Trump Not Running In 2020? Don’t Bet On It

Hoping that Donald Trump might not run for reelection? Don't get your hopes up.

Former Republican and former  Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough thinks Donald Trump won’t run for re-election in 2020:

It has been nearly three years since Donald Trump descended his faux-gold escalator to announce an improbable run for president, and Republican politicians seem just as baffled by the reality TV star’s future as they were the day he first launched this publicity stunt gone wildly wrong.

It is true that GOP leaders stand silent as President Trump trashes the rule of law, attacks federal judges and declares America’s free press the “enemy of the people.” These lap dogs even remain muzzled as younger Americans are chained to a future of crippling debt. And they shame the memory of the first Republican president — who gave his life ending slavery — by marching alongside a bumbling bigot who labels Hispanics ”breeders” and “rapists,” seeks to bar tens of millions of Muslims from entering the country, and defends white supremacy in the ugly aftermath of Charlottesville.

And yet these same morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.

“Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party. Alexander is not the only GOP senator to offer up tortured answers to this simple question.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Tex.) refused to answer, explaining that he had not given the question much thought because things could change in the time before the 2020 campaign revs up.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.) spent four days grasping for an answer to a question he called “unfair” before finally saying he didn’t want to “make news.” Other GOP lawmakers are no more eager to talk about the 2020 campaign than Trump himself wants to discuss the intricacies of Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit.

Scarborough goes on to recite a number of other examples of news that has unfolded over the past two weeks or so with regard to the Administration and the manner in which the President has acted in response to developments in the news. This includes that rumors regarding an imminent major staff change at the White House or in elsewhere in the Administration, the dispute that unfolded last week when United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said in an appearance on Face The Nation that new sanctions would be announced early last week only to be undercut by the White House, and the search warrants executed against longtime Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen which clearly have people close to Trump and the President himself agitated far more than the Russia investigation. I’ve cataloged much of this and more here at OTB myself, and it certainly does seem that recent developments have thrown the President off in a way that we haven’t seen in at least a year when he was so put-off by the Russia investigation that he fired the F.B.I. Director and, only days later, admitted he did it because of the Bureau’s investigation of Russian interference in the election and potential collusion between people close to the President and Russian officials or people close to them.

All of this is true, of course, but it’s a far cry from here to the conclusion that Trump might not run for re-election. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible.

It’s possible, and becoming more likely, for example, that Democrats will gain control of one or both House of Congress in the fall. Such a development would put considerable pressure on Trump going forward since it would mean that it would be difficult if not impossible for him to get any kind of agenda through Congress without major concessions to Democrats. If the Democrats take control of the Senate, then Trump can likely say goodbye to any chance of being able to appoint the kind of Judges or Supreme Court Justices he promised to appoint during the campaign. Indeed, it’s possible that a Democratic Senate might decide that turnabout is fair play and refuse to consider any of Trump’s Judicial nominees until after the election. Democratic control of either chamber would mean that the Russia investigation will remain alive and well as we head into the 2020 campaign season. And, of course, if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives there will be no small degree of pressure from the party’s base for that body to at least consider Articles of Impeachment.

As for 2020, I suppose that it’s possible that something will break in the Russia investigation, or in the new investigations regarding Michael Cohen, that could lead to peril for Trump serious enough to put his political future in doubt. It’s also possible that Trump, who would be 74 years old on Election Day 2020, may just decide it’s not worth it to run for re-election, especially if there’s a chance he might not win or that he’d be facing a second term with Democrats in control of Congress.

The question is how likely is it that this will happen? And the only answer anyone can come up with at this point is that nobody knows.

For whatever it’s worth, Trump himself is certainly moving forward like someone who intends on running for re-election in two years. He set up a re-election campaign only a year after entering office, an unusual move for a first-term President but one that allows him to conduct the campaign-style rallies that he clearly loves to do. He’s hired a campaign manager who has taken the lead in being one of the leading cheerleaders for the President outside the White House, and he’s acting for all the world like someone who plans on running for re-election. He could end up pulling the plug on all of this and following in Lyndon Johnson’s footsteps. Such a move wouldn’t be typical for Trump, though. Say what you will about him, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who would just give up and walk away. Many people have said that he entered the race in 2015 never thinking that he’d win the GOP nomination, never mind the Presidency itself. Now that he has, though, I don’t see him giving it up without a fight unless something changes drastically in the next two years. As things stand right now though, my thought is that contra Scarborough’s supposition, Trump will stand for re-election and that he will, at least initially, be favored to win.


FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    “Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander,

    Understandable, as he’s in the same party as the Creature from the Oval Office.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Pleeze oh pleeze oh pleeze oh pleeze…..

  3. becca says:

    Trump loves the adulation at campaign rallies. Not to mention all the pockets to be picked. How could he resist?

