At the Jiahao Flag Co Ltd in Anhui province, women operate sewing machines to hem the edges of “Trump 2020” flags the size of beach towels, while others fold and bundle them for delivery. The factory has turned out about 90,000 banners since March, said manager Yao Yuanyuan, an unusually large number for what is normally the low season, and Yao believed the China-U.S. trade war was the reason.
Hillary Clinton tried — and failed — to run for Barack Obama’s third term. Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, might have better luck. He’d have the unambivalent backing of much of the Obama political machine, including, it is said, Mr. Obama himself. He’s one of the few Democrats out there with Mr. Obama’s rhetorical skills and a life story to match — rising from a Chicago housing project to Harvard and Harvard Law. To be sure, Mr. Patrick’s post-office employer, Bain Capital, would dog him. But if any Democrat is capable of rebuilding the formidable Obama coalition, it’s him.
A result is that the Democratic presidential field in 2020 may be even bigger than the unwieldy Republican 17-member parade in 2016. Indeed, a recent informal survey of Democratic strategists produced a list of more than 30 fellow party members who are — or who, in the minds of these insiders, should be — thinking about running for president in 2020.
Trump publicly speculated about running for president in the 2012 election, and made his first speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2011. The speech is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party. On May 16, 2011, Trump announced he would not run for president in the 2012 election. In February 2012, Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
The paradox of the Trump campaign is that its biggest asset, Trump, is also at times its most intractable—a weapon that threatens, at any moment, to blow up in its face. He’s a constant critic of his own operation. “Trump trusts absolutely nobody,” a former top West Wing official told me. That includes Stepien and DeStefano. In recent months, Trump has complained to aides that he’s not being well served by the White House political operation, according to multiple Republicans who’ve spoken with Trump. Trump has told people he questions DeStefano’s loyalty after DeStefano developed a close relationship with the president’s long-suffering chief of staff and nemesis, John Kelly. “Trump openly questions Johnny,” a former official told me. “He asks people, ‘Is he to be trusted?’” A source said Trump has also complained that Stepien is too cautious because Stepien was among advisers who told Trump not to take sides in Republican primary elections.
While Trump is sui generis, history offers guidance on the folly of predicting distant elections. At this moment in 1989, George H.W. Bush, having kept his promise not to raise taxes and with communism collapsing, seemed invincible. Three years later, he was defeated. In 2009, Barack Obama was in trouble, with unemployment soaring to 10 percent, up sharply from what it was two years earlier, and with his major health-care initiative seemingly stalled in the Senate. Three years later he was re-elected.
Presidential approval ratings have shown Trump to be the least popular president in the history of modern opinion polling as of the start of his second year in office. Early polls have shown Trump trailing by a margin of 10–18 percent against several hypothetical Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand. In 2018, the presidential reelection effort and the Congressional midterms both drew presidential campaign attention.