Economic Crisis

Re-posted from RealClearPolitics on March 25, 2020
By Myra Adams – RCP Contributor


Coronavirus question: How many Broward County, Fla., police officers does it take to shut down a neighborhood nail salon?

Answer: Three. Two to enter and announce, “The governor is shutting down all non-essential businesses” and one outside to provide backup.

To their credit, the policemen were kind enough to say to the owners, “You can finish what you are doing.”

Since “what you are doing” was applying bubble-gum-pink lacquer to my nails, I had the honor of being the salon’s last customer on Sunday afternoon.

Now that you know that chapter of the story, let’s explore the wide and deep repercussions of what I call “the great unraveling.”

Close to the beach and across the street from where we live in South Florida is a small strip shopping center that fulfills our mundane, daily needs. In addition to a grocery, pharmacy, restaurant, and coffee/donut chain, there are a variety of mom-and-pop stores that provide services such as keeping my paws and claws from becoming unwieldy. Like so many nail salons across America, the owners are a Vietnamese couple who employ about 12 of their fellow countrymen and women.

The co-owner spouse, at age 10, was a refugee during the Vietnamese “boat people” crisis in 1980. Her family, seeking freedom from the brutal communist regime, escaped and survived a harrowing three-night journey from Da Nang to Hong Kong before eventually emigrating to Washington state. She will never forget how cold, wet, hungry, and seasick she was during the entire ordeal.

Decades later, she and her husband made their way to South Florida, and for the last 10 years have operated at their current location.

Up until last Sunday — in accordance with the initial orders of Broward County officials attempting to slow the spread of the virus — the mask-wearing owners were trying to keep the salon open by allowing a maximum of 10 people inside at any one time, including employees. When I was there on Sunday, the couple was worried about staying in business.

I suggested that they call their landlord to ask for reduced rent during the crisis. The husband complained, “That company is so big, with hundreds of shopping centers, they don’t care about us” — but after I pointed out the shopping center’s current vacancy rate, he said he would call.  

During our discussion, his wife made light of the government potentially giving a $1,500 payment and tax breaks, saying, “How is that going to help us survive if we don’t have customers?”

And then, as if on cue, the police entered with Gov. DeSantis’ shutdown order.

Multiply this one nail salon and its employees by millions of family-owned businesses in every sector. After decades of hard work, countless American dreams could be destroyed — many home-grown or inherited, while some began in a small open boat escaping communism. No matter their story, how will millions of small-business owners and more millions of their employees pay their bills? Government payouts and loans will not be enough to stop the hemorrhaging. Will corporate landlords cut them breaks or even delay rent payments during the mandatory shutdown?  

The fate of my nail salon is a microcosm for how the “great unraveling” could lead to a “greater depression.” Here is how:

Pre-virus, the U.S. economy was “perceived” as strong, but how strong? According to a Brookings Institute report,  “53 million people in the U.S. — 44% of the country’s workers — earn low wages. Their median hourly earnings are $10.22, and for those who work full time year-round, median annual earnings are about $24,000.”

Maybe some of my favorite nail salon employees fall into that group. There is no doubt that the current massive workplace shutdown will create poverty and despair the likes of which our nation has never experienced.

Am I too cynical and overreacting after experiencing the nail salon closure and feeling the owners’ pain?

I think not.

Linked Monday on the Drudge Report was a sobering quote. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted that “the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus, with an unprecedented 50% drop in gross domestic product.”

Bullard’s statement triggers me to invoke the Great “D” word, especially if unemployment does reach 30% and half the economy dissipates. Now, consider these comparable, historic unemployment rate facts:

“The highest rate of U.S. unemployment was 24.9% in 1933, during the Great Depression. Unemployment remained above 14% from 1931 to 1940. It remained in the single digits until September 1982 when it reached 10.1%. During the Great Recession, unemployment reached 10% in October 2009.”

Therefore, if Bullard’s prediction proves correct, 30% unemployment would be three times the rate during the Great Recession and five percentage points higher than the peak of the Great Depression. Wrap your arms around that.

We know that President Trump is obsessed with the economy as a scorecard for his presidency. Thus, one can imagine that nothing makes him cringe more than the name Herbert Hoover — the Republican president in office when the 1929 stock market crash sparked the Great Depression.

