Trump

Ridin' With Biden, Vetting Bernie, Trump Is Losing The Election

Notes on 2020 - So the big question this morning is where does Biden end up tomorrow night? State polls in FL and NC found him gaining ground even before his big win Saturday night, and he clearly outperformed the polls in SC.  With Pete getting out, far steadier performances on TV and the stump, and a torrent of endorsements, Biden has a real shot at keeping it close on delegates tomorrow night and then opening up a permanent electoral/polling lead by later in the week – one that if maintained should be enough over time to outpace Bernie on delegates and win the nomination.  The other big wild card is how well does Bloomberg do tomorrow night, and will he get out this week?

We did a deep dive on “Bernie” 2020 last week, and what we found wasn’t pretty.  Insultingly vague domestic plans, a leading role in an American Communist Party affiliate, extremism on immigration and guns, concerning health issues, lack of support among long time colleagues, and through his Castro stumble a reminder that Bernie has never been a Democrat, has never led a Democratic ticket, has never had to win general election votes in battleground states, and is unlikely to be very good at leading a unified party into battle against Trump this fall.  His absurd calls to be declared the victor in a contest that he will not have won in a party he’s never been a part of – after making the opposite argument in 2016 – reinforce the challenges that Bernie is going to have in evolving from socialist insurgent to leader of the Party to beating Trump this fall. 

Recent polling should worry the President and his party.  As of this morning, Trump’s job approval in the 538 tracker is 43.8 approve/52.6 disapprove – the same as the morning after the 2018 election, an election the Democrats won by 8.6 points.  A selection of recent well regarded national polls also show Trump trailing by similar amounts:

Biden 50, Trump 41 (YouGov/Yahoo)

Biden 49, Trump 41 (Fox)

Biden 52, Trump 45 (ABC/WaPo)

Biden 52, Trump 44 (NBC/WSJ)

The only battleground Trump leads in, according to Real Clear Politics, is Texas, and there by not very much.  Yes, according to RCP, Biden is leading Trump in AZ, FL, GA, MI, NC, PA and WI. 

New polling also finds incumbent GOP Senators trailing in the big 3 Senate races – AZ, ME, and NC.  McSally has trailed in every poll taken this cycle, and is down 46-39 (!) in this new poll; Sara Gideon leads Susan Collins 43-42; and a new North Carolina poll is consistent with other recent polling, having the President down 49-45 to Biden and Cal Cunningham beating Thom Tillis 48-43.

While every race is different, and things can and will change, a reminder – incumbents in the low to mid 40s this late in the election cycle almost always lose.  There is a reason Trump and the GOP are working so hard to help Bernie become the nominee – the current landscape looks very very bad for them right now. 

Dems Fight It Out, Delusions of A Mad King, Nevada This Saturday

Notes on 2020 - There has been lots of polling over the past few days and it tells a simple story – the Democratic race is very competitive and what happens in Nevada and South Carolina is really going to matter. Perhaps the most important development has been the slew of good polls for VP Biden in NV, SC, and other states showing him very much in the game.  Tomorrow’s Nevada debate, with Mike Bloomberg on the stage, will be a significant moment. Lots of drama ahead for the Democrats.

One bit of drama we hope we don’t see again is the troubles which plagued Iowa and which may repeat in Nevada this weekend. NDN believes it would be wise for DNC Chair Tom Perez to take some concrete steps to improve his operation in the coming days, sending a clear signal that he knows he needs to do better, and regain the trust of Democrats across the country.  This will be particularly important if Dems look like they are headed to a brokered convention, something which will put a much greater burden on the DNC to carry a negative message against Trump for the next 4-5 months, build a true general election operation for the nominee, and manage a divisive and challenging convention.  

As for Trump, his numbers remain bad and he has not shown any kind of significant bump from his illicit acquittal.   There is no doubt he is building a powerful juggernaut, which is why Dems not having a nominee until late July will be so problematic.  But some perspective here please.  Trump only won 2016 with the extraordinary trifecta of Russia’s enormous intervention, a left leaning third party candidate, and the Comey letter;  the GOP has had three truly awful elections since including the 8.6 point win for the Dems in 2018; incumbents in the low 40s as Trump is now almost never win; and do we expect him to behave more like Reagan and less like Caligula in the coming months?

