President Trump’s re-election team sees signs that the campaign might be able to grow the coalition that stunned the political establishment and sent him to the White House two years ago.
Despite the numerous controversies that have enveloped the administration since its inception – and the risk that the drumbeat of negative coverage could turn off supporters in 2020 – new presidential rally data, shared with Fox News, is boosting campaign hopes.
"President Trump’s clear record of accomplishment for the American people should appeal to all voters, including those who did not vote in 2016,” said Kayleigh McEnany, newly named press secretary for the Trump campaign. "Thanks to President Trump, Americans are now benefiting from new jobs, bigger paychecks, leadership on the world stage, and the confirmation of Constitution-abiding judges.”
The Republican National Committee’s analysis of data from the president’s rally in El Paso last month — his first of the year — showed nearly a quarter of those who attended did not vote in any of the past four elections, including 2016. The numbers also showed that another 25 percent of those who attended the rally only voted in one out of the past four elections.
Of those who RSVP’d to the rally, 70 percent were Hispanic and nearly 50 percent were female. Additionally, 60 percent were between 26 and 55 years old, according to the RNC. Party officials see them as new voters available to them in 2020, especially since they were interested enough in Trump to attend a rally.
"Enthusiasm for President Trump's successful agenda is reflected in the tens of thousands of new and non-traditional voters who attend his rallies and donate to us,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement. "Once these voters show up, the RNC works hand-in-glove with the campaign to keep them involved and ensure they show up for President Trump on election day as well.”
The RNC is continuing a practice from 2018 to follow up with those who RSVP to rallies with a text, which is usually sent the next day. The text typically includes a link either to voter registration information or a particular policy issue on the GOP’s website.
Republican strategists in key states agree that they’re seeing the potential for new Trump voters, including places like Pennsylvania and Florida.
"In Pennsylvania, there are a significant number of voters who didn’t turn up in 2016 that will show up at the next presidential election [and] will show up in favor of President Trump,” said Charlie Gerow, longtime Republicans strategist in Pennsylvania. Gerow said that some voters may have been unsure of Trump in 2016, but appreciate the administration’s emphasis on opioids, energy and manufacturing jobs and could be persuaded.
In Florida, strategists say that Trump’s strong language against socialism and tough stance against disputed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will do him favors in a state with a high immigrant population from socialist countries.
"Some of the things that are starting to define 2020 campaign -- and were in the State of the Union speech -- were things like the showdown over socialism,” said Adam Goodman, a Florida Republican strategist. “That gives the president an opening and opportunity."
To be sure, the embrace by several Democratic presidential candidates of big-government policies like the Green New Deal has emboldened Republicans, arming political operatives with a potent rhetorical weapon going into 2020.
Republicans will certainly have challenges to contend with, though, including the enthusiasm on the Democratic side that won them back the House of Representatives last fall. One Democratic strategist said it’s expected that voters who didn’t engage in 2016 will be more involved in 2020 amid renewed activism, particularly among progressives.
“Look no further than the Women’s March after Donald Trump’s inauguration,” the strategist said. “We’ve engaged a ton of folks that didn’t engage in 2016 and that carried through to 2018 when Democrats made sweeping gains in the governor’s mansions and statehouses.”
The Democratic National Committee is also preparing its ground game early – looking beyond the primary states – so that they have an infrastructure in place for whoever is the nominee. The DNC announced plans to recruit and train college students who are expected to graduate by June 2020 as field organizers across the country, calling it Organization Corps 2020.
“We know that the key to defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is to organize early and put the best team in place to motivate Democratic voters to make their voices heard,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement announcing the new initiative.
Another concern for Republicans remains the president’s polling numbers, with his approval ratings rising but still underwater at 44 percent, according to Gallup. The partial government shutdown was widely seen as a reputational blow for Republicans, including the Trump administration.
Other recent polling reflects a mixed picture. A Fox News poll in December, taken before the shutdown began, showed a strong 67 percent of Trump voters would definitely vote for him again in 2020. Still, up to 10 percent said they would probably or definitely vote for someone else – meaning the Trump re-election campaign could lose a fraction of its 2016 support, even as it identifies and wins over new supporters.
Democrats are already pointing to the president’s approval rating as evidence the president’s re-election outlook looks bleak.
“As we head into 2020, it's clear that Donald Trump will struggle with his re-election campaign with an approval rating barely breaking 40 percent,” said Sabrina Singh, a DNC spokesperson. “We will continue to harness that same energy we saw in 2018 by putting organizers on the ground early to engage in their communities and expand the electorate."