That explains Monday’s Washington Post headline: “Trump weighs restarting economy despite warnings from U.S. public health officials.” The Post reported, “America will again — and soon — be open for business,” he said. “Very soon, a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Followed by Tuesday’s headline: “Trump says he wants ‘country opened’ by Easter, despite warnings from public health experts about coronavirus outbreak.”

Will trying to stop the “great unraveling” prevent a “greater” depression? Stay tuned for what could be hailed as Trump’s boldest, monumental balancing-act-of-a-decision. A desperate leadership gamble where national economic health “trumps” public health. And, if successful, it would redefine his presidency and boost his reelection prospects.

Of course, critics will call the decision “bad medicine” and “irresponsible” — especially since the virus is likely to continue spreading along with reports of overwhelmed hospitals, equipment shortages, and increased fatality rates.

Furthermore, and optimistically speaking, consider if, because of Trump’s gamble, the unemployment rate sharply rises but falls back to single digits by summer or early fall. And consider that GDP dramatically shrinks — but at a rate significantly less than the 50% predicted by James Bullard. In those cases, then Trump will spin a victory, comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt. “He saved the economy” and “He won the war” could be the new 2020 version of “Make American Great Again.”  

My barometer of virus recovery — a one small shop as economic-health focus group — will be when the nail salon reopens, rehires the 12 loyal employees, and can afford rent again. In the meantime, while closed, I expect my nails to chip, crack, and split  — symbolic of a suffering nation.

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Re-posted from RealClearPolitics Feb. 28, 2020
By Myra Adams – RCP Contributor


The War of 2020 is raging at CPAC. The annual four-day Conservative Political Action Conference of activist Republicans, taking place through Saturday at National Harbor, Md., is the best place to measure the vital signs of a GOP on the attack — message, energy and confidence.

Let’s start with the message: CPAC’s theme emblazoned everywhere from the lips of each speaker is “America vs. Socialism.” During a one-minute chat with Matt Schlapp — the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC — I told him it was a great theme. He thanked me and said it was his idea. But America vs. Socialism is more than just a terrific, easy-to-remember 2020 message. It sets up the “Us vs. Them” warring factions for the battle to reelect President Trump.

At CPAC, here is the simple underlying message repeatedly voiced from the stage, paraphrased in two sentences: “We Republicans represent all that is good in America. The Democrats want to destroy all that is good.”  Moreover, if you needed one word to summarize the “zen” of CPAC, that word is “fear.”

For further elaboration, scroll through CPAC’s agenda and read the titles of the speeches and breakout sessions. Here are a few of my favorites:

“The Fate of Our Culture and Our Nation Hangs in the Balance” — Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX-2)

“Stopping Socialism: Exposing and Defeating the Socialist Plot to Hijack America” — sponsored by The Heartland Institute

“Freedom of Speech in America… And How We are Losing It” — sponsored by Freedom of Speech in America

“Black Guns Matter: Living Conservatism Courageously”– Maj Toure

“Because Trump: How the Left Justifies Acts of Violence,” — a panel discussion moderated by Julio Rosas,

“Why the Left Loves Open Borders” — sponsored by The Heritage Foundation

“Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing a Nation” — Todd Starnes

CPAC’s agenda is also chock-full of Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet secretaries, the acting White House chief of staff, campaign high-command (Brad Parscale), and family crowd-pleasers Donald Jr., Ivanka, Jared Kushner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lara Trump and many more.  On Saturday afternoon, the king of “T-PAC,” Donald J. Trump, is scheduled to appear.

ueling the America vs. Socialism message is energy and confidence from the packed ballrooms and hallways at the massive Gaylord Hotel. The buzz is “Four More Years,” uttered with great conviction and a “nothing can stop us” attitude. Even folks I spoke to who are not 100% in love with the president all have a similar mindset: “Consider the alternative.”

Election night predictions range from Trump winning 48 states to simply more states than he won in 2016.

Having attended CPAC since ancient times (pre-internet and social media), I have never observed a crowd this much in lockstep, inhaling the smell of victory. (For comparison, compare ‘What I Learned at CPAC 2019.”)

Every year CPAC grows larger and becomes more of a spectacle. Even the lone heckler at vice president’s speech on Thursday was a Trump look-a-like who was escorted out of the packed ballroom to chants of “USA! USA!”

