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Now that the 2020 presidential campaign is underway, here’s what we’ve learned so far.

President Trump is delivering the same angry, divisive message he used to mobilize his mostly white, mostly conservative voters four years ago.

At his campaign’s kickoff rally, he told his followers in Orlando, Fla., that Democrats are “driven by hatred, prejudice and rage; they want to destroy you and destroy our country as we know it.” This time, Trump has the added advantages of incumbency, a unified Republican Party and a strong economy.

Doyle McManus mug

Doyle McManus

The Democrats are trying to reassemble the broad multiracial coalition that elected Barack Obama twice and almost elected Hillary Clinton.

But as we saw in their debates last week, the scramble for primary voters is driving them leftward toward policy positions that could be trouble in the general election campaign — on health care and immigration, for example.

Trump’s divisiveness is a calculated, purposeful feature; it was key to his electoral college victory in 2016.

Several teams of political scholars produced postmortems on that election and concluded Trump won because he seized control of the debate and hammered at issues that touched on race, ethnicity and national identity, including Mexican immigration and Islamic terrorism.

The fact that he has reopened the playbook this year is dispiriting but shouldn’t come as a surprise.

This time, however, Trump has a powerful new talking point: He’s presided over two years of robust economic growth. The president is notorious for inventing his own facts, but on the economy the truth is mostly on his side.

Unemployment in May was 3.6%, the lowest rate in almost 51 years. Democrats argue that most of the credit should go to Obama for launching the recovery, but Obama isn’t on the ballot.

Normally, a first-term president with a booming economy should be able to coast into a second term. That’s how Ronald Reagan won in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1996 and Obama in 2012.

Not Trump. He’s so unpopular that he’s generated his own head winds. He’s the only president whose job approval has never reached 50% since the Gallup Poll began asking in 1938.

His personal unpopularity has produced a backlash against his positions, too.

After Trump began sweeping Republican primaries in 2016, backing for Obama’s health-care law increased. So did support for offering undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. And more Americans said the country hasn’t done enough to ensure equal rights for black citizens.

Most of the change in sentiment was among Democrats, who coalesced around the opposite to the president’s views.

In 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, 57% of white Democrats said they believed the “country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights.” By 2017, the number had risen to 80%.

So the Democratic primary electorate is more liberal than it used to be — partly, it appears, because of that polarizing Trumplash. In 2009, 32% of Democrats described themselves as liberals; this year, it was 46%.

Those numbers help explain the noticeably progressive tone of the back-to-back Democratic debates.

On health care, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (and maybe Kamala Harris) said they favored abolishing private health insurance, an idea most voters oppose. Most other candidates, including Joe Biden, have said they would allow private insurance to compete with a government-run “public option” plan.

On immigration, all 10 candidates in Thursday’s debate said they would allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in their healthcare plans, something Obama never proposed.

Trump can be counted on to campaign gleefully against both of those positions, as well as the Green New Deal energy plan several candidates endorsed. He’s already denounced all the Democrats as “socialists,” including the ones who have explicitly denounced socialism.

“The most challenging thing in a presidential election is to be the party out of power when there’s a strong economy,” noted Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA scholar who co-authored one of the best of the 2016 postmortem studies, “Identity Crisis.”

Democrats “need to find an issue to focus on that voters will consider more important than the economy,” she told me. But it can’t just be opposition to Trump. “That was one of the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.”

Trump, on the other hand, has an opportunity to tout the economy.

Bottom line: This is an election both sides are fully capable of losing.

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Doyle McManus writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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(24) comments

oldhomey

D, I don't want to accuse you of ducking, but you have not got back to me on my post of Jul 5, 2019 3:55pm, which is below in this string. You have challenged me to provide sources for my statements, and I have. Now I have asked the same of you. You have not. What gives?

oldhomey

No response, D? You put me to work asking me to document my statements, but you are not willing to do the same for me? I have two responses to your non-response. One. I think it is evident that you have nothing to say that backs up your statements. Two. Don't ever in the future ask me to back up what I am saying with sourcing. I will ignore you. In any event, I try my best to source things when needed, anyway. You never do.

