Dan Guild

With four months left, Donald Trump follows in Jimmy Carter’s footsteps

Dan Guild continues to explore parallels between this year’s presidential campaign and what unfolded 40 years ago. -promoted by Laura Belin

I wrote in April that President Donald Trump was on the same path that led to the wholesale rejection of Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party in 1980. With each passing day the similarities become stronger.  

U.S. Senate seats once considered safe for Republicans, like Iowa’s, are now dead heats. States that shifted to the Republicans in 2016 (Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio) have moved decisively toward the Democrats. Texas is in play, and this week saw a very good pollster find Joe Biden with a 13-point lead in Pennsylvania.

Two enormous events–the Black Lives Matter protests and the COVID-19 crisis–have upended American politics, just as an oil crisis and a hostage crisis upended politics in 1980. Events seem out of control, as they did in 1980, and like then, the president seems completely out of his depth.

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The ghost of 1980

Based on the latest Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register, Dan Guild wonders whether history will repeat itself, with an unpopular president taking down U.S. senators from his party. -promoted by Laura Belin

The presidential election of 1980 was by far the most important election of my lifetime. It gave power to social conservatives who had never tasted power before (Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were both pro-choice). It also brought to fore and gave explicit expression to white racial resentment when Ronald Reagan spoke of “welfare queens” driving Cadillacs.

The 1980 election changed not only Republican politics (every GOP nominee since has been pro-life) but also Democratic politics. In the aftermath of the Reagan presidency, Democrats began talking about “ending welfare as we know it.” President Bill Clinton signed a major welfare reform bill 45 days before the 1996 election, in which he had a significant lead.

What is difficult to explain to those who have no memory of 1980 is how shocking the results were. It was not just that Reagan won, but that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in decades. The GOP picked up twelve Senate seats, beating some well-liked Democrats with national reputations.

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Donald Carter Trump

Dan Guild examines opinion polls from 1979 and 1980 for clues on how the COVID-19 crisis could affect President Donald Trump’s approval. -promoted by Laura Belin

The White House predicts between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans may die because of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Ten million people in this country have lost their jobs in two weeks. Ian Bremmer noted that an estimated 3.5 billion people were in lockdown because of the pandemic, which probably makes it the most widely shared experience in human history.

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Denial, economics, and COVID-19

Dan Guild on how an avalanche of new unemployment claims will not only be a human tragedy, but also strain hospital finances and state budgets. -promoted by Laura Belin

We are in the midst of a health crisis, first and foremost. That should not be forgotten, and I will highlight one aspect of that crisis a little later in the piece.

But we are also in the midst of an economic crisis, and despite what you have may read about the stock market, that crisis is being underestimated. Every week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports how many people filed new claims for unemployment insurance. Those numbers are the closest thing to real-time data that we have about the U.S. labor market.

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Super Tuesday: A reversal of fortune

Dan Guild reflects on the weekend’s two game-changing events, which have no precedent in Democratic presidential campaigns. -promoted by Laura Belin

“Events dear boy, events” – attributed to to British Prime Minister Harold McMillan, though whether he said it is disputed.

I have spent a good amount of time studying primary polling.  The single most important lesson I have learned is that they are subject to sudden change. It is why I love the McMillan quote – it captures how unpredictable events can rapidly change the political calculus. 

This weekend we saw two race-changing events in 24 hours: Joe Biden’s decisive win in South Carolina and the sudden departure of Pete Buttigieg, the winner of the Iowa caucuses (depending on how you measure the results). These two events in combination are impossible to model. The Iowa winner has never withdrawn this early.  A front-runner has never performed so badly as Biden has before South Carolina and then recovered.

Having said that, I think history offers two parallels:

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Yes, Bernie Sanders can be stopped. But...

Dan Guild spins some scenarios for the Democratic primaries. -promoted by Laura Belin

Mathematically, there is a way to stop Bernie Sanders, but it won’t be easy.

Four years ago I wrote these lines in a post about the Republican presidential race:

In politics we often talk of the narrative. The narrative is not about delegate math, it is about momentum. It asks who is winning and why. It is unforgiving: you either win or you lose. It is difficult to lose and maintain any semblance of energy in a campaign (something seen in Rubio’s implosion) but it also means no more money for future primaries.

In any primary fight, there are times when these two forces are at odds. Such is the case now.

This is precisely the state of the race for the Democratic nomination. It is reasonably easy to create scenarios where Sanders does not get close to a majority of delegates. The problem is primaries are a dynamic process. The difference between winning and losing is stark. Losing drives candidates from the race or makes them irrelevant.

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