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Trump’s base is not enough–only issue for possible triangulation is immigration

Greg Sargent at WaPo makes an argument today that I have been making for months–President Trump’s base is unlikely to be enough for him to win in 2020.  The 2018 midterm results were a harbinger of this reality, along with a changing electorate that is not working in his favor.

It will not surprise you to learn that President Trump just gave a speech that was full of distortions, this time about his record on the environment and climate change.

But it might surprise you to learn why Trump gave this speech: in part because his advisers are trying to mitigate the damage he’s sustained among millennial and suburban female voters.

This would seem to undercut Trump’s public bravado about his reelection chances. Trump recently mused in an interview that his base is “phenomenal,” and, when asked whether he needed to expand his appeal beyond it, said: “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that.”

Apparently Trump’s own advisers disagree. And the remedies they’re seeking for the problem they’ve identified tell us something interesting about the reelection challenges Trump faces.

The issue that could change the most hearts (and votes) is if the President were to soften his immigration views and propose something that could win him some swing votes and some Never Trump Republicans as well as the voting bloc shaping up to be the decider in 2020:  Libertarians.

From Sargent:

Indeed, it’s no accident that Trump has been falsely claiming that migrant detention was worse under Obama and that Obama was responsible for starting family separations. Large majorities now favor allowing Central American refugees to apply for asylum and legalizing undocumented immigrants. Trump’s cruelties are driving majorities toward a more pro-immigrant position — and away from Trumpist nationalism — and the percentages of young voters, women and college-educated whites who hold those positions are overwhelming.

In fact, the President has left room for an immigration “Nixon goes to China” in both his State of the Union speech (“legal immigration in the largest numbers ever”) and even at his major speech at CPAC.

For Trump, a move to a proposal like the Workforce Visa could retain nearly all of his base and help immensely with the swing voters he needs, not least Libertarians.

Libertarian Party

Let’s look at a few states from 2016–Wisconsin:

Results

[hide]U.S. presidential election, Wisconsin, 2016
Party Candidate Vote % Votes Electoral votes
Democratic Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 46.5% 1,382,536 0
Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDonald Trump/Mike Pence 47.2% 1,405,284 10
Libertarian Gary Johnson/Bill Weld 3.6% 106,674 0
Green Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka 1% 31,072 0
Constitution Darrell Lane Castle/Scott Bradley 0.4% 12,162 0
Workers Party Monica Moorehead/Lamont Lilly 0.1% 1,770 0
American Delta Rocky De La Fuente/Michael Steinberg 0.1% 1,502 0
Write-in votes 1.2% 35,150 0
Total Votes 2,976,150 10
Election results via: Wisconsin Elections Commission

Note: The vote totals above are from the recount.

Michigan:

Results

[hide]U.S. presidential election, Michigan, 2016
Party Candidate Vote % Votes Electoral votes
Democratic Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 47.3% 2,268,839 0
Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDonald Trump/Mike Pence 47.5% 2,279,543 16
Libertarian Gary Johnson/Bill Weld 3.6% 172,136 0
Green Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka 1.1% 51,463 0
U.S. Taxpayers Darrell Lane Castle/Scott Bradley 0.3% 16,139 0
Natural Law Emidio Soltysik/Angela Nicole Walker 0% 2,209 0
Other Write-in votes 0.2% 8,955 0
Total Votes 4,799,284 16
Election results via: Michigan Department of State

Ohio:

Results

[hide]U.S. presidential election, Ohio, 2016
Party Candidate Vote % Votes Electoral votes
Democratic Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 43.6% 2,394,164 0
Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDonald Trump/Mike Pence 51.7% 2,841,005 18
Libertarian Gary Johnson/Bill Weld 3.2% 174,498 0
Green Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka 0.8% 46,271 0
Other Richard Duncan/Ricky Johnson 0.4% 24,235 0
Other/Write-in 0.3% 16,314 0
Total Votes 5,496,487 18
Election results via: Federal Election Commission

 

 

In all three of these states, a less than compelling Libertarian candidate (Sorry Gary), drew over 3% of the voters.  If Justin Amash were to run as a Libertarian, he would likely do better than these totals.  And most of those votes will come from voters that might overlook the President’s trade and immigration records and vote for him anyway (lower taxes and regulations).

In other words, Libertarian voters could be the key to the 2020 race.  The President could embrace the Workforce Visa Proposal to stem any Amash defections and to appeal the swing voters that Sargent discusses.

Or a Democratic nominee could embrace the Workforce Visa and go after those voters.  Because it is a proposal that provides a possible path to permanent residence and citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the US, it is a proposal that could be explained to the Democratic Base.  Jeh Charles Johnson explains how.