In 2016, political pundits mocked the crowded Republican primary and its two-tier debate system. Now that more than 20 Democrats are running in 2020 against a Republican incumbent, the massive field in 2016 doesn’t look so silly.
Why? Because in 2016 both parties had a primary. Even though Hillary Clinton was all but assured the Democratic nomination, there was still a primary process during which neither side could run national ads for any single nominee — since one had not been selected yet. But in 2020, those 20-plus Democrats aren’t running against 5, 10, or even 20 Republicans. The GOP already has their nominee — President Donald Trump. So, while the massive field of Democrats battles it out for the next year, Trump will be able to spend that time campaigning for re-election.
Sure, President Barack Obama was able to do this in 2012, and President George W. Bush was able to do the same in 2004, but with so many candidates in the race — all with different bases and with so many having a personal brand for attention — things are different in 2020.
And that leaves a gigantic opening for Trump. Just as in 2016, pundits have already declared Trump the election loser. If they’re to be believed, Trump is coming from a serious support deficit. The large Democrat primary is basically a gift to the allegedly embattled president, who has already started spending his massive war chest on battleground states.
The Associated Press reported that Trump is already running ads in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — all states he was able to flip red in 2016. Democrats aren’t able to respond to the ads since they’re too busy attacking each other for the chance to eventually run ads against Trump.
“The real concern here is that Trump is able to have unchallenged positions when it comes to issues that a lot of voters care about,” Tara McGowan, founder and CEO of the progressive digital campaign firm ACRONYM, told the AP. “We are going to see outside (Democratic) groups start to spend with offensive and defensive messages, but I worry that it’s still not going to be enough to compete with the infrastructure the right has.”
The ads so far focus on finishing the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, and manufacturing jobs by discussing how Trump has been tough on China. Other ads focus on raising Trump’s favorability among African-Americans by pointing out low black unemployment and criminal justice reform.
Whoever becomes the eventual Democratic nominee will have a tough road ahead of them to beat Trump, despite what the media reports. Incumbents usually get re-elected unless something happens to the economy. The last incumbent to lose re-election was President George H.W. Bush, who promised he wouldn’t raise taxes on the American people but then raised taxes. Prior to that, President Jimmy Carter oversaw a massive economic recession and lost to Ronald Reagan.
Democrats, meanwhile, are campaigning on undoing all the positive economic policies Trump has promoted — they want to raise taxes on all Americans and return to the job-killing policies of President Obama. In addition, the candidates and the party has publicly accepted the most extreme position on abortion (up to the minute or shortly after birth) — a position held by barely 10% of the American people.