The big story with Trump remains his dangerous disregard for the rules and laws which make our democracy, and all democracies, work.  In just the past few months he has solicited campaign help from a foreign nation, illegally held back information for a legitimate Congressional investigation, and corrupted the Senate Impeachment trial, and he now appears to be trying to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of his political project and campaign (something he did with the White House and State Departments in the Ukraine affair). 

What worries us the most is that the latest revelations about Trump and Barr are not just corrupt and illegal, but represent an attempt by the President to replace the story of the past few years with a new, fictitious, and delusional one.  It feels really crazy and dangerous  - as if the President has really lost contact with the real world, becoming in every way the Mad King our Founders so feared.  It remains shocking that the Senate GOPers and Barr are playing along with this destructive and out of control man. 

On To New Hampshire, Impeachment Ends, The App Fiasco

The race for the Democratic nomination enters an important new phase this week.  Impeachment ends today, and it means that the attention of many Democrats will turn to the Presidential race.  What they will find is a wide open race, with six candidates, including Mike Bloomberg, slugging it out over what is an incredibly intense five week stretch.  In part due to the election night app fiasco, Iowa didn’t do what it often does and winnow the field.  So we have an exciting few weeks ahead with a wide open race, and two candidates – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – still very much alive and in contention for the nomination.  The New Hampshire debate this Friday is really going to matter – do make sure you watch.

Like many, we are disappointed in the Senate GOP’s embrace of Trump’s ongoing cover up of his crimes, and worry about where this leaves our Republic.  In a recent piece we wrote how important it was for Democrats to embrace the success of their time in the White House as the foundational argument needed to defeat Trumpism and illiberalism in the coming days.

This morning Simon offered an extensive reflection on the app fiasco, and how all of us – not just the DNC and Iowa Party – have to learn from the mistakes made.  We are in the midst of a wrenching transition to a new era of politics marked by cyber intrusions and disinformation, an era we describe as operating by Moscow Rules, and the need for a fundamental re-invention of our parties and other democratic institutions to prosper in this new era is now more urgent than ever. 

Where Bolton Is Headed - Putin

"Where Bolton Is Headed-Putin" originally appeared on the website, Medium

I want to posit that when John Bolton’s story comes out, however it comes out, the most shocking revelations will be about Donald Trump’s treasonous fealty to Vladimir Putin.

We know that the President’s rough treatment of Ukraine’s Zelensky benefited Russia. Trump’s top Russia experts told us so, under oath, in the House hearings. And the President told us so in that infamous July 25th phone call — his first “favor” was actually for Russia and Putin, not himself.

We also know thanks to reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman that Bolton refused to go television in late August of 2019 to defend the President’s incredible advocacy for Putin at the just completed G7 meeting in France. Over the objections of Ukraine and the European Union, the President made the relaxation of sanctions imposed on Russia for their illegal annexation of Crimea a central issue in the talks. It was rightly seen as an outrageous PR gift to President Putin at the time, and one which of course has to now be seen as a critical part of Trump’s month’s long illicit shakedown of Zelensky.

We also know that the New York Times headline the day after Bolton departed the White House read “Trump Leaves Open Possibility of Easing Iranian Sanctions to Spur Nuclear Talks.” The Times pieces goes on to report “his subtle yet startling signal about relaxing the sanctions came just a day after the president unceremoniously ousted John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser who opposed détente with Iran.”

Let’s try to put all this together. Bolton joined the Administration in April of 2018. He was there in Helsinki, when the President shamefully said he trusted Putin over America’s intelligence agencies. He was there in December of 2018 when the President abruptly announced America’s first abandonment of Syria, a geopolitical gift to Russia and its regional ally, Iran, a move that caused Defense Secretary Mattis to resign. He was there in early May of 2019 when, after speaking to Putin on the phone, the President abruptly reversed course in Venezuela, essentially once again giving a nation over to the Russians. He was there when the President lavishly praised Russia’s close ally, Viktor Orban, in the Oval Office even saying that Orban was “like me” (we know now that Bolton opposed allowing Orban to come to the White House, and that he used that meeting to help turn Trump against Zelensky and Ukraine).

