Some analysts, like Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Henry Olsen, have argued that the Republican Party needs to remake itself in a Trumpian manner to win in 2020, adopting populist policies on trade and a less interventionist approach on foreign policy. “The soldiers in the GOP’s army are Midwestern and Southern working-class voters. Why not take advantage of the new playing field Trump has created?” Olsen writes. He cites the 21 districts that swung to Trump after backing President Obama in the 2012 election as evidence.
But of those 21 Obama-Trump districts, 10 of them are suburban seats that are now trending away from Trump. Democrats won nine of those 10 Obama-Trump suburban seats on Tuesday (and netted five GOP-held seats from the bunch). Even with Trump’s strong showing among his core voters, the trade-off loses the Republican Party votes.
Ignoring the reasons why upper-middle class voters are drifting away from the GOP will lead to disaster for Trump in the next election. The midterm results from Pennsylvania demonstrate that the president’s standing in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs could drop even below what it was in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans are nervous about losing critical ground in suburban Milwaukee, a region known for its GOP dominance and strong turnout operation. Even with Ohio and Florida in his column, Trump will still need to break through in another traditionally Democratic state to win reelection.