Bob Ehrlich: In 2020 Predictions, Democrats and the Media Are Overplaying Their Hand


Recent national polls reflect anywhere from a three- to 11-point lead for former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the race for the presidency.

The mainstream media are accordingly gleeful. Any bad Trump news is good news for them. Indeed, one would think the race is all but over, that a Biden coronation is simply a matter of time. Such is the state of today’s journalism.

My response is to refrain from the defensive “polls don’t vote; people do” or the even worse “six months is a lifetime in politics” or even the more interesting “only state polls matter.”

While accurate, these responses always sound so defensive and weak. I would add to this list of unsatisfying excuses the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus and the ongoing civil unrest from the murder of George Floyd.

I offer four reasons why I believe it is more likely than not Joe Biden will maintain basement residency come Nov. 4.

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Reason one is a phenomenon familiar to followers of the post-Clinton Democratic Party. It is the progressive tendency to overplay your hand and not think long-term.

For context, think back to Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone’s funeral in 2002.

That event was transformed into a party campaign event by overtly partisan speakers, where Republican Sen. Trent Lott’s appearance was greeted by loud boos. Such bad form did not go over well with the voters. Former Vice President Walter Mondale shockingly lost the seat in the 2002 election partly due to the poor reviews that followed.

A few years later, “Occupy Wall Street” had a brief run in many of our nation’s major cities.

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The movement’s grievances included a long list of progressive agenda items, but none greater than “economic inequality” — a problem the movement attempted to remedy by erecting mini-encampments along busy urban thoroughfares.

But deplorable and dangerous sanitary conditions spelled their doom long before they could carry their case to the people.

Then came Obamacare, the gift that kept on giving to Republicans for four election cycles. You may have forgotten the botched debut, but you will never forget the empty promises: “You’ll be able to keep your health care plan” and “you can keep your doctor.”

Today, much of what remains of the original Obamacare is the wholesale expansion of Medicaid, an entitlement that has now expanded far beyond its original target group of poor women with children.

More recently, the election of uber-progressives to the House generated a so-called “Green New Deal,” a platform that would have scared away a majority of Democrats not so long ago.

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While a number of vulnerable members quietly walked the program back to “aspirational” status, it remains a focal point to the Johnny-come-lately progressive Joe Biden.

Now comes a new campaign designed to defund law enforcement in the aftermath of the horrific George Floyd killing. That the poorest minority communities would be the most endangered has somehow been lost in the ongoing debate.

No surprise here: Bad ideas often flourish in the aftermath of chaos.

Reason two concerns the incremental reopening of the economy.

It may be that the worst of our self-imposed economic catastrophe has passed. Unemployment claims have stabilized. Businesses of all sizes are again opening their doors. The Dow has rallied (but remains subject to wild fluctuations). And the medical headlines reflect diminishing COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in addition to possible new therapies and vaccines.

Coming in third on the list of reasons for optimism are three special election results you may have missed.

The flipping (from “D” to “R”) of California’s 25th Congressional District is a very big deal. It is the first time in 22 years that deep blue California witnessed such a shift.

And this achievement comes after Democrats changed the rules to allow in-person voting (at a strong Democratic precinct) after early mail-in returns revealed trouble was a-brewing — a stunt that failed to stop the GOP’s Mike Garcia from registering a ten-point win in a district Hillary Clinton won by seven points in 2016.

Another special election saw the GOP’s Tom Tiffany keep Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional seat in Republican hands despite an influx of Democratic dollars. And then there was the local Staunton, Virginia, race in which three incumbent Democratic Council Members were defeated in a city that had twice voted for Barack Obama.

The final observation is the most intriguing and yet the one most difficult to wrap one’s head around.

I refer to the anomaly that so often accompanies public polling of Donald J. Trump. Recall the now-infamous Washington Post headline from Oct. 24, 2016: “Donald Trump’s chances of winning are approaching zero.”

Similar headlines were backed up with national polls reflecting a comfortable (often double-digit) win for the former first lady. Such strong poll numbers so close to Election Day prompted the Democratic National Committee to “expand the map,” thereby infusing new dollars into relatively safe GOP districts in anticipation of stealing seats in the wake of a Clinton landslide.

But the polls were wrong. Trump easily led the Electoral College while Clinton won the popular vote by two points. Trump had again overperformed on Election Day — a trend first observed during the bitterly contested Republican primaries.

This underperforming phenomenon is a matter of fact. What is open to conjecture in this case is the reason for the consistent underestimating of Trump’s voting support in the polls.

Democrats cite embarrassment as the primary rationale for the less-than-forthcoming responses to pollsters. Conversely, Trump enthusiasts point to the media-created stigma attached to anything Trump (think of the MAGA hat). The thought is why bother to get into an argument with one’s spouse, neighbor, relative, co-worker, doctor or even a stranger when you have the ultimate power: the vote.

One point is difficult to dismiss: The 2016 victory of Donald Trump represented flyover America’s dissatisfaction with both party establishments and politics as usual in Washington, D.C. Another Trump victory would further extend that message.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.