It was in the late summer of 2019 when Trump gave Bolton reasons to get truly alarmed. He was there as the entire Ukrainian “drug deal” played out over the summer and early fall, including the President’s truly unbelievable suck up to Putin at the all-important G7 in late August. He then had to contend with the President inviting the Taliban to Camp David to finalize a peace deal that would humiliate the United States and provide another boon to Russia. But it was the President’s floating of the relaxation of the “maximum pressure” regime on Iran, Russia’s close ally, which seemed to be the last straw.

And for good reason. While we know the President was deferential to Putin in their public meetings, and had seemed to take a series of dramatic steps to align the US with Putin’s global ambitions in recent months in Syria, Europe, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Afghanistan, the true test of Putin’s influence over Trump would always be Iran. While nodding to Putin across the rest of the world, when it came to Iran, Putin’s ally, the President was with Iran’s enemies, the Gulf Arab states and Israel, in a big way. The President’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, re-imposed sanctions, and began his campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran. He threatened Qatar for being too friendly to Iran. We know of his deep intimacy with Israel’s Bibi, and the President even looked the other way when the Saudi’s dismembered a journalist living in the US, working for the Washington Post. Weakening the Trump/Bibi/MBS alliance seemed beyond even Putin’s reach even though like Ukraine this one really mattered to him — he had soldiers fighting and dying in Syria.

Iran hawks had reason to worry about the President’s commitment to their project when he began his first pull out of Syria in December of 2018, a move seen as benefiting Iran and Putin. But it was his shifting of his position on Iran in early September, detailed above, that clearly was the last straw for Bolton and a sign that Putin had run the table with his apprentice in the White House. In reading through contemporaneous news accounts of the President’s repeated gifts to Putin, Bolton appears consistently on the other side — opposing Orban’s visit, the about face in Venezuela, the Ukraine and Afghanistan polices, and finally this new “détente” with Iran.

In the months following Bolton’s departure, events have shown that his concerns about the President’s Russian drift appear to have been more than justified. In one of the more dramatic and dangerous foreign policy acts in American history, the President finished his Syria pull out in mid-October, abandoning our allies the Kurds, risking the return of ISIS, angering our European allies, and fundamentally tipping the scales in the Middle East in Putin and Iran’s direction, all at the expense of the Gulf Arab states and Israel. Zelensky still hasn’t gotten his Oval Office meeting, and every day he and his Republican allies bash Ukraine for being a corrupt cesspool. And in something which deserves far more attention, veterans groups have criticized the Administration for not moving against a newly discovered Russian foreign influence campaign targeting vets here in the US.

But it is what has happened with Iran since Bolton departed which should have American policy makers most concerned. Inspired by the President’s apparent bowing to Russia’s will in the region, the Iranian regime became far more aggressive. It attacked Saudi oil facilities — no US response. Iran downed a US drown — no response. It then began a campaign to bully the US out of Iraq, a campaign which led to the death of an American contractor, the assassination of General Soleimani, an Iranian strike on a US base which caused extensive damage and wounded dozens of our soldiers, and a formal request for the US to leave Iraq altogether — which was the goal of the Iranian/Russian campaign from the start.

With Bibi’s loss of immunity today, and more unacceptable behavior from the Saudis in recent months including the still unfolding terrorist attack in Pensacola, the Russian/Iranian alliance while having taken some casualties in recent months seems to have come out of this skirmish stronger than ever.

The Washington Post reported this morning: “Bolton was regularly appalled by what he saw from the president, the people close to him said. He wondered at times if Trump was acting in America’s best interest or if he was inspired by nefarious reasons, according to a person familiar with the book.”

“Inspired by nefarious reasons.” We don’t yet know what John Bolton is going to say about his time in the White House. What we’ve learned so far has been pretty explosive, and it seems likely that he will be called to testify in the Senate Impeachment trial. But if I am right, and the tale he tells is about an American President repeatedly doing the bidding of Russia to the detriment of the national security of the United States, then we are not just looking at the end of the Trump Presidency but a scandal of potentially world altering proportions.

