Every good politician or political consultant, when they go to the media, goes with a set of “talking points” to put the best spin on a story coherently.
The talking points for Republicans following this last election have been “Trump is in good shape in 2020, Republicans took the Governors’ offices in Ohio and Florida, both ‘must win’ states if Trump wishes to retain the Presidency in 2020.” While I agree, instead of talking points I think Republicans should have worry points - matters of concern for 2020 if we wish to retain the Presidency.
First, lets recap 2016. Trump wins the presidency by winning Florida and Ohio, the “must win” states, but those two were not enough. Had Trump just won those two states out of all the battleground states, he would have ended up with 238 electoral votes (subtracting Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Interesting fact, Trump won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined total of 86,000 votes. If 43,000 people had changed their mind, the U.S. would have had President Hillary Clinton.
So... what are the worry points? Republicans must win Ohio and Florida, plus Iowa and North Carolina, and at least one of the Michigan, Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania group to retain the presidency. Based on this election, the other battleground states - Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and New Hampshire - seem to have fallen rather securely into the blue column.
First, Florida. The Republican governor and U.S. Senate candidates seem to have won by 50,000 and 30,000 votes respectively. Trump won Florida in 2016 by 113,000 votes, so 2018’s results are a significant fall off for Republicans. But that is only half the story.
In this election, Florida voters gave 1.5 million convicted felons the right to vote. Combine that with the 1 million Puerto Ricans that have moved into Florida over the last 3 years, a migration accelerated by last year’s hurricane, and Florida is looking at a pool of 2.5 million new potential voters. Puerto Ricans register 65 percent Democrat in Puerto Rico, and I don’t think convicted felons are a target demographic for Republicans. These groups register and vote, and Republicans have a decidedly uphill battle to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes in 2020.
Yes, Republicans won the governorship in Ohio, but they lost the Senate seat. Ohio is still a battleground state that can go either way.
How about Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania? We have witnessed two years of absolute social turmoil by Democrats for the sole purpose of changing the minds of 43,000 people. The result? The Democrats swept the governor and Senate seats in all three states by wide margins. The “social turmoil” strategy worked, so look for more of that over the next two years. The Democrats have an easy target - keep those 43,000 people that voted for Democrats in this election by whatever means necessary. We will see investigations, allegations and instigations galore. They worked when the Democrats were in the minority, imagine how much better will they work when they control at least one house of Congress.
Republicans should also be worrying a great deal about the close results in the traditional red “flyover” states of Texas, Georgia and Arizona (where Democrats flipped a Republican seat). The traditional “blue wall” that Republicans faced from 1988 to 2012, but breached by Trump in 2016, seems to have been reconstructed.
Republicans are in real trouble for 2020, and ought to consider these “worry points” and how to overcome them. The traditional “winner take all” rule of selecting presidential electors is not serving us well, and we need to rethink our strategy. Republicans leave a lot of votes behind in the flyover states in the South and Midwest, and there are a lot of Republicans behind the “blue wall” that think, rightly so, that the Republican Party doesn’t care about them. Getting behind a strategy that makes those votes count, and is directed at turning out those votes, may not “guarantee” the Republicans a win in 2020, but it will not leave us with so few options, as the current system seems to have done.
We now have our worry points. Now we just need a solution to overcome them.
Ray Haynes is a former California legislator and served as National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Haynes can be reached at email@example.com.