President Trump Will Be Reelected in November

In this presidential election year, President Trump faces many challenges, including civil unrest, massive unemployment, and questions about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on President Trump to win reelection in November.

Despite many polls showing Biden as the favorite, my money would be on Trump for one main reason: he’s the incumbent, and incumbents almost always win.

Another big factor in the president’s favor is that nobody really wants Biden to be president. Trump has strong supporters, but also strong detractors. The only reason some people favor Biden is that they don’t want Trump to be reelected. The election will come down to those who support Trump versus those who oppose him. Nobody supports Biden because they think he would be a good president; they favor Biden because they oppose Trump.

This works in Trump’s favor because the election result will be determined by turnout. Voters will not change their minds about who they favor between now and November. The turnout factor favors Trump because his supporters will turn out, whereas those who favor Biden aren’t enthusiastic about him, and are more likely to stay home. So there you have it: two big factors that favor Trump.

There are factors that go the other way. One is the degree to which states push mail-in ballots over showing up at the polls. President Trump has said he’s concerned about the increased likelihood for fraud with mail-in ballots, and while there is something to that argument, the bigger factor in November’s election is that mail-in ballots make it easier to vote, which will increase turnout among those who want to vote against Trump. A voter who dislikes Trump but is not that excited about Biden will be more likely to mail in a ballot than to take the effort to show up to vote in person.

Two other factors that work against the president: one is that incumbents typically do worse when the economy is weak, and due to government programs to slow COVID-19, the economy is in considerable disarray. Another is President Trump’s policy response to COVID-19, which many view as insufficiently draconian. My guess is that this second factor will fade and maybe even turn in the president’s favor by November. It does appear at this time that states with the most restrictive policies are faring no better against the virus than those that are least restrictive.

Everything beyond that first paragraph is a second order effect in my view. Trump’s big advantage is that he is the incumbent.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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