DMoney

Which column? I'll gladly reply

oldhomey

It was this column, D. I repeated the question in at least one other string. I hope you are not being coy by pretending to have overlooked it. To save you the bother of having to scroll down through a couple dozen comments here, I will simply cut and paste what you say you hadn't noticed earlier: oldhomey Jul 5, 2019 3:55pm D, on another string under a different column today I spent a considerable amount of time providing you with the sources of data I referred to in a reply to you. I respectfully now ask you to do the same for me here: One: "In the past month, there has been national outrage at the flying of gay pride flags from public buildings. I'm talking millions and millions of people offended (myself not included--I frankly don't care)." Millions upon millions, or right wing commentators on your right-wing echo chamber websites. You obviously have the data on millions upon millions. Let's see it, please. Two. "A significant part of the US population, isolated from the very government agencies and politicians that are supposed to represent them neutrally. " A very strange comment, indeed, even coming from you. What is this supposed to be saying, and please back up your explanation with some data. Three. "Now, a very very short time later, one of the largest and most iconic companies in the country publicly remove and ban the sale of apparel with the original US flag on it, at the singular complaint of a half black man who was already a lightning rod for controversy. Add those things together and what do you see? I see it. " You don't explain what you "see", D, but if you get around to explaining it, please give us some data that you are seeing what millions upon millions of others are seeing, too. Four. "I don't know how engaged you are on social media but the hornet's nest has been kicked. I see people I know who are independent and even left leaning fighting back against this cultural earthquake." I am not very engaged on social media beyond email and my time wasted on these boards, D. You seem to have experienced an earthquake recently that I have seen no evidence of huge portions of the U.S. population also experiencing. A little data, please, to clarify this tremor. Five. "The politicians matter little. What matters is how extreme and how quickly this country is hijacked by a movement that is shaking the core of our greatness. Trump symbolizes normalcy. And incidents like these will push people his way." There is plenty of data about how the Trump regime has hijacked the Republican Party and is moving the nation rapidly away from its glory days. That is present in the responsible news media every day of the year. You seem to be alleging something completely opposite, and, of course, with no data to back up what you are alleging. Or perhaps you can, now that you have been challenged. I will be extremely interested in how you can shape Trump into a standard of normalcy.

johnnybragatti

Who will beat trump ? The American Women. The educated ones.

oldhomey

I think the Dems will stupidly lose this election if they cannot reel in the over-enthusiastic left wing of the Party. I don;t disagree at all with the aspirations of the left wing, but they are much too far ahead of the general voting public. A big majority of Americans want to get the bum in the White House removed, and they also want to see healthcare expanded through an expansion and improvement of Obamacare. They want to see the U.S. recover its mantle of respectability and leadership in the world that Trump has erased. By hammering on those two issues and leaving the rest of the left wing's agenda on the sideline for now, they should win, particularly if it has a strong candidate like Harris who would flay Trump in any debate. But if the Dems persist on pushing a far left agenda, the election is lost.

DMoney

You underestimate the power that society and culture have on elections. The flying of gay pride flags from government buildings, the kneeling during anthems, the high profile false accusations of hate crime. The banning of nationally treasured songs for the singers racism 80 years ago. The removal of Nike shoes with the original us flag on them because one black man said it offended him. These things drive moderate and independent people hard to the right. Many more incidents like this new Nike thing, and the election will be over before it ever gets close.

oldhomey

Why would flying gay pride flags from government buildings offend you, D? You say you support LGBQT issues, but you continually show deep anti-gay quirks in your remarks. And I don't think flying gay pride flags during gay pride month is going to send people into the anti-gay Republican camp. It may reinforce your anti-gay feelings, and those of the Trump base, but not anybody else, and you are not in the majority. Ditto with the whole question of athletes kneeling during the anthem . Has there been a spate of high-profile false accusations of hate crime? The one in Chicago is the only one I can think of. Do you have one or two others you want to throw in? Does that constitute a troubling trend in racial division to your mind? If so, it is more of an indication of your troubled mind. The Kate Smith incident? Absolutely ridiculous, and I am sure already forgotten. I am sure whomever originally brought it up by now must feel steamrollered by ridicule. Nike? I barely heard something about it, but it must be a big issue in the right-wing echo chambers you rely on for "news". Nike is going to spell disaster for the Democrats? Puh-leeze.

capedcrusader

oldhomey, I think DMoney is sometimes filled with phony outrage. He probably thinks a heterosexual flag should be flying because he feels their the ones discriminated against. Trump wanted a war with the Democrats and he's going to get it. I don't see a single Democrat for for the conservatives as long as Trump is the candidate. I think the only thing that saves his Presidency is the Electoral College. And if that happens again for the third time in recent history there will be blood. I'd bet on it.

DMoney

I explained my views on the gay pride flag ad nauseum on the relevant articles. I won't rehash it. I support total and complete equality for everyone in the LBGTQ community. True equality. Meaning no special flags.

DMoney

There will be blood?!? You are calling for armed revolution/anarchy? How awfully progressive of you.....

oldhomey

I would hope, caped, that there will not be blood. That seems more in the province of the NRA crowd that whispers loose, dark rumors of violence if things don't go their way. But if Trump wins again through the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by millions, you can bet that the political pressure will be on for then next couple of decades to repair the system to reflect one man, one vote, period. These have been terrible people put into office by the Electoral College. It simply cannot be disputed or denied that they have been our worst presidents.

DMoney

The country was founded expressly against the idea of "one man, one vote". There wouldn't be a United States if the governments of less populated states did not have an equal vote as those in major states. An overpopulated and troubled city/state should not determine federal policy and law for a smaller, more rural state. If the electoral system was overturned, then you might see bloodshed. It's the kind of action that could lead to dissolution, and then civil war if they were not allowed to go peacefully.

