CHARLESTON, S.C. – On the surface, Chris Moody and Steve Neal do not have much in common, other than this: they are excited to vote for President Donald Trump in 2020.
Moody, a 24-year-old white daycare worker and recent graduate of Marshall University in Charleston, West Virginia, is sort of a billboard for the president's re-election. He walked Saturday to the King's Leaf Cigar Lounge, wearing a T-shirt wearing an impressionistic version of Trump's face and these words: "If Trump is not your president it's not your country, you're not a tree, move on. "
He is heavily influenced by a powerful sentiment fueled by Trump and shared by many of his constituents: Trump is constantly and unjustly attacked by Democrats, the media and the establishment forces in Washington.
"I can not stand the way people talk about him," said Moody.
Neal, a 49-year-old black automotive finance consultant who uses his gleaming white Lexus to drive Uber's roads to the side, said his support for Trump was a source of frustration for his family of hardened Democrats in Charleston . rarely speaks about his policy unless he is asked.
"My vote speaks loud enough for himself," Neal said.
These two types are important to Trump's success or failure as he seeks a second term in the presidency that few would have predicted when he first descended on an escalator on his Manhattan skyscraper. four years ago, without ever winning a single vote. Office.
Now the undisputed center of the political universe, Trump must launch his re-election campaign Tuesday at the Amway Center in Orlando, after redefining the Republican Party, the tone of the American public discourse and the country's perception, at him and abroad. He will do so with the shadow of a possible high-stakes House imposition looming over his shoulder – a prospect that puts him in jeopardy in his potential to release the criminal findings of the lawyer. Special Robert Mueller and, conversely, who offers the hope that he can rally new voters by his side in the name of defending his presidency against overzealous opponents.
Although Trump has formed the most loyal supporter base in modern history, he has also alienated and mobilized large segments of the electorate, from liberal urban democrats to ex-suburban Republicans destabilized social policy and power views. executive and nationalism that undermine the pillars of Western democratic governance.
The biggest challenge facing Trump on the electoral battlefield is turning the energy of his own base into a kind of wave that will bring in new voters. This largely depends on the efficiency of a data-driven operation focused on adding followers who do not normally vote at its core, but partly depends on the evangelism of people like Moody. and Neal who were there for him last time.
In this way, Trump could be his worst enemy.
Neal said he is happy with the economy and has a "stronger arm" on foreign policy. But the "stupid thing" says Trump makes it so difficult to effectively defend his interests that Neal is not really trying.
"The problem is Trump's personality," he said.
Modern history and more recent polls suggest that Trump has little room for error in a nation deeply divided and bitterly divided into political loyalties. Like George W. Bush, Trump has managed to win a first term by losing the popular vote, and public and private polls show that he has work to do if he wants to win again.
Last week, polls from Fox News and Quinnipiac University showed that Trump was behind a series of Democratic rivals – former Vice President Joe Biden led by 10 points and 13 points, respectively.
More troubling, at least from a public relations perspective, the recent reports by ABC News and the New York Times on Trump's internal polls showed him behind Biden in almost every major state. Biden held a double-digit lead in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – states that collectively represent more than his margin of victory in 2016 – and NBC reported Sunday that Trump had cut ties with two people involved in its voting operations in the country. following the publication of the data.
Tony Fabrizio, the main pollster of the campaign, said that these figures corresponded to a "worst case scenario" implying a poor participation pattern, suggesting that they did not reflect the real state of the race.
Modeling is particularly important for Trump because its strategy is necessarily based on changing the number of people coming to the polls in 2020 – and it will try to do so at the same time that Democrats will try to counter it. both with a wave of their own and by blocking past Trump voters who have been pushed back by his presidency to this point.
Trump's popularity rating was negative for most of his presidency, and the most recent table of FiveThirtyEight.com's number calculators puts it at 42.6%. But his allies say he's in great shape as he prepares for the Orlando Rally and races ahead of him.
And Chris Wilson, a former Republican pollster and Republican political data analyst, said he was not putting a lot of action into the traditional surveys he's currently watching because he's basing his participation models on the recent elections – which may not reflect the reality of 2020 if Trump succeeds in targeting and training new voters.
"I am very skeptical about any survey that is taking today that takes its sample asking people whether they will vote or not," he said. He recently conducted polls, based on voter data modeling, that showed Trump had a much better position – including holding small interests in Florida and Wisconsin – in the main swing states.
The other factor that can not be measured at the moment is the effect of Trump's campaign against his potential Democratic opponent, Wilson said.
"Donald Trump will have several months, five or six years to make the candidate completely unpleasant," he said.
Trump's penchant for personal attacks may finally rally his own base and depress the Democrats' enthusiasm, but there is also a risk that it will have the opposite effect.
After years of bickering on Twitter and verbal insults from everyone from world leaders to professional athletes, some social stigma attached to Trump in some circles could make it harder for him to reap the benefits of total support from his army. supporters.
In addition, the president's behavior can alienate voters who are comfortable with his policy.
Although this is less important in the state of Moody's, West Virginia, and South Carolina, where Trump is certain to win, this could be an important factor in the grip of 39 Alternate States that will determine who sits in the Oval Office in January 2021.
Tom Oestreich, 64, of Tucson, Arizona, said in an interview with NBC News that he had chosen Trump because he could not vote for Clinton. He would have voted for former Vice President Joe Biden in 2016 if Biden had been nominated as a Democratic candidate, he said, but he now considers that the Democratic leader is "taking a step" on the campaign track and is "a little too old".
Oestreich, a so-called moderate Republican, said he is leaning in favor of Trump because of the state of the economy and its management of foreign policy, but is worried about this. that he describes as a president who would look like a "fifth grade education". He takes a second look at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
"I'm not crazy about Buttigieg, but he has an excellent pedigree, an excellent resume," said Oestreich about the Rhodes Scholar and the war veteran of Afghanistan. "If it boils down to two … there is a very good chance I can vote for him."
Democrats believe that they have the power to turn Arizona in their favor for the second time since the victory of Harry Truman in 1948, in part because Trump wore only three and a half points to the ### 39th state in 2016 and partly a race in the Senate last year for the first time since 1988.
But as has been the case since the start of his first presidential race, Trump can count on unfailing support from a loyal base, more than willing to take on his own whoever opposes his path , that it is about democrats or hesitant Republicans. Many of them consider him their champion in almost epic terms.
"I think he's fine," said Kitty Klipstine, Trump's fellow at Dayton in Ohio, in an interview for "The Deciders" of Hardball, which will air on MSNBC at 10 pm. AND Monday. "It's just that he's fighting Congress, against both parties, really, which is a shame because Republicans should support him until the end."
Like Klipstine, Roger Carey of Ankeny, Iowa, is proud of Trump's work and considers that any shortcomings stem from the resistance he encountered in Washington.
"I like the fact that he has accomplished the things he ran on," Carey said. "I like the fact that he wants to support our borders, while protecting our borders." Positive points for the country. "I'd like the Congress to support it, and that it will make progresses." things."
The trick for the president is to convince all those who agree with Carey – but who did not vote for Trump last time – to support his offer to keep his job.
– Maura Barrett was reported in Boone, Iowa, and Cal Perry, Dayton, Ohio.