The New York Times/Siena College partnership keeps producing terrible news for the 2020 Democratic contenders. This time, on the heels of a poll that showed only former Vice President Joe Biden giving President Donald Trump a challenge in battleground states, the NYT’s Upshot discovered that swing state voters who “swung” to Democrats in 2018 plan to swing back to Trump.
“Nearly two-thirds of voters in six battleground states who voted for President Trump in 2016 — but for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 — say they intend to back the president against each of his top rivals, according to recent polling,” the NYT said Wednesday.
Those “battleground states” include Michigan and Wisconsin, two states key to Democrats’ electoral success in 2020, and two states that elected a number of Democrats in the 2018 mid-terms, helping the Dems reclaim control of the House of Representatives. Both Wisconsin and Michigan were considered major 2018 losses for Republicans, who couldn’t hold on to the governor’s office in either state, though both legislatures remain fairly evenly split.
Democrats had hoped those gains portended big changes in 2020. They particularly hoped that those voters — blue collar voters, “red state” moderate Democrats, and union members — who responded well to President Donald Trump’s message of economic populism and American industrial exceptionalism had soured on the president after a series of trade deals that made American products more expensive and may have damaged some industries.
That doesn’t seem to be the case — and it may be the difference between success and disaster for Democrats, even though the voters in question represent just a “sliver” of voters overall.
“This group is only a sliver of the electorate — 2 percent of registered voters — and is not representative of all voters. They are overwhelmingly white, 60 percent are male, and two-thirds have no college degree,” the NYT reports. “But the president’s strength among them helps explain why he is highly competitive in states that Democrats carried just one year ago.”
It turns out that voters in these states are extremely well informed, at least as far as their own personal situations are concerned, and have nuanced voting habits: they tend to consider larger, national politics in presidential years, but vote more on local issues in mid-years.
The voters the NYT spoke to say they sent Dems to Congress and to their respective governors’ mansions in 2018 because it made sense for them on a practical level, and they preferred each individual Democratic candidate to the Republican option. But on a national scale they say the media is largely wrong about how Trump’s policies have affected Rust Belt workers and that they’re more than happy to send him back for a second term, if it means continued success.
“In the last couple years, the Democrats had kind of been losing the work, and I thought Trump might get us that work,” one voter told the NYT. “And to be honest, I’ve been in construction 21 years and the last two years were the best years I’ve ever had.”
Democrats, the same voter said, had better ideas on local issues, particularly how to tackle the opioid epidemic and how to handle veterans’ affairs on a state level.
It seems that swing state voters also respond well to President Trump’s message that he isn’t “politics as usual.”
“If you’re going to Washington, you need to do something,” another voter, a self-described “southern Democrat” who voted for Trump in 2016 added. “If the only thing you’re going to do the whole time you’re there is try to get rid of the president, that’s a problem. I mean, Trump is not a great person, but you’ve got to get some work done.”
“He’s not exactly the person I’d have as my best friend,” added another. “But he’s a great president. Most politicians just talk about doing things, but Trump does them.”
Oddly enough, many of these voters say they feel the same way about someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), because they appear to be outsiders to the political establishment they despise so much. Since Democrats aren’t likely to nominate Sanders or Gabbard, they’re focused on Trump.
This is just the latest in a string of bad news for Democrats vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, though. Between a lackluster response to the impeachment inquiry and news that swing state voters respond more favorably to a message the Democratic National Committee isn’t interested in pursuing, things are looking a bit grim for the party’s prospects.