Midterm Results Don’t Bode Well For Trump’s 2020 Odds

Donald Trump
Donald Trump will need all his campaigning skills in the 2020 election. Photo by Susan Penning (Released)
  • The “Blue Wave” wasn’t exactly a tsunami.
  • There were some worrying results for Trump last night.
  • Is Donald Trump still a good bet to win in 2020?

The 2020 midterms happened last night, and the results defy a quick summary. The GOP made some gains in the Senate, and won some races for Governor, but they lost the House of Representatives and some other key races.

Looking ahead to 2020, however, a clearer picture starts to form.

2020 Presidential Election Odds

For more, check out our full 2020 Presidential Election Odds Tracker. Here’s the current odds from Bovada:

Candidate Odds to win the 2020 US Presidential Election atBovada (11/07/18)
Donald Trump +150
Kamala Harris +1000
Bernie Sanders +1200
Joe Biden +1400
Mike Pence +2000

Poor Results Considering Strong Economy

Midterm elections are notoriously dependant on economic factors. In times of recession, people show up to the polls to fire their representatives in government. In times of prosperity, incumbents generally have a strong advantage. Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign office featured a sign that read “It’s the economy, stupid” and turned out to be prescient.

This makes last night’s results a little concerning for Donald Trump’s reelection team. Despite an economy that’s running very, very hot (perhaps too hot?), Democrats won the popular vote in House races by decent margins. While that didn’t translate into a huge gain in seats for the Democrats, it’s certainly not encouraging for Trump. Here’s the vote totals, per the New York Times:

Chamber Votes for Democrats Votes for Republicans
House 51,440,061 (51.2%) 47,264,364 (47.1%)
Senate 45,856,043 (56.9%) 33,412,369 (41.5%)

I know that vote totals don’t actually matter in US elections. The Democrats scored 12 million more votes in Senate races and got nothing more than a bunch of stickers out of it. They do, however, help us project future results, and obviously you’d rather be the party receiving more votes going forward.

For example, a key race to look at is the Texas Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. Texas is pretty deep red, and early polls had Ted Cruz up by ~20%. That O’Rourke, who started as a relative unknown, was able to almost close that gap (eventually losing by about 2.6%) in a Texas Senate race with the economy zooming is pretty concerning for Republicans everywhere.

If Cruz was just able to skate by, which Republican strongholds are really safe?

Strong Turnout Not Good for Republicans

Republicans tend to perform better in low-turnout elections. Their base consists of committed, high-likelihood voters, so the smaller the turnout the better. That’s previously given them an advantage in midterm elections, where voter turnout is almost always lower than in a presidential year.

That’s going to be a concern going forward, as this year turnout was much, much higher than in previous midterm elections:

Year Election Type Turnout
2018 Midterm ~114 million
2016 Presidential 136 million
2014 Midterm 83 million
2012 Presidential 126 million
2010 Midterm 91 million

An upward trend in voter participation is generally thought of as bad for the GOP, particularly if it outpaces growth in the eligible population, which this does. As the voter turnout numbers increase, it becomes harder and harder to make the electoral college numbers work out for a Trump victory.

The Florida Ballot Measure

An item of underrated importance came through in Florida, the country’s most notoriously hair-splitting state.

Florida’s Amendment 4 automatically re-enfranchises people with felony convictions after the completion of their sentences, excepting those convicted of murder or felony sexual offense. It garnered more than the 60% of the vote it needed to pass, and now roughly 1.5 million previously disenfranchised Floridians can vote.

That might be enough to swing Florida into some more decisive decisions. Donald Trump won the state by 112,911 votes, and now faces a slightly less favorable electorate. Since those with felony convictions are disproportionately from demographic groups that tend to vote blue, this reshuffle could change the math in Florida.

2020 Betting Advice

If you can get Trump vs the Field at +150, take the field. There’s a few too many red flags here for a comfortable Trump bet, but far too many Democratic names to choose from.

It’s anyone’s guess how the Democratic primary is going to turn out since the party hasn’t cleared the deck for any one candidate like they did for Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders should probably be the favorite there, but he’s already failed to win the nomination once. Betting on any other Republican is very aggressive and not worth the risk, as the odds just don’t give you a big enough payout for the symphony of unlikely events that have to take place for Mike Pence to become President in 2020.

Trump’s still the favorite, but the GOP results last night weren’t reassuring for Republicans and it’s not clear how long this favorable economy is going to last. If Trump faces a compelling candidate in a high-turnout election with a recession on, he’ll need all the election-day magic he summoned in 2016.

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