Midwest will again loom large in the 2020 presidential contest

You and I can probably predict the winner of the presidential race in about 40 states and we’re a little over 18 months away from that 2020 election.

And we only know that President Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. We don’t know who will emerge from the very crowded race of Democratic candidates – and on top of that, former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t even announced his candidacy.

You can put New York, New Jersey and many of the states that surround them along with California, Oregon and Washington in the Democratic column.

Trump will again capture the Deep South and places like the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, West Virginia and Missouri.

Here’s some advice for Democrats: Despite Trump’s success in 2016 in the Midwest, that’s where he is most vulnerable. Ignore the region and you’re likely to lose.

Trump had narrow victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and that’s where Democrats should be focusing their attention as that party has had success in those states since the 2016 presidential election.

While Trump won comfortably in Ohio and it has been a Republican stronghold in statewide elections for decades, it went for Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Clinton twice each. It’s going to be tougher for Democrats to win the presidential race in Ohio than the three other previously mentioned states, but not impossible.

The campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent running in the Democratic presidential primary in 2020, recognizes this.

Between today and Monday, Sanders is having events in all four states as well as Indiana.

What’s important is Sanders is going primarily to smaller industrial cities. Democrats do well in larger cities. It’s the smaller ones where they struggle.

Sanders starts Friday in Madison, Wis., which besides Pittsburgh, is the largest city he’ll visit.

On Saturday, he goes to Gary, Ind., as well as Coopersville and Warren in Michigan. Warren is among the four communities, including Lordstown, in the United States that has a General Motors plant being idled by the auto company.

Speaking of Lordstown, Sanders will be there at 1 p.m. Sunday, followed by a 5 p.m. rally in Pittsburgh.

He stays in Pennsylvania on Monday with an event in Wilkes-Barre and then a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem.

In the 2016 Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton, Sanders beat her in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana with her capturing Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It’s a smart move by Sanders to hit these industrial Midwest cities, particularly Warren, Mich., and Lordstown.

Because of the GM closing, Lordstown could be a popular spot for Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election.

Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, came to Lordstown on March 18 for a private meeting with Dave Green, the president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the plant. O’Rourke went there after a rally in Cleveland.

At the time, Green had been criticized on Twitter by Trump.

In a Facebook post, with Green sitting next to him, O’Rourke said: “I just want to tell you that so many of us around the country, although you might have been lit up a little by the president, are so proud of the way you conducted yourself.”

He added: “We just wanted to come and say, ‘Thank you,’ and make sure we can help to carry this message you have started here and do everything we can to be helpful.”

The problem with O’Rourke’s visit was his campaign didn’t alert the local media. His campaign has since apologized for the “oversight.”

As a spokesman for another Democratic presidential candidate told me: CNN isn’t going to get someone the nomination. It’s going to be local news coverage in swing states.

That need for Democrats to win the Midwest is probably U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s biggest plus as he’s a nine-term congressman from Ohio.

“The No. 1 issue for most Democrats around the country is who can win,” Ryan of Howland, D-13th, told The Vindicator. “I think I provide a pretty good story for those who can put the blue wall back together, who can win Wisconsin, who can win Michigan, who can win Pennsylvania – especially western [Pennsylvania] – and who can win Ohio, at the very least put Ohio in play. I think I’ve got a pretty good argument given that Trump did pretty well in my district, but I did well too.”

However, his lack of national name recognition and his likely struggles to raise money put him at a disadvantage to several of the candidates in the race.

A couple of requests by me to his campaign this week to find out how much money Ryan has raised for his presidential bid since the April 4 announcement were ignored.

National media coverage

Ryan has been campaigning in Iowa, the first state in the nation with a presidential caucus, and New Hampshire, the first state with a presidential primary, and has received national media coverage.

He says the key to his campaign is to interact with people in those two important states “to get our numbers to where we get on stage in June for the debates and have a moment.”

The top 20 Democratic presidential candidates will debate in Miami on June 26 and 27, two days with 10 candidates each selected at random.

To qualify, a candidate needs either at least 1 percent support in three qualifying polls, or have at least 65,000 unique donors with a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.

There are six Democratic presidential candidate debates this year and six more in 2020.