Donald Trump is still the favorite to win in 2020 — just look at the midterm map


The key to Donald Trump’s success in 2016 is rooted in the unequal distribution of racial and ethnic groups across the Electoral College system. PHOTO/JIM WATSON via Getty Images

Despite inheriting a roaring economy from President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump has been underwater in national job approval polls since he took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

Since 1938, Gallop has asked the nation, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way the president is handling his job?”

Across 80 years of polling, presidents have averaged approval ratings of 53 percent, ranging from a high of 74 percent for John F. Kennedy in November 1962 to a low of 35 percent for Trump in December 2017. In the days leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Trump’s approval rating rose slightly to 40 percent. Still, a commanding 54 percent of those polled said they disapproved of Trump’s performance. His low approval ratings contributed to the resurgence of the Democratic Party in the House, where they picked up at least 33 seats and regained control of the chamber.

Record turnout and pointed campaigning in battleground states also helped Democrats pick up Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada, which would have been enough to take control of that chamber if all the party’s incumbents there had held on to their seats.

Instead, the chambers swung in opposite directions, with Republicans building on their majority in the Senate. They have already secured a 51-seat majority in the upper chamber and look likely to add two seats ? Florida and Mississippi ? by the time the dust settles.

If the GOP’s success in the senatorial elections is a sign of anything, it is this: Regardless of what the country thinks of Trump or whom the majority of the country votes for, the current president maintains a very good chance of winning a second election in 2020.

Trump’s Advantage

The key to Trump’s success is rooted in the unequal distribution of racial and ethnic groups across the Electoral College system. This arrangement allows him to target favorable demographic windows that lean hard to the right and exploit them to his party’s advantage. This is how he won in 2016. And this is how his party beat incumbent Democratic senators in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota in the midterm elections this year. And if he wins again in 2020, this demographic advantage will lie at the center of his success.

As I argued here last month, migration of minorities out of rural states has demographically structured the United States such that the Electoral College favors not only rural states, as it was designed to do, but also conservative white voters who reside in greater numbers in rural regions of the country. As a result, instead of balancing power across rural and urban states, the Electoral College creates opportunities for ultraconservative factions to enter the national stage.

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