Many believe Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in 2020, including his first wife. “He has a good life and he has everything,” Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, told Page Six in April 2018,”Donald is going to be 74, 73 for the next (election), and maybe he should just go and play golf and enjoy his fortune… I’ll tell you something, I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Political supporters of Trump are hedging their bets and admitting Trump may not run in 2020. In May of 2018, Longtime confidante and former campaign Adviser Roger Stone told Big League Politics, a right-wing website founded by former Breitbart employees, that Trump running for a second term is not a quote, “foregone conclusion.” Stone said that if the President continues to fulfill promises, such as rebuilding the economy, building a border wall, redoing trade agreements and creating a peace agreement with North Korea, he would be satisfied with his accomplishments and possibly decide not to seek re-election. Stone did not speculate what would happen if Trump very clearly has not achieved any of those objectives.
Many political pundits think Trump’s legal and political woes will either convince or prevent him from running for a second term. Trump could be impeached if the Democrats win the House in November 2018 and even removed from office if the Senate goes Democratic (which is currently a long shot). Robert Mueller could indict even more Trump insiders or issue a report concluding that Trump obstructed justice or colluded with Russia. The investigation into the Trump Foundation could result in indictments of Trump’s children or even the President himself (although currently the Justice Department does not think a sitting President can be indicted).
More than half of Americans do not think Trump will be re-elected. A recent poll by NBC in June 2018 found that only a third of voters in the swing states of Arizona, Ohio and Florida felt Trump deserved to be re-elected. However, it is very early and several ultimately re-elected presidents caused similar skepticism among voters.
Leaving office on his own terms might make sense for Trump. He would have a perfect electoral record and he could say he did what he could to change Washington and blame his lack of success on fake news and the evil media. Any amateur psychoanalyst can see Trump does not like failure or losing. Trump could decide to not seek reelection if defeat in 2020 seems likely.
On the other hand, Trump’s first run was made despite almost everyone thinking he could not win. Trump filed FEC paperwork for his re-election campaign on January 20, 2017, the day he was inaugurated. Trump is also building a re-election campaign war chest at a pace unprecedented in U.S. political history. According to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission Trump’s campaign ended in June with more than $33 million cash on hand. Trump can use most of that money to promote himself or attack his potential opponents, including perspective Republican opponents. Before Trump, sitting Presidents in their first two years focused their fund-raising on the parties and candidate for their first mid-term election. No sitting President has spent as much time raising money for his own reelection so early in his term.
Trump has already designated Brad Parscale, his digital director in 2016, to be his 2020 Campaign Manager. Axios in May 2018 wrote:
Parscale, 42, is a completely unconventional choice for campaign manager and one that has raised eyebrows inside the White House and among Republican campaign veterans. Some inside the White House have told us they believe he “got lucky” by hitching his wagon to a candidate who won despite his campaign, not because of it. Parscale had no history in politics before the 2016 campaign, and doesn’t plan to work in politics beyond the 2020 campaign. His connection is to the Trump family — and especially to Jared Kushner and Eric Trump. Parscale launched the digital side of the Trump campaign from the San Antonio office of his firm Giles-Parscale, which grew to over 100 people as the campaign peaked, with revenues of $79 million for the cycle (much of which went to Facebook). Some alumni of the last campaign say Parscale’s role exceeded his title as digital director: In late August 2016, after the departure of Paul Manafort, Parscale moved to Trump Tower, with a hand in various parts of the operation, including finances and events.
In summary, there are many reasons why Donald Trump might not be on the primary or general election ballot in 2020. If Trump does seek re-election, it is hard to imagine a Republican beating him in GOP primaries.
So, what can we project if Trump does not or cannot seek reelection? Republican candidates could include:
- – Vice President Mike Pence is the obvious choice. Pence started his own PAC, American First Policies in January 2017, and he is popular with GOP congressmen and big donors like the Koch brothers. Pence has put together a political team that includes Nick Ayers, Marty Obst and even a pollster, Jon Lerner. A July 2018 survey of registered voters by The Economist/YouGov found that Pence had an approval rating of 44% while 48% disapproved of his job performance. This is marginally better than the President’s ratings. According to Gallup in June 2018, Pence is most popular with Republicans (81%), and less popular among independents (36%) and Democrats (14%). Those numbers bode well for primary success but not for winning a general election.
- – United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has a high profile and has courted Wall Street donors at Manhattan dinners. Haley has staked out a fiercely anti-Russian position and seems to be distancing herself from Trump, much to Donald’s irritation.
- – Senator Marco Rubio is carefully putting distance between himself and Trump on such issues as immigration and tariffs.
- – Ohio Governor John Kasich could challenge Trump in 2020 (and be crushed) but he would have a better chance in an open GOP field. However, many consider him simply too moderate and not loyal enough to Trump to succeed in Republican primaries where the voters overwhelmingly approve of almost everything Trump has done.
- – Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is intelligent, articulate, and principled and thus perhaps too different from Trump to win in a crowded Republican field. He would probably do very well in a general election against almost any Democrat.
- – Soon-to-be Speaker Paul Ryan would have great name recognition and access to unlimited campaign funds. A June 2018 Gallup survey found that 40% of Americans viewed Ryan favorably and 45% unfavorably but he was viewed favorably by 69% of Republicans.
- – Soon-to-be former Senators, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker might run in 2020 but are almost certain to be considered too liberal by Republican voters who still overwhelmingly approve of Donald Trump.
My prediction would be that Pence would have the best chance to win the GOP nomination if Trump folds unless indictments and scandal involving Trump and his inner circle are so bad that the super-loyal, almost toadying Pence is damaged as well.
Sasse and Haley would be formidable and worrisome opponents for Democrats, who really must continue to hope that Trump will be their 2020 opponent.
Greg Enos is a Houston area divorce lawyer and political activist. Enos is the founder and owner of this blog. Contact him at 2020Frontrunner@gmail.com