There are thousands of “Trumplicans” networking and having a grand old time with the Grand Old Party, now unrecognizable to most grandfathers. Colorful characters abound, many wearing provocative T-shirts. My favorite slogans were “Deplorable Lives Matter” (worn by a white male senior citizen) and “Ban Commies Not Guns” (adorning a young man with a yarmulke on this head).

For sale was Trump merchandise of every imaginable variety, enough to fill a small CVS, but the glittering Trump ballgown on display was not for sale. A transgender 6-foot-5 “Lady MAGA” paraded around the lobby with long blond hair and wearing a red-white-blue tutu and red 8-inch heeled knee-high go-go boots.

A few more observations:

The age of attendees is trending older. CPAC used to be a mecca for college and young Republicans, but now there is an equal number of “senior” passes around wrinkled necks.

There is chatter about what is next for the party if Trump wins or loses in November. Will the GOP separate into factions? Will the Trump family members run for office? Will Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo battle it out in 2024? What about Nikki Haley? After Trump, will the GOP be as split as the 2020 Democrats are now?

But those questions are in the future. All that matters now is America vs. Socialism and a message that appeared on the screen from the speech by Rep. Dan Crenshaw:

“We win by telling the right story of America.”

AP Photo/John Locher

Re-posted from RealClearPolitics on Feb. 22, 2020

COMMENTARY By Myra Adams – RCP Contributor


At Wednesday’s Democratic primary debate in Nevada, since none of the moderators asked the following question, I shall raise it now: Will America elect a Jewish president?

It’s a pertinent question considering that two Jewish candidates currently rank first and third on the RealClearPolitics poll average of nominee preferences among Democrats. But before we discuss this sensitive topic that inevitably will burst into mainstream reporting if either Sen. Bernie Sanders or former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination — let’s briefly review five equally controversial presidential electability questions both past and present.

1960: Will America elect a Catholic president?

Two months before the presidential election, this question generated tremendous political angst. It’s why Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kennedy famously appeared before a group of influential Protestant pastors in Houston and said: “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”

Answer: Kennedy won a close but controversial victory.

2008: Will America elect an African American president?

Hawaii-born Sen. Barack Obama — bi-racial with a white mother from Kansas and black father from Kenya — leveraged his heritage and skin color with a message of “hope and change.” Obama attracted both white and non-white voters to win a hard-fought primary against Sen. Hillary Clinton. Then, as the Democratic nominee, Obama charismatically embraced a mission to unite America and address past racial inequities in a “post-racial” society.

Answer: Obama won a comfortable victory.

2016: Will America elect a woman president?

Former first lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was highly favored to make history as the first female president. But, in a stunning upset, Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump, losing the Electoral College vote 304-227. Yet, Clinton won a larger percentage of the popular vote, 48.2% to 46.1% — a 2.86 million-vote margin of “victory.”

Answer: Ladies, be patient – the results were ambiguous.

2020: Will America elect a gay president?

Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is a Democratic Primary candidate seeking the nomination in a quest to become America’s first openly gay president. Buttigieg, 38, currently ranks fifth on RCP’s average of national primary polls.

Nonetheless, Buttigieg’s candidacy signifies a momentous political, social, and cultural breakthrough for the LGBT movement.

Answer: To be determined.

2020: Will America elect a Jewish president?

The closest our nation has ever come to an answer was in 2000 when Sen. Joe Lieberman was chosen as Vice President Al Gore’s running mate on the Democratic ticket. Then in 2004, Sen. Lieberman ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but fared poorly and dropped out on Feb. 3, 2004.

Answer: Unknown, but possible — so let’s dive in.

For starters, it’s interesting to contrast how Sanders and Bloomberg are addressing their Jewish heritage on the campaign trail.

Let’s start with Bernie. At age 78, the independent Vermont senator — a self-proclaimed democratic socialist — is not known to be religious or to promote his Jewish heritage as part of his political identity.

What follows are Sanders’ quotes from “Two Jews Walk Into a Presidential Primary” — an insightful Jan. 26  Atlantic piece by Jewish writer Edward-Isaac Dovere:

“I am what I am” is how Sanders put it in 2015, when Jimmy Kimmel asked whether he believed in God. “And what I believe in, and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together.” This view has evolved. In October, in an appearance in Washington at the national conference of J Street—a progressive organization that aims to influence American policy toward Israel—Sanders stood up during his interview and said, “I am very proud to be Jewish. I look forward to being the first Jewish president in the history of this country.”

