Could the 2020 Election Be Another 1980?

The final results of the 1980 presidential election between the Democratic President Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, are rightly recorded as a landslide Republican victory. Carter carried just six states: his native Georgia, his running mate’s home state of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, West Virginia, and Hawaii. The Democrat — by winning only 49 electoral votes to Reagan’s 489 — suffered the most stunning defeat of any incumbent president since 1932, when Republican Herbert Hoover was trounced by Franklin Roosevelt.

But the truth is that the Carter–Reagan contest had been close, with Carter leading between 4 percent and 8 percent in Gallup polls all the way to the final week of October, when the two men met in the campaign’s only televised debate. After that October 28 showdown, Gallup found Reagan moving to a 3 percet lead on his way to a solid 10 percent victory margin on November 4.

Every presidential election — including those of 1980 and 2020— is a choice between continuity and change. In 1980, voters beset with a painful “misery index” — high interest rates, high inflation rate, and a rising unemployment rate — were clearly open to change. But candidate Reagan’s unforced errors — falsely claiming that California had eliminated its smog, that trees caused more pollution than automobiles, and that Alaska had more oil than Saudi Arabia — enabled the Carter campaign to make Reagan’s change look too risky. In the one debate, Reagan presented himself as reasonable, nonthreatening, and likable. In so doing, he gave voters both permission and confidence to do what they wanted to do: to vote for him and for change.

Obviously, President Donald Trump’s economic numbers — unemployment, interest rates, inflation — are all dramatically superior to Carter’s. But Trump carries into 2020 equally threatening baggage that suggests voters in November 2020 will be much more interested in choosing change over continuity.

To appreciate Trump’s political peril, let us turn to the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, which, guided by respected pollster Peter Hart, has asked voters over the years to assess presidents — not just separately on the job the president is doing or on the president’s personal likability but on both qualities straightforwardly in one question:

 Read more at American Spectator

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