Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing
US President Donald Trump says there is "nothing wrong" with listening to foreign governments offering dirt on his political opponents. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

"Trump's making a bet that he can link the Democratic nominee to this 'squad' — the aforementioned group of congresswomen of color that he has lobbed attacks at. Remember, that's exactly how he won in 2016: an unpopular Democratic opponent," said Enten. "In Wisconsin, for example, Trump had a favorable rating of only 35%. He won the state because he ran up a 37-point margin against Clinton among the 22% of the electorate who had an unfavorable view of both Clinton and Trump."

While this strategy is fairly straightforward, Enten said, there are many ways Trump could fail — and ways Democrats could defeat it.

"Trump's Republican Party lost the 2018 midterm elections, which were held under similar conditions as today. Trump's net approval rating was -9 points in the 2018 exit poll. The result was that Trump's Republican Party lost 40 House seats and the House popular vote by 9 points," wrote Enten. "In the final weeks of that cycle, Republicans were not helped by Trump continuously pointing out in the final weeks of that campaign that migrants were coming up through Central America. Voters who decided in the final month of the 2018 campaign were as likely to vote Democratic as those who decided before then."

"It remains unclear if Trump can compensate his unpopularity by demonizing the Democratic nominee this time around," said Enten. "And remember, Trump also risks raising turnout among nonwhite voters. That's not a big deal in a state like Wisconsin, which is very white. It could, however, take Sunbelt states moving to the left, like Arizona and Texas, and put them into play for the Democrats."

Enten's analysis suggests important things for Democrats: stay unified, fight on the Midwest turf that Trump only barely won before, and focus on turnout in racially diversifying Southern areas that are trending left. If this happens, Trump's narrow path to victory in 2016 may not be replicable.