DMoney

I'd be moving to a seceding state, in that scenario. No way I'm living under the shadow of huge, corrupt cities.

oldhomey

Yes, you have made it quite clear, D, that you much prefer the right to live in smaller, even more corrupt societies. The worst crime areas in the U.S. are not the big cities, they are smaller cities, towns and rural areas, particularly our tax-averse southern redneck states. It is the big cities and populous states who pay out more in federal taxes to jack up services in less populous states, particularly southern states, that refuse to take care of their own people. The big cities and more populous states lose money, because they don't get back in federal services what they spend on them. You don't see or hear about the beggar rural states turning down federal assistance. That should suit you just fine, D, as you have made it clear that you are an "I got mine, pal, don't ask me for nothin', though".

DMoney

Why oh why in God's name do you live HERE? That's like the equivalent of me living in a big city while hating them. I would be gone in a flash.

DMoney

Think about this for a second. Try to take the blinders off and look at this at face value: In the past month, there has been national outrage at the flying of gay pride flags from public buildings. I'm talking millions and millions of people offended (myself not included--I frankly don't care). A significant part of the US population, isolated from the very government agencies and politicians that are supposed to represent them neutrally. Now, a very very short time later, one of the largest and most iconic companies in the country publicly remove and ban the sale of apparel with the original US flag on it, at the singular complaint of a half black man who was already a lightning rod for controversy. Add those things together and what do you see? I see it. I don't know how engaged you are on social media but the hornet's nest has been kicked. I see people I know who are independent and even left leaning fighting back against this cultural earthquake. The politicians matter little. What matters is how extreme and how quickly this country is hijacked by a movement that is shaking the core of our greatness. Trump symbolizes normalcy. And incidents like these will push people his way.

DMoney

And yes, I recognize the insanity present of considering Trump "normal". That's the whole point. We've reached a point where we go to Donald Trump to feel normal. Because he is, compared to recent cultural events. As insane as that is.

oldhomey

D, it must give you great comfort that you live in one of the most corrupt, unfair Republican-dominated states in the union. Wisconsin is no giant in terms of population, but it has far more Democrats than Republicans, and yet it has a state legislature dominated by Republicans. Why is that? You seem to be okay with gerrymandering when it serves your political needs. Should Democrats who are upset by this move to Illinois, where the Democrats are doing the same thing as the Republicans in Wisconsin? Or should we work together and try to make voting as fair and representative as it can be for all Americans? Crime? Three of the most famous murders in the U.S. post WWII -- and I mean famously notorious that they are universally recognized decades later -- were Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and the abduction of Jaymie Close. Two of those were in rural parts of Wisconsin, and Dahmer was in Milwaukee. We don't have to look up to New York, Chicago and LA for infamous criminality, we have it in our own state.

oldhomey

D, on another string under a different column today I spent a considerable amount of time providing you with the sources of data I referred to in a reply to you. I respectfully now ask you to do the same for me here: One: "In the past month, there has been national outrage at the flying of gay pride flags from public buildings. I'm talking millions and millions of people offended (myself not included--I frankly don't care)." Millions upon millions, or right wing commentators on your right-wing echo chamber websites. You obviously have the data on millions upon millions. Let's see it, please. Two. "A significant part of the US population, isolated from the very government agencies and politicians that are supposed to represent them neutrally. " A very strange comment, indeed, even coming from you. What is this supposed to be saying, and please back up your explanation with some data. Three. "Now, a very very short time later, one of the largest and most iconic companies in the country publicly remove and ban the sale of apparel with the original US flag on it, at the singular complaint of a half black man who was already a lightning rod for controversy. Add those things together and what do you see? I see it. " You don't explain what you "see", D, but if you get around to explaining it, please give us some data that you are seeing what millions upon millions of others are seeing, too. Four. "I don't know how engaged you are on social media but the hornet's nest has been kicked. I see people I know who are independent and even left leaning fighting back against this cultural earthquake." I am not very engaged on social media beyond email and my time wasted on these boards, D. You seem to have experienced an earthquake recently that I have seen no evidence of huge portions of the U.S. population also experiencing. A little data, please, to clarify this tremor. Five. "The politicians matter little. What matters is how extreme and how quickly this country is hijacked by a movement that is shaking the core of our greatness. Trump symbolizes normalcy. And incidents like these will push people his way." There is plenty of data about how the Trump regime has hijacked the Republican Party and is moving the nation rapidly away from its glory days. That is present in the responsible news media every day of the year. You seem to be alleging something completely opposite, and, of course, with no data to back up what you are alleging. Or perhaps you can, now that you have been challenged. I will be extremely interested in how you can shape Trump into a standard of normalcy.

DMoney

In other words, if the extreme left keeps up their intrusive, demanding ways, your candidate is irrelevant. You don't mess with the bedrock of what makes this country great.

capedcrusader

You could say the same for the extreme right.

new2Lax

Women actually do not for women for one, secondly, they are interested in the economy first, like everyone else. The Democrats running look like a bunch of dough heads. The freebies will kill them and running on a Socialist platform will certainly do them in. They actually think promising everything and being able to deliver nothing is a winner. Well, be my guest, they have absolutely no chance in ell. Which of the three women are you picking and why.

capedcrusader

"They have no chance in hell"? You wanna bet me?

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