Democrats Could Rebuild the ‘Blue Wall’ in 2020, and Still Lose

President Trump’s 2016 election victory was secured, in large part, due to his ability to shatter the Democrats’ ‘Blue Wall across Midwestern states -- namely Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Democrats, unsurprisingly, have spent a tremendous amount of attention and resources in these states and were giddy when recent polling came out showing the President’s unpopularity in those states.

This is the allure of nominating a so-called centrist candidate -- like Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg -- to rebuild the Midwestern coalition Democrats fatally took for granted in the 2016 election.

But even if Democrats recapture those three states, which they may in 2020, it still does not guarantee them a victory. And they may have the moonwalking, blackface, infanticide-endorsing Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to thank.

Northam, as you will recall, faced intense backlash after a photo emerged of him in his medical school yearbook donning either a Ku Klux Klan uniform or dressed in blackface. Northam faced extremely intense political pressure to resign, but refused to do so.

The emergence of this photo came -- not by chance-- on the heels of his comments that ostensibly endorsed the practice of infanticide. Northam’s botched response to the blackface controversy -- first he admitted to it, then he recanted this admission, but admitted to wearing blackface another time -- was so comical even Colbert mercilessly mocked him.

There was a reason Northam faced such intense pressure to resign his position, which included calls for his resignation from all major 2020 Democratic hopefuls, a former African-American Virginia governor, and former President Barack Obama. Democrats desperately do not want Virginia to be in play in 2020.

The state has been trending Democratic and has voted for the Democratic candidate each of the past three election cycles. But it remains a swing state, with each of its legislative houses in the hands of Republicans. Its population remains largely white and rural, groups which gravitate toward the Republican Party (particularly President Trump).

Clinton won the state by a healthy margin -- over 200,000 votes -- and in the 2017 gubernatorial election Northam won by a similar margin. But, it should be noted, Clinton’s vote total was aided by popular Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, neither of whom will be on the ticket in 2020.

Democrats did perform surprisingly well in the most recent midterm election -- turning out nearly a half million more voters than Republicans did -- but Northam’s popularity took a massive hit following the public relations disaster earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax quickly became embroiled in his own controversy.

Let us assume Democrats reclaim all three of the aforementioned states -- Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- and hold serve in every other state carried by Clinton in 2016. If Virginia were to flip, President Trump wins reelection, albeit by a narrow margin (273 to 265).

Such a path to 270, however, is perhaps more achievable by the President. His net approval remains -13, -12, and -7 in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, respectively. By contrast, his net approval is just -6 in Virginia.

Trump’s path to victory in Virginia is not without precedent; most recently President Bush (the most recent Republican president to win reelection) carried the state by nearly 300,000 votes. Bush expanded his 2000 vote margin, largely by running up vote totals in rural, Republican-dominated counties.

All of this assumes Trump holds serve in the perennial swing states of Ohio and Florida. In 2016, Trump carried the Buckeye State by nearly half a million votes. He carried Florida by just over 100,000 votes. He remains relatively popular in both states, however, holding a net approval of -4 and 0, respectively.

Such analysis is mere conjecture, however, as we are some 17 months away from the Presidential election while a crowded field of Democrats continue to vie for their party’s nomination. Furthermore, until President Trump has a clear opponent, job approval is not necessarily the best indicator of reelection prospects, as voters will be faced with a choice between two candidates.

But it is fascinating to delve into the data and look at the possibility of President Trump’s reelection prospects, in light of apparent eroding of support in Midwestern states. As we see, he could lose all three of these states, but still maintain control of the presidency.

One could not help but note the irony if Northam prevents the Democrats taking control of the White House, as the fallout from both his abortion comments and yearbook controversy were entirely self-inflicted. The latter, if it were done by a Republican, would have caused even more of a national outcry and would have been wielded like a massive club by Democrats heading into the 2020 election.

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