Trump toxicity could see Republicans Swept away By Another Blue Wave

This article first appeared at on 18th June 2020

If polls are to be believed, Donald Trump is heading for a massive defeat in November.

Furthermore, it increasingly seems the effect of his divisive presidency could take the Republican Party down with him.

The critical difference between Trump and conventional politicians is that he completely dominates the conversation. With every tweet, rally or confrontational press conference, he generates a fierce reaction, serving to entrench opinion on either side.

Everyone has a view and very few switch.

Trump’s dire approval ratings

It likely means November’s elections will be a referendum on him and if so, his dire ratings should deeply alarm Republicans. Trump’s approval ratings were historically poor even when winning in 2016, but he was fortunate to face an opponent whose numbers were also deep underwater. 

Whilst those ratings fell further almost immediately upon taking office, Trump’s grip on his own party was cemented by a resilient base. Even as strong disapprovals hit record levels, his approvals remained remarkably stable around 42-43 percent.

Suddenly, as America grapples with the simultaneous crises of Covid-19 and nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, those numbers are slipping into catastrophic territory.

From generally single-digit aggregate disapproval, even occasionally moving positive at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, that number is now frequently in the high-teens.

In recent days, respected pollsters Ipsos, YouGov and Morning Consult recorded deficits beyond 15 percent and Trump’s approval figure has fallen as low as 37 percent.

By historical measures, this is disastrous.

No recent incumbent won a second term with an average approval below 49 percent at the end of June of election year. Fivethirtyeight record his current average at 40.8 percent. 

So far as the presidency is concerned, Joe Biden is now leading by an average 8 percent and rising. Yougov’s new MRP model – a more comprehensive predictive measure with a great record in European politics – rates Biden 84 percent likely to win.

By comparison, his odds on Betfair equate to merely 54 percent – a superb value bet at 1.88 in my view. 

These two indicators are, of course, different from the wider partisan divide in American politics and down ballot races across the country between Democrats and Republicans.

This is best measured by the Generic Congressional Ballot, which has consistently shown around an 8 percent lead to the Democrats during the Trump presidency. 

The closest electoral expression of these numbers is the nationwide vote for the House of Representatives. When Trump was elected on 46.1 percent of the vote in 2016, his party won 49.1 percent, beating the Democrats by 1 percent.

In 2018, however, a so-called ‘Blue Wave’ saw Democrats achieve their best result since the seventies, winning by an 8.6% margin. The 5% swing since 2016 was surely related to Trump.

His divisive presidency has rebounded on his party’s brand, particularly alienating millions of women voters and mobilising opposition.

Bearing in mind how Trump won by the narrowest of margins in 2016 – losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College off the back of three extremely close races in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan by an aggregate of around 70K votes –  he cannot afford any negative swing, let alone one on that scale. 

Worse for his party, are implications for the Senate.

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