An academic pollster explains why she thinks any Democratic nominee will win the presidency in 2020

Rachel Bitecofer, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University's Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy has developed a US election prediction model that performed very well in the 2018 midterms; she has since refined it based on the results of the election and she says can predict elections a long way off, regardless of who the nominee is.

Based on that model, she believes that Trump will lose the presidency in 2020, "barring a shock to the system"; which she attributes to a likely shift in midwestern voting, because "the complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped."

Bitecofer says that a Democratic nominee who is "a woman, a person of color or a Latino, or a female who is also a person of color" will drive a Democratic turnout surge in "really important places" but she thinks that even if someone as pale, male and stale as Joe Biden gets the nomination, they can still win if they pick the right running mate.

She also thinks that the Dems won't win Florida, because "Florida is really, really old," filled with conservative-leaning, Trump-forgiving "Greatest Generation" voters who "are also the nation’s most reliable voters." Add to them Florida's bumper-crop of "white, non-college educated voters, especially older ones," and the difficulty of mobilizing "young and/or Latino voters" for the Democratic party, and Florida is a write-off (see also: Texas, Georgia).

Trump’s second problem is that along with a turnout surge of Democrats that in many states like Virginia is simply larger than the turnout surges of Republicans because of demographics, he is deeply unpopular among Independents because of all the abnormal, norm-breaking and according to the Mueller Report, even illegal things, he does as president. This has left him with an abysmal approval rating averaging just 34.8% in 2019 among Independents, who largely broke against Republicans in the 2018 midterms as my theory predicted. In a follow-up piece to this forecast, I will show that much of this swing among Independents is actually the product of their own turnout surge, which brought more left-leaning Independents out to the polls by the same negative partisanship mechanisms that moved their partisan counterparts. This is why even the Democrat’s sharp drift to the left as they chase their party’s nomination, following the Republicans down the path of ideological polarization won’t have the impact on the vote choice of Independents Republicans are hoping for in 2018.

At the end of the day, Independents will be asked to weigh what Democrats might do against what Republicans, particularly Trump, are doing; the reverse situation from 2016 when Democrats suffered from the referendum effect among Independents. Even if the Democrat’s nominee is unabashedly liberal, it is not likely Trump can win a referendum among college-educated Independent voters without a dramatic transformation in both tone and style.

Republicans can survive an under-maximized Democratic turnout surge, like the one we saw in 2018 (I'll be showing this in forthcoming work), but not one that it is combined with the loss of Independent voters and not one without a corresponding Republican turnout surge which can only be accomplished via things likely to further isolate Independent voters and agitate Democrats.

With 16 Months to go, Negative Partisanship Predicts the 2020 Presidential Election [Rachel Bitecofer/Christopher Newport University]