America Not Winning, Bernie Stumbles and Biden Leads - Notes on 2020

The images that we see today of the Senate Impeachment trial and the President at Davos while in many ways distant from one another speak to the same story – the savaging of America and its democracy by the President and his party.  The President arrives in Davos a reviled global leader, unfaithful, unsteady, and increasingly seen as dangerous.  As conservative columnist Max Boot wrote last night: “The number of people abroad who express confidence in the US president fell from 70% in 2013 to 28% in 2018 while the number who see the U.S. as a threat climbed from 25% to 45%. More Germans now view Trump as a danger than Kim, Putin, Xi, and Khamenei combined.”

Here at home, the President’s illiberal disdain for our democracy and its inherent limits and virtues will be on full display over the next few weeks. While many had anticipated that Senator McConnell would “rig” the trial for the President, few anticipated the extraordinary lengths he has chosen to go and how closely he has aligned the once august US Senate with the President’s historic venality. This type of contempt for democratic norms and institutions is part of a broader embrace by the Republican Party of what we call "Moscow Rules" in our politics. Our hope is that GOP Senators and the presiding Judge improve the absurd package McConnell has proposed, and allow a fair hearing of what sure appears to be extensive crimes committed by the President and many who work for him. 

Over the past few weeks we’ve argued that it was going to be far harder for McConnell to get the Senate to acquittal than conventional wisdom holds, and his actions in the last 24 hours actions are not those of a leader confident of winning.  A just released CNN poll shows that Mitch is right to be worried, as it confirms that he and the President are losing the big arguments that they need to win this Impeachment fight - 69% of Americans want to hear from new witnesses; 58% believe that he abused his power; 57% believe that he obstructed Congress; by 51%-45% Americans want the Senate to remove him; his job approval is 43% approve, 53% disapprove; Americans disapprove of the GOP's handling of the Senate trial by 54%-39%; and only 37% approve of Trump’s handling of the Senate trial.  These are shockingly poor numbers on issues of such importance to the President (ones consistent with the last few weeks of polling) and suggest that whatever the outcome of the trial, the President has become a spent force in the life of our country. A majority of Americans are ready to see him go. 

As for the Democrats, we share 538’s assessment that Joe Biden has the best chance of winning the nomination.  The last two polls taken in Iowa have him ahead, and 538 has him leading in all four early states right now. Bernie Sanders’ attacks on Biden and Warren have felt desperate, were poorly executed, and probably have done him more harm than good. It is a reminder that as someone who isn’t now and has never been a Democrat, Bernie has never shied from attacking Democrats and the Democratic Party itself. It remains a bit shocking that a career politician who has spent his career outside the Democratic Party believes he could ever effectively lead it. 

Invite: Thur, July 18th - "Patriotism, Optimism"

Over the past year or so Simon has been making a big argument about the past and future of the center-left in America.  Called "Patriotism and Optimism," it makes the case that America is not in decline and is in fact doing as well as it has in any point in its history. It is meant to be an explicit rebuttal to the core argument Trump is making about America and its decline, an argument which is malevolently selling America and its people short every day. 

This primary way this argument has made itself into the world is through a 45 minute long Powerpoint deck, which has been seen in dozens of showings over the web and live in person to policy makers here in Washington and around the country. Our next showing of the deck will be Thursday, July 18th from 12:00pm to 1:15pm at our new offices at 800 Maine Avenue SW, Washington, DC. Lunch will be served. You can RSVP for the event and learn more here. For background before the showing, feel free to check out some related readings below.

Key Background Readings On "Patriotism and Optimism"

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully.  This is the piece that spurred the creation of the presentation. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

A Center-Left Agenda for the Trump Era - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/9/16.  In the early days after Trump's election Simon layed out a possible agenda for the Democrats centering on prosperity, security, shoring up the American led liberal order and ambitiious efforts to reform our political system. 

Additional Readings

Some Thoughts On the Caravan - By Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 10/24/18.  The Caravan, composed of 7,000 poor, unarmed, mostly Honduran Central Americans, poses no threat to the US, and illegal border crossings continue to be way down. Some thoughts on what Democrats should do to respond to Trump's farcical attacks and terrible policies.

