Trump won the 2016 election while losing the popular vote. Something worse could happen in 2020. Trump could win re-election WITHOUT winning a majority of either the popular OR Electoral College votes. Here is how that could happen.
Assume that like in 2016, Trump loses the popular vote but neither Trump nor the Democratic candidate wins a 270 electoral vote majority. Such an outcome is not likely but could happen with just a few changes in the election outcome from 2016. Miles Coleman at the University of Virginia Center for Politics provides one possible scenario. He writes, imagine that “Democrats win back Wisconsin and Michigan and finally turn Arizona blue. In this scenario, Pennsylvania stubbornly stays with Trump, and he’s able to replicate his 2016 showing in ME-2 (Maine House District 2). If Democrats can return NE-2 (Nebraska House District 2) back to their fold, it would provide their 270th electoral vote… If NE-2 stays Republican, the result would be a 269-269 tie, in which, ironically enough, ME-2’s single electoral vote would prevent the Democrat from winning an Electoral College majority.” See: http://centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/the-electoral-college-maine-and-nebraskas-crucial-battleground-votes/
If no candidate wins a majority (270) electoral votes, the Constitution says the newly elected House of Representatives chooses the President. Let’s say the Democrats retain their majority in the House, which is likely. That means the Democratic candidate would become President if the vote is along party lines, right? Wrong.
Under the 12th amendment, in the case of a tier in the Electoral College vote, the House elects the new President but each state delegation has only one vote. Currently, Republicans control 26 of the State delegations (more Republican House members than Democratic House members). Going into 2020, it looks like 19 State delegations are Safe Republican, 6 are Likely Republican and 1 Leans Republican. At least 26 State delegations are Safe, Likely or Leaning Republican. Contrast that to what Democrats can expect. Going into 2020, 14 State delegations are Safe Democrat, 3 are Likely Democrat and 2 are Leaning Democrat. 5 States are Toss-ups. In Short, the odds are very much in the favor of Republicans when it comes to who will have the necessary 26 State delegations to elect the next President. Trump wins. See: http://centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/republican-edge-in-electoral-college-tie-endures/ on these projections.
If House Republican delegations picked Trump, and they almost certainly would, Trump would be the first President to be re-elected after being impeached, the first President to gain office twice without ever winning the popular vote and the 2ndPresident to win office after the adoption of the 12th Amendment in 1804 without gaining a majority in the popular vote OR electoral college vote. He would also be the most unpopular President ever re-elected office.
What a nightmare!