I am not in that group that is already thinking that Trump is doomed to defeat in November. Fivethirtyeight gave him a 28% chance in 2016 and look how that panned out. Right now, according to the 270toWin consensus, the numbers are against him but it's not impossible, especially if he can win Florida (if he loses Florida and existing predictions hold, he has no way to win. Current analysis suggest Dems have 248 EV and Republicans 204; needing only 22 more EV, Florida's 29 would be an automatic win. But 270toWin has Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska (one of their split EVs), North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in play. Democrats have seven winning paths, Republicans four, with two paths to a tie (which is a Trump win, since each state gets a vote in the House and a majority of state delegations are controlled by Republicans). Florida's recent change to allowing felons to vote after completing their sentences may provide a decisive advantage.
The Senate is likewise up for change, but not necessarily a turnover. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina are toss-ups; Collins voting to acquit Trump may get voters out in Maine and send that to Democrats (or an independent). (Maine may be a bit of a tossup, though, because ranked-choice voting will be used in a federal election for, I think, the first time in decades, if not ever, so we might see something unexpected.) McSally (AZ) and Gardner (CO) are getting pummeled in their states' presses. Tillis (NC) is underwater in some recent polls to his Democratic opponent. If all lose, that sets up a 50-50 split in the Senate, with the VP (whomever that is) as the tiebreaker. But there are some intriguing possibilities for Democrats to take charge even if Trump wins office:
- In Georgia, a special election will determine who finishes out the term of Johnny Isakson, who resigned for health reasons last year. His seat was filled temporarily by the appointment of Kelly Loeffler, but only until a special election can happen in November. A runoff is possible if no one gets a majority. Doug Collins, a current member of the House of Representatives and a very strong Trump backer, has filed to run, very much against party wishes who fear that if he is the candidate, it will drive Democratic engagement, possibly even putting that state's electoral votes in play.
- In Kansas, Kris Kobach, who led Trump's ill-fated voter fraud panel, is at least tied with the next person, if not the front-runner, in the Republican primary race. He is widely despised in Kansas, even among many Republicans, and could trigger an "anyone but Kris" response such as may have happened in 2018 when Kobach lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly.
With all that out of the way, here are some things I can see happening.
- Trump wins
- If Republicans hold a majority (including a VP majority), Justice Thomas announces his retirement in 2021 or 2022 after 30+ years on the bench. He is replaced by a similarly-minded jurist in their 40s or 50s to cement conservative control of the Court for the next decade at least.
- Republicans continue to confirm judicial nominees, though perhaps a little more thoughtfully if their control is narrowed as they can't afford defectors.
- If Democrats get a majority, Thomas stays put as long as he can. Trump faces a hostile Congress with both houses controlled by political opponents. Trump continues to use emergency powers to try to get his way, even as he becomes the first president to risk being impeached twice.
- In any case, the stream of bad news for Trump continues and he just becomes more combative. His financial information is leaked, and something really bad comes to light. Adults in the room leave, and his administration becomes more than a third "acting" positions. Even some Republicans begin to express public exasperation.
- Also in any case, Democrats begin aiming for 2022 mid-terms, where 34 seats are up, 22 of them currently held by Republicans (though the Georgia seat Loeffler currently holds may not be by then). Potentially competitive states will likely include Colorado (D), Florida (R), Indiana (R), Missouri (R), Nevada (D), New Hampshire (D), North Carolina (R), Pennsylvania (R), and Wisconsin (R). Others might become competitive through resignations, deaths, or scandals.
- Democrat wins presidency
- In November 2020, Justice Thomas, oldest of the conservative wing, resigns effective December 31, 2020, allowing the Republican Senate to slip a nominee in to replace him. McConnell again ignores the Merrick Garland precedent.
- In early 2021, especially if Democrats take the Senate, Justice Ginsberg announces her retirement at the end of the term. Democrats easily confirm a nominee (Garland?) to replace her. Soon after, or at the latest in the following term, Justice Breyer announces his retirement, allowing another easy win for Democrats. Replacements are in their 50s, setting up a long-term hold on those seats.
- Questions begin to surround Thomas pertaining to age and time on the Court. There is a real possibility that a Democratic president gets three appointments in the first term, leading to a massive shift of the Court's philosophy.
- President submits a long list of judicial appointees, enough to fill all of the available open positions. Senate has their work cut out for them, doesn't clear the backlog until 2022.
- Democratic senators may be helped by massive data dumps by the White House of call transcripts, memos, and other information about the Trump administration. A couple of Republican senators up in 2022 decide that it's not worth the fight after something comes to light so bad it makes Ukraine look like an actual perfect call and find health and family reasons to decline to run.