Analyzing the latest polling, the New York Times and NBC News both saw signs of a likely Trump victory in 2020, but anticipated a potential challenge that can’t be ignored. State-by-state analysis shows the president again topping 300 electoral votes, but losing the popular vote by an even greater deficit than Hillary’s 3,000,000 vote margin last time. Trump’s problem stems from his overwhelming unpopularity in a few big population states, including California, New York and Illinois.
Never before has America experienced two elections in a row where the popular vote loser won the presidency; a repeat of that anomaly would undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s second term as well as discrediting the electoral college as an institution. It’s imperative that the GOP pile up a better total in the popular vote; even though that tally doesn’t elect the president, it still matters.
To avoid another “split decision” outcome, Republicans must campaign in populous states like California where the president isn’t favored. It’s important for two reasons: First, by winning both popular and electoral votes, he’d bring much stronger momentum to a second term. Second, some of those deep-blue Democratic states are the key to Republican control of the House of Representatives: in 2018, the GOP lost a total of 17 seats in California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut. Even though such states won’t go for Trump in 2020, a vigorous campaign would not only bring more individual votes, but also help Republicans take back the House seats they desperately need to win.