While Trump Gloats, Democrats Think Barr Letter Will Help Them in 2020

Now that the Mueller probe has ended, and Bill Barr sent his summary letter to Congress, Donald Trump and his allies believe they have a winning issue for the 2020 election. But that may not be true. 

As the Washington Post reported last night:

President Trump’s defiant mantra — “no collusion!”– became a rallying cry for his reelection Sunday after the Justice Department said there was no evidence that his campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.”

There is no doubt that Barr’s letter ended a great deal of speculation — and hope — that Trump would be forced to leave office early as a result of the Mueller investigation.

But it was never very likely that Mueller’s findings would convince Republicans in the senate to impeach the president anyway.

It’s true many will be disappointed in what has happened, but that doesn’t mean it is all bad news for Democrats. Some political analysts have gone too far in saying this is a massive victory for Trump that will greatly help his reelection chances.

For example, Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News, tweeted:

It’s fair to assume there is a significant degree on panic setting in this afternoon at the DNC, Democratic primary campaigns across the country

This reaction to the Barr letter is almost certainly false. Lederman seems to have missed some important aspects of the emerging 2020 presidential election dynamic. There is no indication that any Democratic candidates were counting on Mueller’s findings being devastating for the president.

If Trump wants to base his reelection campaign on “no collusion” then that is just fine with them.

The Barr Letter May Help Democrats in 2020

In fact, insofar as the attorney general’s summary of Mueller’s findings makes it less likely that Trump will be impeached, Democrats will probably view this as an advantage in 2020.

Democrats see Trump as a very weak incumbent in 2020, with approval ratings that have been historically low.

They think that if the economy worsens (which many economists say is likely) then Trump will be an even weaker candidate.

They also think it is likely that there will be more federal and state indictments coming against Trump’s family and associates — and possibly against the president himself.

A failed impeachment bid now would outrage Trump’s own supporters and increase his support among his base. It would allow him to play the victim and perhaps get broader public support as a result.

Many Democrats remember that GOP efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton backfired, and he retained his popularity during his failed impeachment proceedings, and won reelection.

So far the Democrats’ 2020 campaigns have mostly ignored both Trump and Mueller. The Blue Wave of the 2018 election is fresh in everyone’s minds, and Democrats hope to build on that and use the same themes for another Blue Wave in 2020.

The huge midterm victory for Democrats was based on the issues Americans really care about, such as health care and government accountability. And now the 2020 Democrats are again running on so-called “kitchen table” issues. They’ve been talking about healthcare, reducing prescription costs, helping workers, taking on big business, restoring voting rights, and other big issues that resonate with American voters.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) just proposed a plan to raise teachers’ pay which will play very well to middle class families.

The fact is that the majority of voters don’t really care about the Mueller report, and any impact it has will certainly fade before the next election.

It is possible Trump will receive an immediate polling boost with the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation and Barr’s one-sided letter.

 If the full Mueller report is ever released, that boost could easily go away also. 

And by Election Day 2020, positive effects for Trump from Barr’s letter will have dissipated. By then voters will certainly be tired of hearing about “no collusion” from Trump and his campaign.

There is little question that by November of 2020 American voters will want to vote for the candidate they think represents the best path forward for their own lives and for the country. By then Mueller’s report will be a distant memory, and Democrats’ chances of winning will not be impacted by it at all.