What If Trump Decides Not to Seek a Second Term?

It’s not as crazy of an idea as it sounds.

Speculation that President Trump may pull a Lyndon Johnson and decline to seek a second term is beginning to percolate. To understand why, let’s turn to a guy best known for making drunk cable news appearances:

“Under the current trajectory, President Trump is on the precipice of one of the worst electoral defeats in modern presidential elections and the worst historically for an incumbent president,” said former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg, who remains a supporter.

Nunberg pointed to national polls released by CNBC and New York Times/Siena over the past week showing Trump receiving below 40 percent against Biden. If Trump’s numbers erode to 35 percentage points over the next two weeks, Nunberg added, “He’s going to be facing realistically a 400-plus electoral vote loss and the president would need to strongly reconsider whether he wants to continue to run as the Republican presidential nominee.”

Recent surveys have Joe Biden leading by one point in Texas and pulling ahead in Georgia, so Nunberg isn’t just raving in his usual way. He spoke of the “trajectory,” and if Trump can’t bend the current curve, his polls are going to look devastatingly bad in a couple of weeks, and certainly before he is supposed to accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in Jacksonville.

Actually, the Republican convention is looking increasingly like a fate worse than death for the president. As Dave Brooks writes for Billboard, the venue management company ASG Global that handled Trump’s Tulsa rally is also responsible for running events at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. They are furious with Trump’s campaign.

The company asked the White House for a detailed security and social distancing plan for Tulsa and received nothing. When they put stickers on alternating chairs telling people not to sit there, campaign staffers went around and peeled those stickers off. Several of those staffers actually had COVID-19 and they were not following basic protocols about maintaining six feet of distance or wearing masks. After the event the Tulsa mayor had, they had the temerity to say that he would have been okay with it, if ASG Global simply refused to serve as the host. There’s a real chance that they will refuse to put their employees at risk again in Jacksonville. At a minimum, they’re going to make demands that will undermine the whole point of moving the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina. Trump isn’t getting a normal looking crowd.

In any case, the coronavirus has now erupted throughout the South, and particularly in Florida, making it unlikely that a bunch of septuagenarian and octogenarian delegates will want to travel there by plane. Most residents don’t want them to come anyway, and it’s unclear if the hotels will be welcoming.

Why would Trump want to be humiliated in this fashion? Why would anyone want to show up and sing his praises after he’s begun supporting “white power” and shooting peaceful protesters on Twitter?

Wouldn’t it be best to just call the whole thing off?

It’s not as crazy of an idea as it sounds, but there’s plenty of preparation going on in the other direction, with William Barr working overtime to use the Justice Department as an organ of Trump’s reelection effort. We’ve seen dry runs on limiting urban polling stations in Georgia and Kentucky, and Trump’s clearly still banking on covert Russian assistance. If he stays in, he’s going to fight dirty on every front.

What’s clear is that under Trump’s leadership, nothing is going to get better between now and November. Schools won’t reopen or will quickly regret their decision to do so, the economy is going to get worse, and America will continue to stick out like a sore thumb as having the absolute worst response in the world to the viral pandemic. Certainly, Trump isn’t going to become some kind of stable genius. He will continue to outrage and offend in ways that don’t fit the current moment.

He might just call it quits. He certainly should.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com