What Is It That Worries the Squishy Middle About Trump?

Dave Hernandez/ZUMA

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The 2020 presidential election, like pretty much all presidential elections, will depend on appealing to voters in the middle. I know it’s fashionable to ignore this in favor of “turning out the base,” but base strategies mostly work at the skinniest of margins. If your base strategy is a little better than your opponent’s, you might gain a point or two at best.

That’s fine, and it’s why campaigns work hard to turn out their base. But the real money is in the middle, because every voter you win is a voter lost for the other side. In other words, while base strategies tend to cancel each other out, voters in the middle actually count double.

Now, it’s a truism that a reelection campaign is a referendum on the incumbent, and I think that’s true in spades this time. This election is going to be all about Donald Trump, and in particular, it’s going to be about winning centrist voters away from Trump. So give this some thought: What is it that worries centrist voters about Trump? If you were tasked with creating blistering attack ads against Trump that would play in suburbs around the country, what would the ads say?

The hard part about this is getting away from all the things that you hate about Trump. You don’t count, after all, since you’re already a confirmed anti-Trump vote. You may be outraged about Ukraine or Brett Kavanaugh or emoluments or immigration or whatnot, but it’s pretty obvious that these things haven’t made a big impact on non-political-junkies who don’t pay much attention to this stuff.

Nor does Trump’s temperament seem to bother them. Not enough, anyway. The most commonly expressed opinion is that, sure, they don’t like the Twitter stuff and they wish he’d run off at the mouth a little less, but in the end it’s not a deal breaker.

So what is? Put yourself in different shoes. Or ask some friends whose political views are more moderate than yours. What really worries them about Trump? And what would it take to turn those worries into a vote for someone else?

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