Conversely, at Prospect — a publication that brands itself “an independent voice for liberal thought” — in a February piece titled “Sanders and the Jewish Vote,” author Mairav Zonszein wrote:

“Jewish media outlets have published columns expressing dread and fear of a Sanders nomination, including the claim he is only embracing his Jewish identity to deflect against charges of anti-Semitism.”

Bernie’s presidential “brand” is more socialist-revolutionary-rabble-rouser than a comforting bowl of homemade matzo ball soup — the specialty of every Jewish grandmother (including mine). And remember, Karl Marx was also ethnically Jewish.

What about former NYC mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, who ranks eighth on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans? (For the record, Trump ranks 275.)

Again, Edward-Isaac Dovere’s recent piece in the Atlantic offers some revealing quotes. After chronicling how Bloomberg is suddenly sprinkling his appearances with Jewish culture and Old Testament references, Dovere writes:

“To those who know Bloomberg well and even spent years working for him, this is a surprising turn. As mayor, he was more of the stop-by-synagogue-on-Rosh-Hashanah kind of observer…”

One could argue that in order to win the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate must perform well in states with large numbers of Jewish voters. (Especially in the all-important Florida primary.) Therefore, it’s a sound strategy for both Bloomberg and Sanders to play the “Jewish card” even if they have never overtly played it before.

After all, potentially becoming the first Jewish presidential nominee of a major party would be a significant cultural achievement. Finally, here is my theory why Sanders and Bloomberg are more publicly embracing their heritage after downplaying it for decades.

Both are proactively preparing for the same “criticism guilt advantage” — if you didn’t support Obama, you were a racist, and if you didn’t vote for Hillary, you were a sexist. Therefore, if either man — who celebrated their bar mitzvahs in the mid-1950s — were to face off against Trump in the general election, we would likely hear, “You aren’t voting for Sanders or Bloomberg because you are anti-Semitic.”

As 2020 progresses, with anti-Semitism growing nationally (and worldwide) — and only 2% of the U.S. population identifying as Jewish — ask yourself, “Is America ready to elect a Jewish president?”

No one yet needs to ask or even answer that question, but we might need to in November.

Related Topics: John KennedyMichael Bloomberg2020 Democratic Primary2020 Election2020 Democrats

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Re-posted from Real Clear Politics, February 04, 2020

COMMENTARY by Myra Adams – RCP Contributor

Myra’s Complete Archive Is Here.

Are the stars aligned for a “Divine appointment” of historic proportions on Thursday, Feb. 6, at the National Prayer Breakfast, where Donald Trump will deliver perhaps the most consequential address of his presidency? At this writing, it appears that way — through an almost supernatural confluence of events.

Tuesday, Feb. 4: President Trump is scheduled to give his third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. He will be speaking as an impeached president on trial in the U.S. Senate. But Trump is not the first chief executive to be in that predicament.

On Jan. 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton gave a State of the Union address during his Senate impeachment trial and did not even mention impeachment. Whether Trump will take that page out of Clinton’s playbook remains to be seen. But this we know, reported by The Hill, quoting a senior administration official: “In his address, the president will lay out a vision of relentless optimism.”

Wednesday, Feb. 5: The U.S. Senate’s final vote in Trump’s impeachment trial is planned to occur around 4 p.m. An acquittal is all but certain with Republicans in control. Convincing two-thirds of the Senate to convict and remove the president from office was always considered a futile endeavor.

Thursday, Feb. 6: In the morning, expect the unexpected when President Trump is scheduled to speak at the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast less than 24 hours after his presumed acquittal. Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has addressed this influential audience of 3,500 elected officials, diplomats, national and international religious and political leaders. The breakfast is “literally one of the toughest tickets to get in Washington” — to quote House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) from his 2018 keynote speech, a dramatic re-telling about how God intervened when he almost lost his life in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in 2017.

Since the date of the Prayer Breakfast is set in stone, the first Thursday in February, I am prompted to ask if the stars are aligned for a “Divine presidential appointment” of historic proportions — a concept believers will recognize as an event specifically arranged by God. 

