Speaking to a group of invited guests at a three-day, closed-door event in Utah sponsored by himself, Mitt Romney predicted that President Donald Trump would be “solidly” reelected in 2020.
Romney said that any planning for the future should include an understanding that Trump will be president for the next six years. “I think that not just because of the strong economy and the fact that people are going to see increasingly high wages, but I think it’s also true because I think our Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought and will make it easier for a president who’s presiding over a growing economy.”
As Trump was leaving the White House on Friday, he was asked about Romney’s comments. “Mitt’s a straight shooter — whether people love him or don’t love him,” Trump answered.
At one time, there wasn’t a whole lot of “love” between the 2012 and 2016 Republican nominees. Romney was a vocal “Never Trump” leader during the last presidential campaign, even going so far as to refer to Trump as “a con man” and “a fake.” Not surprisingly, Trump responded in kind at the time, but once elected, the president-elect invited Romney to speak with him during the transition.
Relations between the two have thawed since then, and now Romney is a candidate for U.S. Senate in Utah. Cynics could say that Romney’s remarks about Trump’s chances for reelection are politically based. While Trump is not wildly popular in Mormon-dominated Utah, he did carry the state easily over Hillary Clinton, and a continuing public spat with the president would not help Romney’s chances.
But Romney is heavily favored to win in November, anyway, and he could have chosen not to even mention Trump’s chances to win a second term.
The reality is that history indicates that Romney is probably correct, whatever his motivation in predicting a Trump victory in 2020. The fact is that presidents tend to get reelected. After all, the main reason that any politician, whether it be a president, a member of Congress, or a member of the city council, wins an additional term is that they evidently knew how to win the first time.
In Trump’s 2016 victory, he told the American people what he wanted to do, and the truth is, he has largely done it. If Trump was able to win then with those views, why should he not win a second term? And, while the economy was flat in the last election, the lower unemployment rate, along with rising real wages now after a year and a half of Trump in office, will probably win over some who did not vote for him in the last election.
Presidents tend to get reelected, and almost always by larger popular-vote margins than they won the first time. Barack Obama is the lone exception, having won with 53 percent in 2008, but only with 51 percent in 2012. When a president loses a reelection bid, we can usually pinpoint the cause or causes rather easily.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the presidents who have not won reelection include William Howard Taft (1912), Herbert Hoover (1932), Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980), and George H.W. Bush (1992). Strong third-party efforts did major damage to the reelection hopes of both Taft and Bush. And, whereas Bush ran in 1988 promising “no new taxes,” and as, essentially, Ronald Reagan’s third term, by 1992, Bush had broken the no new taxes pledge — and he was clearly not Reagan. This is in stark contrast to Trump, who has kept his promises, at least so far. Hoover, of course, was just overwhelmed by the Great Depression.
Ford had to run in 1976 with the albatross of Nixon’s Watergate around his neck, compounded with his pardon of the disgraced former president. A severe challenge by Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination probably weakened him as well. Despite all that, Ford might still have won over Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had it not been for the famous “gaffe” during a debate in which Ford claimed Poland was not under Soviet domination. (Maybe he was just 20 years ahead of his time.)
Carter, on the other hand, had to run for reelection in 1980 with American hostages still languishing in Iran, an economy ravaged by inflation, and the Soviet Union on the march. He was also facing one of the most popular politicians of the last century, Ronald Reagan. In the end, he lost 44 states.
In 1970, Republicans lost seats in Congress, but in 1972, Republican Richard Nixon carried 49 states and won by 18 million popular votes, in an election that seems to provide evidence to support Romney’s prediction: “[Our] Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought.” Conservative Republicans were rather unhappy with Nixon in 1972, but far-left Democrat George McGovern scared many of them back into the Nixon fold, and it is actually expected that the Democrats will nominate someone who is on the strongly liberal side of American politics to oppose Trump.
In the presidencies of Reagan, Clinton, and Obama, their party lost several seats in Congress during their first terms, but they all went on to win reelection. Even if the Republicans lose seats in the House of Representatives this Fall, if history is any guide, Trump will, more likely than not, win a second term. All three were trailing in polls the year before all three won again. Only Obama’s reelection was even close.
In short, Romney, whatever his motivation in predicting a second term for Donald Trump, is probably correct, although a lot can happen between now and November 2018. But if Trump continues to keep his promises, we will probably be treated to presidential tweets for six more years.
Photo: AP Images