US2020: The 'Start' of the Trump Campaign

It's hard to believe that only today, 18 June, will we see the official launch of Donald Trump's reelection campaign! After all, the President seems, to all intents and purposes, to have been in reelection mode ever since he first entered the Oval Office (ie even more so than past presidents), and ever more intensely over the past three months or so.

Two days from now, ie 20 June, will be the fourth anniversary of the launch of his 2016 campaign, a bid which was pretty much entirely dismissed at the time. The "fake polls" today put him around ten points behind a handful of the aspiring Democrats including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But I doubt anyone will be writing him off this time. After all, not only did he ultimately prevail in 2016 but this time:

  • He has all the advantages and potential disadvantages of incumbency, with the former looking significantly to outweigh the latter at this stage (though that may not last, especially not if the US economy weakens significantly between now and 2H2020 as the current extended economic cycle finally draws to a 'natural' close and/or thanks to self-inflicted harm through the protracted use of escalated tariffs);
  • Even though it is a proven general rule of thumb that opposition parties don't win elections so much as incumbents losing them, the Democratic Party could yet choose a course of action (eg impeachment) and/or a candidate which would negate entirely the strong disapproval ratings which Mr Trump has attracted for pretty much his entire presidential term to date; and,
  • Although it is still, of course, early days, the Trump 2020 campaign shows no signs of the sort of shambles which we saw in 2016; indeed, under the leadership of Brad Parscale (who headed the Trump digital team in 2016 from start to finish) it looks to be extremely well organised and thoroughly professional, with already proven fund-raising power.

All this being said, I found this comment from this morning's Economist Espresso interesting:

"What Mr Trump will run on is unclear. He is caught between claiming that he has already accomplished his signature pledges (like building a wall) and needing another term to do so. That was reflected in a debate over whether to adopt a new slogan: 'Keep America Great'. Instead, Mr Trump opted to stick with 2016’s motto: he will 'Make America Great Again' again."

I don't disagree as far as this quote goes. But I do still see key planks in the Trump platform as follows.

  • He will continue to pander strongly to his established base (especially the white evangelicals), which amounts to around 42% of the electorate...bearing in mind that, depending how the electoral college pans out on 4 November 2020, he could prevail with as little as 47% of the popular vote (which means he is solidly within shouting distance of victory).
  • He will continue to pursue a strongly unilateralist foreign policy in both economics (most notably trade, where his protectionist instincts remain as strong as ever) and geopolitics, notably over China, against which the 'technology war' will escalate irrespective of what happens on trade in goods, and Iran.
  • He will want to continue to promote himself as a 'dealmaker' even though he has, as yet, not one single (ratified) international agreement to his name as president...which means that he does need to close some deals, and soonish!

If this all sounds to you a bit like a re-run of the 2016 campaign substantively, you'd be right. And, by implication, Mr Trump is right to stick with "Make America Great Again' as his main 2020 strap-line.

Alastair Newton