known to have a softer side. Is he growing into the job and realizing he must share power, or is he setting a trap for opponents if they accomplish nothing, even though he extended an olive branch. A more conciliatory and inclusive presidency might boost his reelection bid, or will the public just view it as more of his theatrics? Stayed tuned as 2020 is shaping up to be fascinating year.

Have you made a choice for 2020 yet among the 24 Democrats and two Republicans who have announced so far? If so, tell us who you picked and why, by clicking the comment button.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

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