WASHNGTON — One year before we elect the next president, more than half — 56% — of Americans say they think Donald Trump is likely to be re-elected.
Even though impeachment of Trump by the House will happen, the Republican-controlled Senate almost certainly will not vote to remove him from office, leaving Trump to insist he has been vindicated and able to seek a second term. He has a war chest of about $158 million, and it is growing. And he will claim the economy is in great shape.
Even though about 49% of Americans (it goes up and down a few points) say they would like to see Trump removed from office, so far Democratic presidential candidates have failed to garner a lot of excitement among independent voters.
In recent polling, one year before the vote, Joe Biden leads Trump in potential popular votes. But, as we have found out twice since 2000, the winner of the popular vote does not win the White House if he/she does not win enough electoral votes. Biden versus Trump in key states such as Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina is a 50-50 proposition. (Note that Ohio is no longer considered a swing state; it is solidly red.)
The bottom line of polling data at this snapshot moment in time shows that if the Biden and Trump were running against each other, the final outcome in electoral votes would be too close to call.
If Elizabeth Warren is pitted against Trump at this point in time, she loses.
If Bernie Sanders is pitted against Trump right now, Sanders loses.
Their ideas are deemed too big and out of reach.
Democrats have not yet decided how to campaign against Trump. They could move to the center, where more swing voters don't like Trump and are willing to consider getting rid of Trump. But that is not where Warren is, with her $20.5 trillion "Medicare for All" plan, which could not possibly get through a Republican-controlled Senate. That is not where Sanders is with his free college for all pledge, etc.
Democrats could go all out to entice young voters and liberals who voted for Sanders in 2016, voted for Jill Stein or who didn't vote at all. This would involve making many impossible-to-keep, unaffordable promises of big-government solutions to such thorny social issues as poverty, lack of adequate education, racism, opioid addiction, far too costly but often ineffective health care, and lack of wage growth.
Democrats could beat the drums against Trump's scorn for ethics and narcissistic approach to government, calling out the rampant corruption he and his family have introduced to Washington (already a very corrupt place).
Democrats could highlight impeachment, the obviously illegal bribery/extortion attempts he made in withholding a congressionally approved $400 million aid package to Ukraine in a failed exchange for a bogus investigation designed to smear Biden.
Democrats could concentrate on how Trump has spent more than $1.5 trillion to help the wealthy, failed to help the middle class, refused to hike the minimum wage, gutted Obamacare, refused to accept climate change science, alienated and abandoned our allies, made the air and water dirtier, made reproductive rights more difficult for women to keep, sullied our national efforts for civil and individual rights, gave away national crown jewels to drillers, appointed judges who think like he does. The list is long.
Democrats could emphasize that government is working for the elite, not for all.
If Trump wins re-election, Democrats have one hope of forestalling his efforts to make the U.S. more authoritarian. Almost certainly keeping control of the House, they might also take control of the Senate. The recent November state elections showed that there is great disquiet in the land. The Senate is getting closer to Democratic reach, but such a goal is too far yet from the realm of probability.
Even though taking the Senate would be a stunning win for Democrats, losing the White House most likely would guarantee another partisan impeachment-removal effort and another four-year round of acrimonious debate between an even further unleashed Twitter Trump and civil society.
In the scope of human history, democracy is still a foundling. If democracy were a human, in the Trump era we could conclude it has been failing to thrive. But Democrats are flailing, and although a year may seem a long way away, time is running out.
If there is good news for Democrats it is that while 56% of likely voters think Trump probably will be reelected, 55% do not want him reelected.