Words don’t adequately convey the solemn, serious, bi-partisan, and loving breakfast atmosphere when the city’s largest ballroom is temporarily transformed into a sanctuary where glorifying God triumphs over politics.

The audience represents many different faith traditions. However, the program and tone are overwhelmingly (evangelical) Christian. Testimonies, music, and speeches profess love for Jesus Christ and one another in addition to overcoming obstacles through prayer, forgiveness of sins, and trust in the Lord.

Thursday, Trump’s potential acquittal on late Wednesday positions the annual event as a platform for the president’s first major post-acquittal speech. Is that merely coincidental or miraculous? Either way, it raises the question: How will the newly acquitted president comport himself before the National Prayer Breakfast audience?

Will he be humble, and ask forgiveness for anything? Will he be boastful and arrogant? Will he talk about how he leaned on his faith to help him through this presidential crisis? Will he “joke” as he did in August that he is the “chosen one”? Or again, will Trump take his cue from President Clinton at the 1999 Prayer Breakfast and not even mention impeachment?  (At the Feb. 4 breakfast Clinton had yet to be acquitted, which occurred eight days later on Feb. 12, 1999.) In Trump’s case, by Thursday morning, the ink on his Senate acquittal paperwork will still be wet, and he might let it rip.

Nonetheless, the president is being given a historic opportunity to address National Prayer Breakfast attendees at the most pivotal, triumphal time in his presidency. But this extremely dignified, mostly pro-Trump audience is worlds apart from a Trump rally. For starters, political speakers are not supposed to talk about partisan politics.

Then, it goes without saying: Thou shall not gloat or call thy enemies by names other than their own. Thus, will Trump rise to the moment of this Divinely timed occasion? Will his words confirm and reinforce the loyal support he and his policies have earned from voters who are followers of Christ, inside the ballroom and out? After acquittal, will he use this unique Prayer Breakfast timing and setting to talk about loving his enemies and uniting all of his people?

WWJS? – “What Would Jesus Say?” 

Is Thursday morning’s must-see TV programmed by God? Stay tuned.

Re-posted from Real Clear Politics Dec. 21, 2019
By Myra Adams – RCP Contributor

Myra’s Complete Archive Is Here.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Every four years we hear the following two statements:

This is the most consequential presidential election in American history.

This is the most contentious presidential election in American history.

Every four years those statements ring true because, looking back, the prior election always seems tame by comparison. Therefore, let’s explore three reasons why 2020 will in fact be the most consequential and contentious presidential election in modern U.S. history.

The first is historical – it will be the first time an impeached incumbent is running for reelection. After acquittal by the Senate (barring any unforeseen circumstances), President Donald J. Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

This remarkable circumstance calls for a new political playbook addressing two unprecedented questions: How does an impeached president run for reelection? How does the opposing party run against him? Sounding like the plot of a fictional Netflix series, the 2020 race is set to rest upon that bizarre foundation.

Part of the scaffolding arising from that foundation involves potential fallout from impeachment for incumbent officeholders whose names will appear below Trump’s on the ballot. Depending on their impeachment vote, how much will the electorate punish or support their members of Congress and senators up for reelection? By the time Nov. 3, 2020 rolls around, will impeachment have faded, still quietly ripple, or remain a divisive issue influencing many down-ballot races? The answers will be among the most interesting to learn.

The second reason why 2020 will be the most consequential and contentious presidential election ever waged is the racial and gender composition of the tickets and the electorate. 

It is practically a given that the Democratic Party ticket will be “balanced.” For example, if former Vice President Joe Biden is the nominee, as a white male he will need to select a running mate who is female or, better yet, a non-white female. The same equation applies to whoever else might win the nomination. The need for balance stems from the changing color and feminization of the electorate — with the overwhelming majority voting Democratic.

Here are some interesting electoral statistics:

In 2016, 70% of voters were white, but for 2020 the Pew Research Center projects a dip to 66.7%. Hispanic voters constituted 11% of the 2016 electorate and, next year, they are projected at 13.3%. African Americans were 11% four years ago and this bloc is expected to grow to 12.5% in November.

Also in 2016, the white-male Trump/Pence ticket won 57% of the white vote compared to 37% for Hillary Clinton. But in 2020, with the percentage of white voters projected to decrease by 3.3 percentage points, Team Trump must reach out to more white voters, which means more rallies and more outrageous statements that often alienate other groups.

