If there is anything in this world Donald Trump enjoys (other than needling his political opponents and making money), it’s getting on the stump and campaigning. For better or worse, the president draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, a fact Trump frequently brags about when he’s addressing his adoring fans. It’s a big reason why Republican lawmakers desperately clinging to their seats are so excited when Trump comes into town on their behalf — even a small dose of Trumpian energy can get loyal Republican voters off their couches on Election Day.
All of this barnstorming across the country — in a span of six days, Trump held rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio — serves a dual purpose for Trump. It’s not only a traditional way to lobby voters to cast ballots for Republicans in what is a critically challenging midterm election. More importantly for Trump, it’s also an early start to the 2020 presidential campaign. For an incumbent president, it’s never too early to spend time in battleground states, bash your enemies over the head, and highlight your administration’s accomplishments.
It’s no mystery why Trump is flying into Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. If Florida or Ohio (or both) were to flip to the Democrats’ column in 2020, Trump would be a dead man walking on the road to an embarrassing defeat. If he has any chance at a second term, Trump can’t afford to lose any of them. Even a loss in Pennsylvania, a state that wasn’t even on the GOP radar until Trump turned it red in 2016, would deal the president a major electoral headache in the Electoral College. If he’s unable to hold Florida, Wisconsin, or even Ohio, he can kiss the Oval Office goodbye.
For Trump, reading the polls is a ritual. He knows his numbers in some battleground states are lagging at the moment; according to a June 17-21 NBC News/Marist poll, only 37 per cent of Floridians believe Trump deserves re-election. In Ohio, where Trump carried 80 of 88 counties, the figure is even lower (34 per cent). And in Wisconsin, which Trump snatched for the Republicans for the first time in 28 years, the president’s approval rating is in the low 40s. Take Florida and Pennsylvania out of Trump’s hands, and he would be 13 electoral votes shy of the 270 needed to extend his stay in the White House.
A lot has to go right for Trump in November 2020 just as it did in November 2016. But it won’t come to him on a silver platter; he will need to work for it and expend a massive amount of his time between now and then travelling throughout the country.
So if you think “the Donald” is campaigning for down-ballot Republicans out of the goodness of his heart or out of love for the Republican Party, think again. Like everything Trump has done and said over five decades of public life, this is all about him.