The Anyone-But-Trump Vote

Marc Caputo explains why Trump traveled to Florida on Tuesday to kick off his 2020 reelection campaign. The state has both personal and political significance for the president.

He owns the Mar-a-Lago club and three golf clubs in South Florida, which he frequently visits in the winter months. His campaign manager and chief pollster also live in Florida, and his campaign’s chief spokeswoman grew up in the state, which Trump narrowly carried in 2016.

“For all practical purposes, Florida is the president’s home. It has outsize importance to him personally,” said Susie Wiles, who led Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Florida and advises his reelection campaign.

But from a political standpoint, Republicans and Democrats in the state know that a GOP candidate is almost guaranteed to lose a presidential race without Florida. The last Republican to win the White House without Florida was Calvin Coolidge in 1924 — long before Florida became the third-most populous state in the nation and the country’s biggest battleground state with 29 Electoral College votes.

On the day of Trump’s campaign rally in Orlando, the local paper weighed in with an unusually early endorsement in the 2020 race. It wasn’t a statement of support for a specific candidate. Instead, it amounted to “anyone but Trump.”

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies…

The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that.

We can do better. We have to do better.

That argument captures how an awful lot of Americans feel at this point, including voters in Florida. Here is what a recent Quinnipiac poll in the Sunshine State found in head-to-head match ups with Democratic contenders.

Biden 50%, Trump 41%
Sanders 48%, Trump 42%
Warren 47%, Trump 43%
Harris 45%, Trump 44%
Buttigieg 44%, Trump 43%
O’Rourke 45%, Trump 44%

The president doesn’t seem able to rise above the low 40’s, no matter who is his opponent. That is true even as many of the contenders are still relatively unknown.

All of this points to something Aaron Blake wrote about as Trump’s worst poll number.

There is one poll question I keep coming back to when I think about President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. It’s the one in which pollsters ask whether people would “definitely not” vote for him.

This is an especially bad number for Trump. National polls generally show a majority of people (51-56 percent) say they wouldn’t.

Blake goes on to say that these numbers for Trump are unprecedented: “Pollsters have asked this question dating back to Jimmy Carter, and nobody has ever seen such a high ‘definitely not vote for’ number as Trump.”

In my lifetime, a president has never been elected simply because the majority of voters were against their opponent. Perhaps the closest example was Jimmy Carter, following the fiasco of Gerald Ford taking over after Richard Nixon resigned. It is also possible that fears about Barry Goldwater’s extremism played a role in Lyndon Johnson’s overwhelming victory in 1964. But the fear of and antipathy for Donald Trump is at a whole different level.

I suspect that this is why the Democratic primary has attracted more than 20 candidates, several of whom would make an excellent nominee for the general election. They know that the incumbent starts off with a severe disadvantage, with some of the lowest presidential job approval ratings of the modern era.

Of course, no one assumes that a Democrat is guaranteed to win in 2020. For one thing, the current occupant of the White House knows no limit to how low, unethical, or even illegal he will go in this race. And simply riding on Trump’s unpopularity is no basis for winning the presidency. But none of that changes the fact that we are in uncharted waters when it comes to this election.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.