In exactly 11 months, Americans will head to the polls for the 2020 election. Donald Trump will be fighting for reelection against the Democratic presidential nominee, while all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate will also be contested. Furthermore, elections will also be held for the governorships of 11 states and two territories, a majority of state legislatures, and multiple municipalities.
With just 11 months until election day, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events from last month, along with a preview of what to expect in American politics over the next month.
1. Gubernatorial and state legislative elections in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey (November 5th)
On November 5th, gubernatorial and state legislative Democratic wins erupted across the country. Though Louisiana and Mississippi legislators largely remained in Republican control, the Democrats found better luck in Kentucky, Virginia, and New Jersey. These wins show a continuation of the Democratic blue wave that has swept across the country for the past two years.
In Virginia, Democrats seized full control of both the state legislature and the senate, a feat that had not been accomplished for over 20 years. However, perhaps the most significant win was that of Democrat Andy Beshear over Republican Matt Bevin in Kentucky, a state that President Trump won by over 30 per cent in 2016. Beshear’s win played a great loss for President Trump, who campaigned in Kentucky just a day before the election, and who closely aligned himself with Bevin throughout the campaign.
This Democrat success was similarly echoed in Louisiana, where incumbent conservative Democrat John Bel Edwards was able to secure a second term against Trump-backed Republican alternative Eddie Rispone.
These elections were significant in displaying further evidence for the widening urban-rural political divide. As evident in the Democrats’ performances, successes were largely driven by their strong performances in suburban areas, a continuation of the trend from the 2018 midterms.
This Democratic win in a “Trump-country” state overall displays a weakening in key Republican support, one that could play crucial come 2020 for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. Closely following the election, the hashtag #MoscowMitchIsNext became trending on Twitter, indicating that the blue victory in a once-red state may be indicative of McConnell’s fate come 2020.
2. Bloomberg joins the race (November 24th)
With billionaire businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg joining the race to become the Democratic nominee, the list of Democratic presidential candidates now grows to 16. Ending weeks of speculation, Bloomberg’s entrance comes a mere ten weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
Bloomberg bought over $37 million worth of television advertising for the first two weeks of his campaign, a purchase touted as the largest advertisement purchase in primary election history. Similarly, largely mirroring his past mayoral campaigns, Bloomberg has pledged for his campaign to be entirely self-funded, a tactic shared by fellow candidate Tom Steyer.
While Bloomberg has traditionally positioned himself as a politician who “cannot be bought,” this stance will serve to complicate his qualification into the upcoming Democratic presidential debates. In order to qualify, candidates must receive a number of individual donations, reducing Bloomberg’s chances of making the debate stage. Similarly, Bloomberg has also chosen to adopt an unorthodox campaign strategy, skipping the first four states in the primary season calendar (New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina), focusing instead on the states which will participate in Super Tuesday in March.
To little surprise, Bloomberg’s entrance has made waves among the current cohort of Democratic candidates, especially Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Both have been vocal critics of Bloomberg’s billionaire background, and more so, have attacked his tactics as a method of “buying democracy,” criticisms that will most certainly continue in the coming months. While it is difficult to predict Bloomberg’s performance in the coming months, his entrance will serve to further complicate the primaries for both candidates and voters alike.
1. Donald Trump attends the NATO Summit in London (December 3rd)
President Trump will fly to London, U.K., to attend the NATO summit on December 3rd and 4th, to mark the organization’s 70th anniversary. He is expected to have individual meetings with other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. In those meetings, he is set to discuss the challenges faced by the alliance from China and Russia, among other topics.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump heavily criticized NATO and other member states. He claimed that other countries were “not paying their fair share,” and said that he would not mind if NATO broke up. Trump also called the organization “obsolete,” as he argued it was designed to counter the Soviet Union, and not terrorism. As president, he has continued his attacks on NATO. During last year’s summit, for example, he threatened to withdraw the United States from the organization and called the EU a “foe.”
In order to appease Trump ahead of this year’s summit, NATO announced that it would reduce the United States’ contribution to the alliance, from 22 per cent to 16 per cent. However, it is not clear that this will prevent Trump from publicly criticizing NATO. As he is gearing up for re-election next year, it can be expected he will want to continue projecting an “America First” foreign policy to appeal to his base of voters in 2020.
2. Impeachment moves to the Judiciary Committee (December 4th)
Since Speaker Nancy Pelosi first announced an impeachment inquiry this past September, most of the investigation has been under the supervision of the House Intelligence Committee, headed by Adam Schiff. The committee deposed seventeen witnesses behind closed doors, with several also testifying in public, in hearings televised throughout the country.
The impeachment now moves into a new phase, with the House Judiciary Committee now in charge. Using the report produced by the Intelligence Committee as a basis, the Judiciary Committee will hold public hearings, and then vote on articles of impeachment. Potentially, these articles of impeachment could be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote before Christmas. The first hearing will be held on December 4th.
The impeachment proceedings do not seem to have affected Trump’s poll numbers. His approval ratings currently sit at around 42 per cent, similar to numbers throughout the first three years of his presidency. Therefore, with his base sticking with him for now, it is hard to currently predict how the impeachment inquiry, and Trump’s probable impeachment by the House, will affect the elections next year, both for members of Congress and for Trump.
3. The sixth Democratic debate (December 19th)
The sixth debate of the Democratic primaries, hosted by PBS and Politico, will be the smallest so far. As of December 3rd, seven candidates have qualified to be on stage: former Vice-President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, and Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The thresholds to qualify were raised from previous debates. To be on stage, candidates had to satisfy a polling requirement (either four per cent in four national polls or 6 per cent in two early-state polls) and a donor requirement (a minimum of 200,000 donors). The deadline to meet the requirements is December 12th, meaning a few other candidates could also end up taking part in the debate.
Realistically, two other candidates could also be on stage on December 19th, as entrepreneur Andrew Yang and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard both need one more poll and have met the donor requirement.
Less than two months from the Iowa Caucuses, this debate will be important for all candidates who hope to score a win in the state. The polls currently show a close four-way race between Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren. Therefore, a standout debate performance from any candidate could dramatically impact the first caucus.
Edited by Catharina O’ Donnell
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Image by Nico Paix via Wikimedia Commons