Is Donald Trump in trouble in 2020? Some Republican insiders think that the results of the 2018 midterm elections could spell doom for the President’s re-election chances.

That’s not the only metric that has some worried, either. While the President’s party almost always loses seats in midterm elections in the modern era, many Republican insiders are looking at a different indicator for 2020: Trump’s approval rating.

While Trump is the most popular President among Republicans in history, he has yet to crack 50% approval rating overall (with the exception of some Rasmussen polls), and that could spell trouble ahead.

2020 presidential election

According to Politico, Trump’s “approval ratings have mired in the 40-percent range — so far, he’s the only president in the modern era whose job approval ratings have never been over 50 percent, according to Gallup.” Worse, the House seats won by Democrats in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are all in states that allowed Trump to leap over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

How did the midterms affect Trump?

John McLaughlin, who helped Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, identified the issue thusly: “The bad part is they haven’t broadened [his coalition]. They haven’t gotten his job approval over 50 percent, like Reagan. We haven’t done that.”

Add that the Democrats midterm victories were largely due to increased voter turnout, and that’s a recipe for disaster if nothing changes.

2020 presidential election

Policy or personality?

Media hysteria aside – is there really much to complain about? Everyone who wants a job has one, wages are rising, and the economy is expanding. Trump has also made significant foreign policy achievements in territorially defeating ISIS and putting North and South Korea on a path to peace, though I doubt the average voter pays as much attention to those issues as they do to issues that most directly affect them (such as the economy).

When it comes to Trump’s policies, they’re actually extremely popular, which isn’t what you’d expect when you listen to how the media portrays them. But in effect, the media is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by presenting caricatures of Trump’s actual policies which they then shoot down. A CNBC headline from last year put it best: “Trump’s Agenda is Popular, Until he Acts on It.” A poll of theirs from April 2017 found “strong support for his plans to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, cut individual taxes and renegotiate trade deals. But the poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, shows majorities disapprove of his agenda in places where he’s actually taken action: climate change, the immigration ban, and repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

In other words, people like Trump’s policies, but they don’t like them once the media assigns ownership to Trump. After all, it only makes sense that Trump’s strict immigration policies would become less popular once the media endlessly pushed a narrative that it was resulting in children being put in cages. The media was happy to ignore the identical policy in effect when Obama was in office – but were able to repurpose it as an argument for illegal immigration when convenient. Hilariously, some journalists accidentally showcased photographs of illegal immigrant children in cages without realizing that they were taken during the Obama administration.

The missing ingredient: the 2020 Democrat nominee

Missing from all discussions over Trump’s 2020 odds is who his opponent will be. After all, it doesn’t matter if the American public thinks Trump is the worst President ever if they think his replacement would be even worse.

And who do Democrats have to offer? Those placing bets on the Democrats’ inevitable 2020 candidate on the handicapping website PredictIt are betting on Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren. And they’re also betting that none of them can beat Donald Trump.

2020 presidential election

I won’t delude myself as other pundits have into believing I’m capable of making political predictions two years out – but those putting their money where their mouths are still are betting on Trump.

Trump’s challenge isn’t in crafting different policies that voters would be receptive towards, it’s thwarting the media’s inaccurate portrayal of his policies and motives.