At otherwise jolly holiday parties, my political friends couldn't stop talking about Michael Moore's prediction that Donald Trump would win in 2020. (Remember, Michael predicted Trump would prevail in 2016.) How worried should we be?
Michael Moore made his prediction in a December 26th conversation with Amy Goodman (https://www.democracynow.org/2019/12/26/michael_moore_donald_trump_impeachment ):
"I believe whoever the Democrat is next year is going to win by 4 to 5 million popular votes. There's no question in my mind that people who stayed home, who sat on the bench, they're going to pour out, in California, New York... The problem is, is that [Trump] will if the vote were today, I believe, he would win the electoral states that he would need, because, living out there, I will tell you, his level of support has not gone down one inch. In fact, I'd say it's even more rabid than it was before, because they're afraid now."
Moore explained to Goodman that he believes the reason 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump was because, in states like Michigan, she did not generate enthusiasm among rank-and-file Democrats. In 2020, Moore is afraid that Democrats will lose again if they repeat the Clinton "mistake."
The good news is, again, number one, never forget, there's more of us than there are of them. The majority of the American people agree with us. Seventy percent of the voters next year are women, people of color and young adults... So, what we have to do is we have to make sure we don't give them another Hillary Clinton to vote for.
Michael Moore is a smart guy. What he is saying is that if, in 2020, Democrats nominate a Hillary-clone then they'll lose again because Trump will carry the midwest and, therefore, win the electoral vote. This is an important argument that has three components: 1. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because Democrats in critical states, such as Michigan, didn't vote for her. 2. Moore believes the 2020 "centrist" Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound to be as unpopular as Clinton. 3. In 2020 the other political dynamics will be the same as they were in 2016. That is, Trump will probably carry the Independents. Furthermore, Moore believes Trump will probably win the same "red" states and the Dems will probably win the same "blue' states and therefore, the race will come down to the same handful of states such as Michigan. Let's examine each of these contentions.
1.Hillary lost swing states because registered Democrats didn't vote for her. The 2016 election post-mortem suggested that Clinton lost the electoral college because she underperformed in three states and lost them by a total of 77,759 votes. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,307 votes (0.7 of a percentage point), Wisconsin by 22,748 votes (0.7 of a point) and Michigan by 10,704 votes (0.2 of a point).
Michigan: Trump had 2,279543 voters (47.50%) and Clinton had 2,268,839 voters (47.27%). Two other candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had 223,499 voters (4.66%). So it's likely that some Democrats who didn't like Clinton, chose instead to vote for Johnson or Stein.
The CNN exit polls indicated that while there were more potential Michigan Democratic voters than Republican, only 88 percent of Dems voted for Clinton versus 90 percent for Trump.
Wisconsin was similar to Michigan: Trump had 1,405,284 voters (47.22%) and Clinton had 1,382,536 voters (46.45%) , while Johnson and Stein had 137,746 voters (4.62%). Once again it was likely that some Democrats that didn't like Clinton voted for Johnson or Stein.
Pennsylvania results indicated that Trump had 2,970,733 voters (48.18%) and Clinton had 2,926,441 voters (47.46%). Johnson and Stein had 196,656 (3.19%).
The CNN Pennsylvania exit polls were similar to Michigan. There were more Democratic voters (42%) than Republican (39%) but only 87% of Dems stayed with Clinton versus 89% that stuck with Trump.
Conclusion: In these key states, Michael Moore is right when he states that Clinton lost because her base didn't stick with her. But it's an oversimplification, because Moore ignores the decisive role played by Independents -- Trump carried the Independents in each state. (By the way, the national exit polls indicated that Trump carried Independents -- 20 percent of the electorate -- 48% versus 41% for Clinton.)
2. The 2020 "centrist" Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound to be as unpopular as Clinton. Michael Moore believes that 2020 Dems are about to make the same mistake they did in 2016 and nominate an unpopular candidate -- leading to a "hold your nose" election where Trump will prevail. The most recent polling data doesn't support this. 538 (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-democratic-presidential-candidates-are-becoming-less-popular/ ) notes that Trump is by far the most unpopular candidate (47.8% "very unfavorable" rating).
Among the Democratic candidates: Joe Biden had a 31.4% "very unfavorable" rating, while Bernie Sanders had a 34.4% rating and Elizabeth Warren 34.2%.
Conclusion: Michael Moore seems to be off in his assertion that the 2020 centrist Democratic candidates will be as unpopular as Hillary Clinton.