Monday, July 30, 2018

How Trump Lost Re-election in 2020

Last week, my colleague Bret Stephens imagined a news article on the morning after President Trump’s re-election. Today, I imagine a different outcome.

In the end, it was a lot simpler than it often seemed.

Donald J. Trump, who spent much of the past four years as a historically unpopular president, lost his bid for re-election Tuesday. His approval rating hasn’t approached 50 percent since he took office, and neither did his share of the vote this year.

In an era of deep national anxiety — with stagnant wages, rickety health insurance and aggressive challenges from China and Russia — voters punished an incumbent president who failed on his central promise: “I alone can fix it.”

Since he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy five years ago, Trump has frequently looked like a man for whom the normal rules of politics did not apply. He won a shocking upset in 2016, which lent him an aura of invincibility. Pundits started to doubt much of what they had previously believed.

But as Trump seethed — and tweeted — in defeat late Tuesday and President-elect Elizabeth Warren celebrated, the arc of the Trump story is starting to make more sense than it has for much of his chaotic presidency:

The normal rules of politics do apply to Donald Trump, after all.

Four years ago, he became the fifth man to win the presidency while losing the popular vote. Now he becomes the fourth of those five — along with John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes and Benjamin Harrison — to serve only a single term, and to be unpopular during most of it. The exception is George W. Bush, who benefited from being a wartime president.

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