(Crosspost from Facebook)

Currently waves of anti-Trump protests are sweeping the nation, in light of his unethical and likely un-constitutional executive order restricting the safe passage of immigrants and refugees. Since the women’s march on Washington I’ve heard two or three different people now say there is no way Trump will be re-elected in 2020. Everyone who wishes Trump to be defeated should try to cultivate a realistic view on how difficult it might be. Under my current calibration, my 95% confidence interval for Trump winning in 2020 is is 20%-85%. That factors in a ~10% chance he will be impeached. Here’s my thinking:

  •  He was elected in 2016, winning the electoral college by 36 votes, therefore we have a strong prior for re-election. Even if he lost PA and Michigan in 2020, he would still win (see 270 to Win’s map).
  • Trump’s lack of intelligence has already been established as not a problem for him.
  • Only 11/45 presidents lost after their first term, and only 3 since 1933, so there is a strong prior in that regard as well.
  • The Democrats do not have a strong set of contenders. Elizabeth Warren might be the best, but I fear she would lose because of pervasive misogyny that clearly factored into Hillary Clinton losing. I’m guessing Joe Biden won’t run (he will be 78), but he would be a pretty strong candidate if he did. I think Bernie could win against Trump in the general, but I doubt he can win the primary, simply because he is very weak in the south. Also, he will be 79.
  • Trump will grow as a candidate, and become more presidential and more knowledgeable about the world. He stumbled repeatedly on the campaign trail when asked about foreign policy specifics. He has consistently avoided saying the names of world leaders and specific place names, likely because he can’t recall them easily. He even didn’t call the European Union by its name, but rather “the consortium”. However, in 2020 he will have learned many of those things, and therefore will be a stronger candidate.
  • He has “the largest megaphone in the world”, which is the White House and its social media accounts and assorted accoutrements for the rapid dissemination of press releases. Anything that he says will be immediately broadcast to millions of Americans on all news channels, the same cannot be said for opponents trying to run against him. Most of the GOP candidates who are running in 2020 will support him, since if he does well in 2020 they will do well. Sociologists might lump all this into what they call “structural advantages”.
  • So far Trump is doing exactly what his core supporters wanted him to do when they elected him.
  • There is a chance of increased voter suppression.
  • Undocumented immigrants will have increased difficulty voting or will have been deported. How much they contribute is highly debatable (probably very small, especially because there are relatively few in swing states), but it is a factor.
  • There’s a possibility of increased war in middle east or more terrorist attacks, events which historically cause voters to strongly favor the incumbent. Defense is the one area where overall Trump scored higher than Clinton amongst all voters. This is a big factor especially considering that Trump & Bannon’s discriminatory and prejudiced policies towards Muslims will likely serve as a powerful recruitment tool for ISIS and other terrorist groups.
  • Trump is good at controlling the media and his image.
  • Trump will have stacked the courts in his favor.
  • Trump may be using hypnotic techniques in his speeches (probably unknowingly) (See Scott Adam’s analysis). I am skeptical of this, but it’s a possible factor.
  • Left wing activists are still focusing on PC, many are not engaging in civilized debate / are using the heckler’s veto, and are not respecting freedom of speech. Many people voted for Trump as a pushback against PC and will do so again in 2020. (see this article).
  • His supporters will remain in the Breitbart / Drudge Report / InfoWars / Talk radio / Fake news echo chamber(s).
  • Social media and search engine filter bubbles will maintain political polarization.

I realize this analysis is incomplete. One unknown is where there is any ‘dirt’ left on Trump out there, such as a video of him with prostitutes or a video of him using the “N word” (which has been claimed to exist, but never produced). However, the video where Trump bragged about the ability to sexually assault women didn’t hurt him that much. Furthermore, if there were such videos, they likely would have made it out before the 2016 election. Another factor is demographics – in particular, the new young voters coming on the voting rolls and and Trump voters dying before 2020. However, in 2016 Trump got 37% of millennials (age 18-29), and this is in line with pretty consistent GOP turnout from millennials going back to 1972. The biggest unknown for me (and the reason my confidence interval is so large) is how the economy will do in the next four years, and how that might affect the election. Here are some possibilities:

  • An economic downturn due to bursting of stock market bubble after interest rates are raised
  • An economic downturn due to bursting of the higher education bubble. (?)
  • Economic calamity from trade shut down / chaos.
  • Economic calamity from automation / AI causing job loss.