Meanwhile, Trump is trying to increase his share of Hispanic and African American votes, but whether he can offset the decrease in white voters remains a critical question. Ultimately, race and steadily changing demographics have the potential to diminish the GOP’s long-term viability as a national party, and that is both a consequential and contentious issue that will dramatically play out and impact the 2020 campaign. 

(For the record, the last time both presidential tickets comprised only white males was 2004 when Bush/Cheney faced off against Kerry/Edwards.)

The third reason why 2020 will top the consequential/contentious scale is the increasing power of politically engaged women voters. In 2016, women constituted 52% of the electorate compared to men at 48%. Hillary Clinton won women by a margin of 54% to 41% over Trump. In the 2018 midterm election — according to Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data — women were 53% of the electorate with men at 47%.

In 2020 women could best men by an even greater margin, and that could be problematic for the president.

In a recent Fox News poll, women voters preferred Biden over Trump by a margin of 51% to 36%. That means Trump is down five percentage points from 2016 when he won 41% of women, as stated above. But Trump’s real problem is with white women — a group he won 52% of in 2016 compared to 43% for Clinton. Worse, the Fox poll has Trump losing white women to “Sleepy Joe” Biden by five percentage points, 47% to 42%.

Furthermore, this week a Quinnipiac University poll had a stunning revelation about Trump and women voters: “Women disapprove 57-38 percent, but it is the president’s best approval number among women thus far.” That 38% “best” approval number is three points lower than the 41% of all women that Trump won in 2016, which could indicate Trump has a severe women problem.

Taken together — engaged, motivated, largely anti-Trump women voters combined with the wild card of impeachment fallout, and a 3.3% decrease in white voters potentially shrinking the GOP base — all this should be reason enough why the 2020 election is going to be the most consequential and contentious in American history … until 2024.

(Click here for Myra’s complete op-ed archive)

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Re-posted from RealClearPolitics, August 8, 2019

One of my all-time favorite lines is “How do you make God laugh?” Answer: “Tell Him your plans.”

And my recent political counterpart is “How do you make Republicans laugh?” Answer: “Texas is the 2020 battleground state.”

The quadrennial three-dimensional math game, more commonly known as the Electoral College, already challenges President Trump with an excessively large number of 2016 red states in need of serious defending — with no plans to expand his base. But Texas as a bona fide swing state is the campaign equivalent of launching the D-Day invasion while fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

Widely reported nationally, the fight for Texas has in fact begun (and not as a Republican laugh line).

An early harbinger of this confrontation is the RealClearPolitics general election match-up poll average showing Joe Biden leading Trump in the Lone Star State by three percentage points. Folks, this is Texas, so Trump should be leading the Democrats’ front-runner well outside the error margin after having won there by nine points in 2016. But as Republicans laugh about “battleground” Texas, they generally downplay any negative Trump polling.

They shouldn’t. To appropriate the familiar Apollo 13 quote: “Houston, we have a problem.” In a recent piece headlined “Texas Republicans Brace for 2020 Drubbing,” Politico reported, “In one sign of potential concern about Democrats’ inroads in the state, Trump’s campaign is currently spending more money on digital ads in Texas than in any other state.”

Team Trump’s spending there in the summer of 2019 is an unprecedented warning sign that the GOP’s once-firm grip on its 38-electoral-vote ruby-red “crown jewel” could be in jeopardy.

Since 1980, no Republican nominee or incumbent has ever needed to wage a serious battle to win those 38 votes in a state long regarded as “safe.”

Texas last went “blue” in 1976 when Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford. (This was decades before states were designated as blue or red, which started during the contentious 2000 presidential election.)

More recently, the 2016 election results proved that Texas’ bright red-state star had begun to flicker. Although Trump won there with 52.2% support to Clinton’s 43.2%, it was the smallest margin of victory for a Republican presidential nominee in the 21st century. (Yes, nine percentage points is “Texas small.”)

By comparison, Mitt Romney trumped Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012, 57.2% to 41.1%. In 2008, John McCain defeated Obama by 12 points. And before that George W. Bush won his home state by 23 points in 2004 and 21 points in 2000. 

Now Trump’s margin of victory is further clouded by troubling downward trends.