Are We Better Off Under Trump? The Short Answer Is No - By Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 10/18/18.  Most measures of the US economy are worse today than when Trump took office. Worse still, the President’s policies have made it very challenging to manage the next recession or global economic downturn.

Challenging Trump's Tariffs - An Ongoing Series - By Chris Taylor, 10/17/18.  In a new series challenging Trump's tariffs, we argue that the President's trade policy is illegal, recklessly ignorant, damaging to the US economy, and historically unpopular. Congress must step up and rescind them in the coming months. 

Trump's Immigration Strategy Is Failing - By Simon Rosenberg, NBC News, 8/6/18.  Almost nothing the President has done on immigration and the border has worked; expect more extreme policies as the elections approach. 

Congress Must Debate The Weakening of Global Order - By Simon Rosenberg, NBC News, 5/10/18.  Few presidents have inherited a world or a nation in which more was going right. Trump seems determined to undo it all.

The Pernicious Politics of Oil - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/16/16.  Petro-powers are challenging the global order, and the next president seems uninterested in stopping them.

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade - Simon Rosenberg, Huffington Post, 1/24/14.  The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

Time For Congress To Directly Challenge Trump's Tariffs, Pass Bicameral Bill Reining In His Tariff Authority

Today's extremely poor job growth data reinforces the trend also echoed this week in Europe that we are heading for a sharp deceleration in economic activity and a potential recession.  The Atlanta Fed now sees only 0.5% growth in Q1, while Goldman Sachs projects a growth rate of just 0.9%. On top of that, manufacturing output, a key leading indicator of growth and a major priority for the President, has fallen sharply in recent months and is now at its lowest level since November 2016. 

Much of the blame for this significant deceleration lies at the feet of Trump's reckless trade policy, which has seen new tariffs imposed on over 20% of all US imports. This policy has led to a significant deceleration of global growth, including a near recession in the euro area, as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers. All told, the tariffs have led to thousands of US jobs being lost and have contributed to the recent declines in the stock market. 

As a result, removing Trump's tariffs is a key growth imperative for the US economy. This reinforces the need for Congress to more forcefully challenge Trump's trade policy, particularly the illegal national security authority Trump has used to unilaterally impose tariffs. One important way we recommend doing this is the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Challenging the President on his trade policy is especially important in light of his new rent-seeking "plan" to charge our NATO and East Asian allies the full cost of US troops deployed in their countries plus an extra 50% premium. This idea is nothing short of extortion of our close allies, and if enacted would shake the transatlantic alliance to its core. If the President also unilaterally imposes auto tariffs on the European Union, a move likely to push the euro area into recession, the transatlantic alliance could witness a very rapid, and potentially fatal, unraveling. These moves can only be seen as intentionally trying to destroy the alliances that have created decades of peace and prosperity around the world. It is our belief, therefore, that directly challenging Trump's ability to impose these tariffs is a critical part of the fight against illiberal authoritarianism both at home and abroad.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his reckless tariff policy.

Related Writings:

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates - 3/6/19 - The potential trade deal with China looks likely to only increase some purchases of US goods, while doing little to reduce Chinese structural trade abuses. Meanwhile, the trade war has led to a large deceleration in US growth, while stimulus from the tax cut has weakened significantly.

Trump's European Tariffs Would Weaken The US Economy And The Transatlantic Alliance - 2/14/19 - Auto tariffs on the EU would destroy thousands of US manufacturing jobs, raise car prices across the country, and weaken our alliance with our European partners. Congress must act to challenge this looming trade war.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill - 2/8/19 - NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, legislation which provides critical Congressional oversight on the President’s ability to use national security as a justification to impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Trump's Tariffs Are A Growing Threat To The American, And Global, Economies - 11/28/18 - US growth expectations have fallen, manufacturing and agricultural firms now face higher costs and weaker demand, and the trade deficit has surged. With a President unwilling or unable to grasp the risks of a broader trade conflict, it is up to Congress to challenge Trump far more directly on his reckless trade policies.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon. 

