Historically presidents of either party had been elected to a second term, except a few. In the case of the Democrats, the most recent one-term president was Jimmy Carter, and for the Republican, it was George H.W. Bush. Usually, the party occupying the White House has more than a better chance of holding on to it, and an easier fight by virtue of being the incumbent. When a president ends up being a one-term president, it is because things are so bad that the electorate believes they will be better off with a new president. To a large extent, being a one-term president is a rejection of not just policies but also the person, which is equivalent to getting fired. No president has more ego than Donald Trump, and a rejection of Trump may end up killing him. Nevertheless, that is hardly a reason to give him a second term.
By conventional wisdom, Trump should be a one-term president. The recent pandemic has nearly destroyed the economy, with millions of citizens out of work. Thousands of businesses closed their doors. The coronavirus persists as more Americans die each day. Social upheavals about police brutality and racism turned many US big cities into war zones. Trump’s polls numbers have gone from worst to bad if you believe the pundits and the pollsters. Most Americans reportedly think that the country is heading the wrong way.
New polls released the day before the democratic convention show Biden leading Trump by nine percentage points (50-41). According to the polls, 50 % of Americans said they would vote for Biden if the elections were held today. Trump’s job approval rating is below 40%. Statistically, no president who has had such a low job approval rating so close to an election has been reelected for a second term. Yet, there is a prevailing fear among Democrats that Trump might win a second term. Biden has been in politics for over five decades and has failed to generate widespread enthusiasm among a broader electorate. He has been viewed more negatively than positively, and many voters, Biden, will be a continuation of Obama. Only 39% of the voters view Biden favorably, a rate that is close to Trump’s job approval rating.
Donald Trump could win a second term for reasons unaccounted by the polls. First of all, polls are often inaccurate don’t reflect the political reality or what people are actually thinking or will do on election day. In 2016 many people claimed that they would vote for Clinton but turned out to vote for Trump. Trump voters are still afraid to admit that they will vote for Trump for fear of being branded, racist. Second, the coronavirus has made it difficult for people to go out to vote prompted many states to allow voting by mail. Trump has recently declared war on the US postal service, part of his campaign strategy to suppress democratic votes. All things being equaled, the race for president is probably very tight though the polls do not show it.
Trump understands something that many politicians do not understand. It does not matter what the polls or the media say. What matters is if you can suppress the vote of your opponent and increase your vote count, you win. The Republican strategy is solid and focuses on places where the votes matter in terms of the electoral college. Many county Republican party chairs see a version of the electoral landscape that is no worse for Trump than 2016. Phillipe Stephens, GOP Chairman of Robeson County, North Carolina, told Politico that the “more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump. We are calling him Teflon Trump. Nothing is going to stick, because if anything, it is getting more exciting than it was in 2016.” Other Republican party chairpersons from Ohio to Wisconsin have shared similar views that the electorate in these swing states support Trump. To a certain extent, Mr. Stephens is correct, Trump voters are excited about his prospect of reelection, and they are motivated to ensure that Trump is not a one-term president. Biden supporters are not as excited and enthusiastic as Trump supporters. Biden’s choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate was supposed to generate more enthusiasm among women in general and African Americans in particular. So far, there has been more buzz on the internet about whether Senator Harris is actually a black woman.
The progressive wing of the democratic party has been advocating defunding the police something that Trump is using to attack Biden, even though Biden has gone on the records rejecting the national movement to defund the police as ill-advised and counterproductive. Trump needs something to attack Biden with and drag him down because Trump has fallen behind in most swing states. But despite the polls, Republican party chairs, unlike 2016, are devoutly committed to Trump. The party apparatus is fervently behind Trump because many of the old guards had been replaced by Trump loyalists, whose assessment of the electorate and local politics is very different from that portrayed in polls and the media. They believe that Trump will be reelected and probably by a landslide. The Republican Party’s vast organization, especially in the swing states, has an operational game plan that is based on increasing turn-outs where it matters most. As the economy is slowly re-opening, Republican party organizers see it as a good sign that could help Donald Trump and the party’s effort to keep the White House. They might just do it, especially if Democrats get complacent or fail to get out the votes. African Americans turn out will be crucial and will determine who wins.