According to Morning Consult’s state tracking data, when Trump took office in January 2017, his job approval rating in the state was 54% with 34% disapproving. By July 2019’s end, his rating showed a net approval decrease of 14 percentage points with 51% approving and 45% disapproving.

The good news is that the president’s Texas job approval is 7.8 percentage points higher than his national RealClearPolitics average of 43.3% with 53.6% disapproving.

Note that Morning Consult’s July data did not include any fallout from the Aug. 3, mass shooting in El Paso. But Civiqs’ survey this week of registered voters shows Trump’s Texas approval has dipped to 50% with 47% disapproving.

As a 50-50 tossup, Texas amplifies the alarms heard after 2018 midterm election when a virtually unknown (at the time) U.S. Senate candidate named Beto O’Rourke, then a three-term El Paso congressman, assembled a “new coalition” of voters — young, non-white, female, urban —  and almost unseated Ted Cruz, who won reelection only by 50.9% to 48.3%. 

For a deeper dive, read Sean Trende’s recent RCP piece, “Yes, the GOP Should Worry About Texas,”  which explains inconvenient demographic truths about why Beto’s 2018 results could be a bellwether for 2020 races up and down the Texas ballot. 

Perhaps if the late Tim Russert, NBC’s iconic “Meet the Press” moderator, were alive today, he would hold a whiteboard with the words “Texas,Texas,Texas” as the 2020 state to watch — while, in his other hand, still holding his famous “Florida, Florida, Florida” sign. Ever since the explosive 2000 presidential election, Florida has been the “mother of all swing states” with its 29 electoral votes. But in 2020 that status could be “trumped” by Texas as the “Godzilla of all swing states.”

If the Democratic presidential nominee were to win Texas’ 38 electoral votes, America would undergo a political “tectonic-plate shift.” Theoretically, the Democratic Party would dominate the Electoral College vote, painting the White House “blue, blue, blue” for the foreseeable future.

As a Republican, I can only imagine how a “blue Texas” would demolish the morale of red-state voters. Potentially, the loss could ignite a Republican firestorm to replace the constitutionally mandated Electoral College with the popular vote. Ironically, such as shift has long been opposed by the GOP, but the idea continues to gain traction after the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections exposed quirks and flaws in the current system. (Some would say resulting in “illegitimate” presidents.)

No one knows what will happen in 2020 except that the entire country will be a battleground, both literally and figuratively. And that is not a laugh line.

Reposted from Real Clear Politics Feb. 22, 2019

(Click here for Myra’s complete op-ed archive)

According to today’s RealClearPolitics polling average, President Trump’s job approval is 44.3 percent with 52.6 percent of voters disapproving of his performance.

Now contrast his job approval with that of the last two presidents at this same point in their first term, both of whom were re-elected. On Feb. 22, 2011, the RCP job approval average for Barack Obama was 48.5 percent with 45.7 percent disapproving. On this same day in 2003, George W. Bush’s average was 57 percent with 37 percent disapproving.

It is also notable that Trump’s job approval average throughout 2018 and up to today has yet to reach 45 percent. Conversely, his average disapproval rating has consistently ranged between 51 and 55 percent.

Meanwhile, those dismal numbers are only one gigantic pothole on his bumpy road to re-election. What I consider Trump’s greatest foe is voter demography as outlined in the recent Pew Research Center study, “An Early Look at the 2020 Electorate.” That study projects the percentage of eligible voters from each of the nation’s four largest racial and ethnic groups. Unfortunately for Trump, the results do not bode well based on how these same groups voted in 2016.

It’s the math, stupid! Specifically, how demographic math impacts Trump’s ability to win the required 270 Electoral College votes and thus, a second term.

Let’s take a closer look, but first a caveat: Pew’s projected percentage of eligible 2020 voters by racial and ethnic group will likely differ from the percentage who actually cast a ballot.

The study projects that whites will comprise 66.7 percent of eligible voters; Hispanics, 13.3 percent; blacks, 12.5 percent; and Asians, 4.7 percent. The fact that non-whites will comprise roughly one-third of eligible voters would not be a problem for Trump and the Republican Party if they did not overwhelming and consistently vote Democratic. But the ever-increasing Hispanic vote is the GOP’s greatest cause of present and future consternation.