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates

In pursuing his trade war with China, Trump promised American workers and farmers that the tens of billions of dollars lost from reduced export access and higher costs would be made up by a comprehensive deal that dealt with the structural advantages China gave to its own industry. In recent weeks, however, it has become increasingly likely that a potential trade deal with China will not do that, and instead will only involve some increased purchases by the Chinese government. The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and CNBC all report that any language in the deal requiring changes to China's intellectual property or industrial subsidies will likely be too vague to have any real effect, and will have few mechanisms for enforcement. This represents a startling defeat for the President. If Trump only wanted an increase in US exports, he could have simply signed the TPP trade deal on his first day in office, which was projected to increase US exports by over $350 billion annually by 2030 (compared to at most an additional $200 billion in annual exports to China under this deal, although even that would be offset by fewer exports elsewhere due to the resulting appreciation of the US dollar). Instead, he has significantly weakened both the US and global economies for gains that could have been accomplished two years ago. 

Furthermore, while fourth quarter GDP came in above expectations at 2.6% (but still below the White House's "long term projection" of 3%, less than a year after the tax cut), early projections for 2019 growth show a significant reduction in growth. The Atlanta Fed sees only 0.5% growth in the first quarter of 2019, while the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs both project 0.9% growth. These growth downgrades come on the back of new data showing that in February manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level since November 2016. Trump's economic policies are largely responsible for this economic slowdown. His trade policies have led to a significant deceleration of global growth as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers, both of which have reduced US exports and production. In addition, his tax cut has now clearly failed to lift business investment as was promised by the administration. Non-defense capital spending today is at a lower level than it was in May 2018, and business investment has grown at an annualized average of 4.4% over the past two quarters, compared to a quarterly annualized average of 6.3% in 2017 before the tax cut was enacted. NDN has written a series challenging Trump's reckless trade policy for its harmful effects on the US and global economies, which you can find here. As well, you can read NDN's work detailing how the overall Trump economy has underperformed the strong Obama economy of 2015-16 here

Weekly Notes On The Economy is a weekly column that NDN writes on the most recent economic news, policy, and data.

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest

This analysis was originally published on election night in 2018 and has been updated for release today.

As President Trump and Beto O'Rourke hold dueling political events in El Paso today, it is worth noting just how much the Southwest - an area which for the purposes of this analysis includes AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV and TX - has eroded for the GOP since Trump was nominated in 2016.  This erosion remains one of the most significant recent developments in American politics, as it involves a large region of the country which includes our two largest states. 

As background the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Polling throughout the 2018 cycle showed significant weakness for Trump in the region, and the bottom fell out here on election night 2018.  In Texas, Beto O'Rourke got within 2 1/2 points of Ted Cruz, helped Dems win 2 Congressional seats and many down ballot races, and held 6 GOP reps to 51% or less (TX-10, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 31).  Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, and Dems now hold a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good/blowout nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, so much so that there are questions about whether these states will remain in the Presidential battleground in 2020.  Democrats picked up 12 House seats previously held by Republicans in the Southwest, including 7 in California alone, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration (and the home of the two most significant GOP Presidents in the past 50 years).  We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase.  All in all it was just a huge and game changing wipeout in this region for Trump.

Trump has remained extremely unpopular in the region since November 6th. According to Morning Consult's state polling project, Trump's approval was -18, -18, and -13 in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in January 2019. Perhaps ever more worrisome for Rs, he was -7 in purple Arizona, and -1 in red Texas. These current ratings represent significant falls in Trump's approval even since his loss in the midterms. Compared to November 2018, his net approval today has fallen by 8 points in each of Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, and by 3 and 5 points in New Mexico and Arizona.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad election the GOP had in the northern part of the US in 2018 that no longer appears to be true. Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but Democrats made significant gains in critical 2020 battlegrounds IA, MI, PA and WI. 

Trump's big play on the border appears to be a very costly failure for him and the GOP - it hasn't locked up the industrial north as they hoped, it has caused what I believe to be a structural shift against Republicans in a big region of the country and his overall poll numbers are far below where he was on his dismal election night in 2018.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV and Senator Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of the heavily Mexican-American part of the US from lean R to deep blue and purple now.  If CO, NM and NV are now gone for Republicans, and Arizona and Texas have become true 2020 battlegrounds, the political costs to the GOP of Trump's Presidency will have been significant. 

