David Axelrod and Vin Weber size up the unusual 2020 election

A man wears a full face mask as he presents his ID to a poll worker.
Robert Forrestal, left, wears a full face chemical shield to protect against the spread of coronavirus, as he votes on April 7 at the Janesville Mall in Janesville, Wis., in the state's presidential primary election.
Angela Major | The Janesville Gazette via AP

Two of the nation's top presidential campaign analysts size up the 2020 election: David Axelrod was President Barack Obama's top political adviser, and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber advised Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Both men agreed there are many variables in this highly unusual election year, and remind us that while the presidential election is four months away, early and absentee voting will begin in many states in September.

Vin Weber says the election will be a referendum on President Trump, but it will also be seen as “a choice between Trump and a Democratic Party that has moved dangerously to the left.”

Axelrod says incumbents usually have lots of advantages, but “very few incumbents can win a referendum on themselves, especially in a closely divided country.”

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Axelrod added that it’s hard to make the case against your opponent when you’re in the middle of a pandemic. President Trump has, in a way, “been robbed by the virus, and his handling has compounded his problems.”

Likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden “isn’t scary enough for Trump’s purposes,” Axelrod said.

Weber and Axelrod said the 2020 nominating conventions in late August are going to be truly unusual.

An additional problem is the voting system itself. Weber says he does not agree with the Republicans who say mail-in voting is a problem, nor does he agree with Democrats who say voter suppression is a problem. But both agree that there will be serious difficulty getting enough election judges to open polling places during a pandemic. And the counting of mail-in ballots in many states could take days or weeks.

Looking at the polls in July, Vin Weber said it looks likely that President Trump is hurting US Senate candidates and Republicans may well lose control of the Senate.

Axelrod and Weber spoke Thursday via Zoom with political science professor Larry Jacobs, director of the University of Minnesota Humphrey School Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.