For example, due to Hispanic growth, traditional “ruby red” Arizona, with 10 electoral votes, will be among the most contentious 2020 battleground states. And, though Republicans fondly remember when New Mexico last went “red” — in 2004, helping re-elect President George W. Bush – it is now solidly blue.

Republican strategists also fear how the traditionally wide gap between the number of eligible and actual Hispanic voters is dramatically shrinking. It’s no surprise that as the Hispanic population grows, as with any rising ethnic group it becomes increasingly empowered, engaged, and mobilized to vote.

In fact, the 2018 midterm elections could be considered a historic turning point because Hispanics made up 11 percent of voters — a record level of participation. (The number was only 7.3 percent in the previous midterms.) Most important, that 11 percent of the 2018 electorate mirrors the 2016 presidential election turnout when Hispanics also composed 11 percent of the electorate while supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton by 66 percent to 28 percent for Donald Trump.

In past presidential elections, turnout trends for Hispanics showed both consistent growth and solid support for the Democratic candidate. In 2012, Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the voting electorate when 71 percent supported Barack Obama to just 27 percent for Mitt Romney. In 2008, Hispanics were 9 percent of the voting electorate, and 67 percent supported Obama compared to 31 percent for John McCain.

One could even go back to the 1984 Republican landslide when Hispanics made up only 3 percent of the electorate. Still, 66 percent supported the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale, compared to 34 percent who voted for Ronald Reagan.

The takeaway is that the Democrat presidential nominee in 2020 can count on support from at least two-thirds of Hispanic voters, who will likely constitute at least 12 percent of the electorate.

As previously seen, Pew’s study projects that in 2020 the percentage of eligible Hispanic voters is poised to overtake the percentage of eligible African-American voters, who in 2016 were 12 percent of the electorate, with 89 percent supporting Clinton. A great unspoken fear among Republican leaders is that the Hispanic vote has grown to be as solid a Democrat bloc as that of African-Americans.

Asians too are growing into another Democrat voting bloc. In 2016 they were 4 percent of voters and, similar to Hispanics, 65 percent voted for Clinton and only 27 percent for Trump.

Finally, there is the majority white vote that the Pew study projects will form 66.7 percent of eligible voters in 2020. Shown below is how whites’ percentage of the total voting electorate has consistently decreased since 2004 – the last time a Republican president won re-election.

2004:  77 percent
2008: 74 percent
2012: 72 percent
2016: 70 percent
2020: 68 percent?? (My projection based on trends.)

In 2016, Trump won 57 percent of the white vote compared to Clinton’s 37 percent. In 2020, it is anyone’s guess how much Trump will need to increase that 57 percent in order to win re-election because, pre-election, non-white vs. white voter turnout are variables that can only be estimated and modeled.

But, common sense dictates that the shrinking white vote could negatively impact Trump’s chances of again winning the three traditionally Democrat-leaning battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with their predominately white populations and combined total of 46 electoral votes. These three states boosted Trump’s total to 304, well over the 270 needed for victory — despite him losing the popular vote to Clinton by 2.9 million votes — 2.1 percent of the total cast.

It is also instructive to remember just how Trump won:

-Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, a 0.7 percent margin of victory.
-Wisconsin by 22,748 votes, a 0.7 percent margin.
-Michigan by 10,704 votes, a 0.3 percent margin.

And already there is trouble brewing for him in Michigan. A recent hypothetical general election matchup poll had all four of the leading Democratic presidential candidates denying him a second term.

But, as my Republican friends are fond of saying, “We don’t believe polls” and   “Pollsters always miss hidden Trump support.”

I don’t necessarily believe my friends, but this I know, the American electorate is not minting enough new white voters to achieve Trump’s re-election unless he increases his percentage of white voters by a yet unknown number of percentage points in exactly the right combination of states where electoral votes add up to 270.

In the meantime, the president can’t change demographics, but he can and must increase his job approval numbers. As a guide, and again I state for emphasis, the last re-elected Republican president, and the last Republican to win the popular vote, won a close re-election race against John Kerry in 2004 with a 48 percent job approval and a 47 percent disapproval rating the last week before the election.

Today Trump’s approval is four points below, and his disapproval is five points above, George W. Bush’s.

Based on all you have read, draw your own 2020 conclusions.