Related Writings:

Backlash To Trumpism Brewing In The Border Region - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 5/7/18 - There is a growing body of evidence Trumpism is hurting the GOP brand in the border region. Big implications for 2018, 2020 too. 

Trump Is Right To Be Worried About Arizona (And Texas Too) - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 8/21/17 - It is instructive that some of the most powerful opposition to Trump's agenda is coming from Arizona. He is right to be worried about it.

The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas - Simon Rosenberg, U.S. News & World Report, 10/27/16 - Texas has a higher percentage of both millennials and Hispanics today than California, suggesting that with a significant investment in the coming years Texas could indeed follow California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and now Arizona from red to blue.

The Trump Economy Is Not Working For Average Americans

At his State of the Union address this evening, Trump is likely to make grandiose claims about the state of the American economy. In just the past few months, he has claimed that the economy today is better than it has ever been, and that he has accomplished more in his first two years than any President ever. However, these claims are transparently false, and indeed, the economic performance of the US economy over Trump’s first two years has not even been better than that of Obama’s last two years, much less all of American history.

First, jobs growth. Although January’s payrolls report showing 304,000 new jobs was undoubtedly strong, we can’t let this cloud the fact that jobs growth has slowed under Trump (and indeed, monthly job growth was 300k or higher 4 separate times in 2015-16, compared to only twice in 2017-19). During the last 25 months of Obama’s second term, monthly jobs growth averaged 213,000. In the first 25 months of Trump’s term, meanwhile, it has slowed to 205,000 jobs per month.

Second, real wage growth. During the first 24 months of Trump’s term, real hourly wages have increased at a monthly average (annualized) of 0.9%. By contrast, real wages increased at a monthly average (annualized) of 1.35% during the last 24 months of Obama’s term.

Furthermore, median household income (which includes both private income and government taxes/transfers) grew by 1.76% in Trump’s first year, compared to growth of 5.15% and 3.13% in 2015 and 2016 under Obama.

Third, the deficit. When the economy is near full employment, traditional Keynesian economics would prescribe a reduction in the deficit, to provide the fiscal room for stimulus in the future. As a result, the deficit as a % of GDP fell under Obama from 9.8% of GDP in 2009 to 3.1% in 2016. Trump has reversed this trend, increasing the deficit from 3.1% of GDP in 2016 to 3.9% in 2018, and a projected 4.2% in 2019. Deficits this large while the economy is strong are unprecedented in US history. Trump’s budget deficits of 3.4%, 3.9%, and 4.2% in 2017, 2018, and 2019 will be the largest deficits while the unemployment rate is under 6% since 1950.

Fourth, the trade deficit. Perhaps Trump’s most signature promise was to end the so-called “foreign theft of American wealth” that he thought the trade deficit represented. Regardless of the lunacy of such thoughts, how successful has the President been in reducing the trade deficit? In fact, Trump’s policies have led to a surge in the trade deficit, as growth in imports has increased significantly while US exports have struggled. In June-October 2018, the average monthly trade deficit was 28% larger than during Obama’s second term.

Finally, access to health insurance. Trump promised expanded access to healthcare coverage during the 2016 campaign and argued that Obamacare was stopping people from accessing quality insurance. In office, however, Trump has down the opposite, eliminating the individual mandate, reducing federal government subsidies to individuals on the exchanges, and encouraging work requirements for Medicaid that have kicked tens of thousands off of the program. As a result, 2017 was the first year that the uninsured rate didn’t fall since 2009, and the uninsured rate actually rose by 0.3% for households earning less than $100k/year. By contrast, the uninsured rate fell by an annual average of 1.6% in Obama’s second term, and by 1.7% annually for households making under $100k/year.

After two years of the Trump administration, then, how has the US economy performed? Jobs and wage growth have fallen, even in the face of a surging fiscal deficit. The trade deficit has increased significantly thanks to Trump’s own trade policies. And the most vulnerable Americans have seen their access to healthcare worsen for the first time in a decade.  

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