Greg Moore Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
Opinion: Democrats normally benefit from high voter turnout. But Trump isn’t a typical Republican. It sets up what could be the latest 2020 surprise.
“It’s a turnout election, but my assessment of turnout is that the left is showing up no matter what. Those who hate Trump will crawl over broken glass to vote against him. The big unknown in this election is: Is everyone else gonna show up?”
— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, on Axios on HBO
“When we get to Nov. 3, it’s going to be a case of, perhaps the Democrats have a lead, but do the president’s supporters turn out in large enough numbers to make up the difference? They have done that before, and I would caution anybody, if you read the early vote or, for that matter, small polling leads, and think that this is over, you are sorely mistaken.”
— Anthony Salvanto, CBS News elections and surveys director, on “Face the Nation”
We’re seeing record turnout for the 2020 election, but which side does that help?
It’s generally assumed that Democrats win presidential elections when voters turn out. Republicans cast ballots at higher rates, but demographically speaking there are fewer of them.
Almost 80 million votes have come in so far, nearing 60% of all ballots cast in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project. It’s an unprecedented level of early participation that would seem to indicate that Joe Biden has the edge.
Trump is a populist, not a Republican
But if anybody can flip that, it’s Donald Trump. He isn’t a Republican; he’s a populist.
He shows no concern for the national debt. His personal conduct would be revolting to most social conservatives. And he seems to have no problem testing the Constitutional limits of executive authority.
At rally after rally, Trump packs in everyday people who don’t want any Ivy Leaguers preaching at them about what they should be concerned about. Trump tells them exactly what they want to hear, regardless of whether it’s true; that COVID-19 is no big deal, that police deserve support and that he’s going to “make America …” … you know the rest. And his crowds love him for it.
So does that point to advantages in swing states such as Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida? Or in typically Republican states that polling data suggest might be newly in play, including Ohio and Texas?
We can’t know for sure. But if there were any year to expect the unexpected, it would be 2020.
Will conservatives break for Biden?
Nationally, Democrats hold a significant edge in early vote tallies, suggesting high enthusiasm. About 18 million registered Democrats have returned ballots compared to about 11 million Republicans, according to Elections Project data.
But that difference narrows sharply in key states.
In Arizona, for example, Democrats hold only an 80,000 vote edge.
A big key will be how many voters Biden might snag from disaffected Republicans.
That’s a major part of the strategy in Arizona where former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is the star of a pro-Biden campaign ad, saying, “I’ve been a conservative Republican my entire life. I’ve never before voted for a Democrat for president. But this year, principle and conscience require me to do just that. I’m voting for Joe Biden.”
Meanwhile, Cindy McCain, widow of John McCain, the famously independent U.S. senator from Arizona, has thrown her full support behind Joe Biden, saying on the TODAY show that he “represents, to me, the kinds of values and integrity and courage that we want in a president.”
This came after the Democratic National Convention in which she participated in the short documentary, “An Unlikely Friendship,” detailing the mutual respect between Sens. Biden and McCain.
Trump is working to woo Black voters
Trump has countered with an attempt to woo Black voters, a move that serves two functions: He’s picking at the traditional backbone of the Democratic Party; and potentially convincing skeptical white voters that a vote for Trump isn’t necessarily a vote for racism.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a Black Republican from South Carolina, announced himself as a conservative force at the GOP convention, saying that “while this election is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden — it is not solely about Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
“It’s about the promise of America. It’s about you and me. … It’s about how we respond when tackling critical issues like police reform … Do we want a society that breeds success, or a culture that cancels everything it even slightly disagrees with.”
This, coupled with positive bumps from rap music stars including Ice Cube, Kanye West and 50 Cent, signals that Trump’s failure time and again to fully repudiate racists isn’t guaranteed to sink his campaign. (In 2016 he claimed “I don’t know anything about David Duke.” In 2017 he said there were “very fine people on both sides” of a neo-Nazi rally, and last month he told a white supremacist group to “stand by” during a debate).
The numbers are there, but who knows?
Numerically, Biden’s early lead isn’t insurmountable, but it’s certainly good to have.
About 33% of registered voters are Democrats; around 29% are Republicans, according to Pew Research Center data.
A look at independents shows that most lean toward Biden, pushing his edge to 49% to 44% of all registered voters.
The challenger should have the edge if turnout remains high.
And he would have the edge if Trump were a traditional Republican.
But Donald Trump is a populist, and that energy can be hard to measure and even harder to match.
We’ll find out soon whether big turnout numbers favor Democrats, like usual – or whether 2020 remains the year to expect the unexpected.
Don’t forget to vote.