  4. teve tory says:

    If you ask a politician if they’re supporting their incumbent president for reelection, and they reply “Look, I’m focused on opioids,”, you just turn to the camera and say, “There you have it, Lamar Alexander won’t say he supports Trump for reelection.”

  5. al-Ameda says:

    “Look, I’m focused on opioids,” muttered Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, suggesting that a U.S. senator is not mentally adept enough to fight a drug epidemic while also figuring out whether he backs a president in his own party. Alexander is not the only GOP senator to offer up tortured answers to this simple question.

    Well, that explains his inability to focus and oppose Trump where possible. I wish Lamar a speedy recovery.

  6. CSK says:

    Guys like Cornyn and Alexander and all the other Congressional Republicans who can’t stomach Trump are between a rock and a hard place from their standpoint. If they say what they really think, they risk alienating enough of their constituents to lose their jobs. If they keep quiet or evade the issue, they earn the contempt of everyone else.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    When I read that Scarborough column my immediate thought was “Ol’ Joe is trying to start a movement here”. I didn’t really take it as a serious analysis.

  8. Kathy says:

    No one in the GOP is going to move against Trump until the Orange Caligula becomes unpopular with Republican voters. And I don’t see that happening, short of finding out Trump carried an affair with Hillary Clinton.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    Boy, Scarborough is really focused on getting everyone to forget how far he had his nose up Trump’s capacious one during the campaign.

    But not running would be an easy out if Mueller’s getting too close.

  10. Anonne says:

    Everything prior to his presidency can be dismissed, thus it doesn’t matter what he did in the past. He could have had an affair with Hillary, that could be forgiven. Don’t underestimate the base’s power to twist themselves into gordian knots to forgive one of their own.

    The only thing Trump could do now to lose them is to have gay sex in public.

  11. drj says:

    As long as Trump is president, he is at least potentially able to influence investigations that are (indirectly) overseen by the Justice Department.

    Also, as long as he is president, there is a plausible argument that he can’t be indicted.

    The minute he steps down, that’s all over.

    He can never quit. Not safely, at least.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    I suspect Trump’s choice will be dictated by money. If staying in is a good economic prospect, he’ll run. If quitting works out better for him, he’ll do that.

    This is why it is important for the Left to prepare to focus on Trump’s economic vulnerabilities in the event he tries to shut down investigations. We should blockade Trump Tower, the Trump Washington hotel and Mar a Lago. We should target his golf courses and resorts here and abroad. Whatever bears the Trump name should be targeted for protests aimed at destroying their viability. People showing up to play a round at a Trump golf course should have to pass a cordon of demonstrators every single time, like women going into an abortion clinic.

    Any business that does business with Trump should feel the pain. Any restaurant that opens in a Trump property should be targeted. Any company offering laundry service, limos, security or any other service should be publicly identified and shamed into cutting their ties.

    The value of the Trump brand is already severely damaged, but it should be driven down until the idea of putting ‘Trump’ on anything is poison. Like using the swastika as a brand. Trump is a criminal, a thief, a wannabe fascist, a traitor and an enemy of the United States. He needs to be economically destroyed, and we don’t need the worms of the Republican Congress to make that happen.

  13. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Trump is a boomer. He will give up whatever power and authority he has at the same time an NRA loyalist will give up his gun–when it is pried from his cold, dead, fingers.

  14. Kathy says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Trump is a boomer. He will give up whatever power and authority he has at the same time an NRA loyalist will give up his gun–when it is pried from his cold, dead, fingers.

    I’m reminded of a scene in the first “Men in Black” movie, where a character says that, and the unseen alien replies “Your proposal is acceptable.”

  15. Gustopher says:

    There is no way Trump doesn’t run, if he is able to. He doesn’t want to be a loser one term president like Poppy Bush. And surely, by the end of his second term, he will have earned people’s respect.

    That said, he’s a gazillion and a half years old, he eats terribly, he doesn’t exercise, and he’s obese. He’s one major health issue away from rapidly declining health.

    And, there is the whole Russia thing. He’s not likely to be impeached, but resigning in disgrace is plausible. He will claim it as a victory. “I said we would make America great again, and now America is great again, as promised. My work here is done. Peace out, b.tches.”

  16. Kathy says:

    I’d say “ask Trump whether he’s running in 2020,” but we can assume he’d lie.

    For the past few months, I’ve been thinking that, should Trump run for reelection, it would be good if he were challenged in the GOP primaries. Historically in modern times, such challenges coincide with a loss in the general election (see Ford, Carter and Bush the elder). But now I’m having second thoughts.

    If either the House or the Senate flips this year, Trump won’t be able to get any of the things his base wants most, like the vanity wall, immigration “reform,” repeal of Obamacare, etc. If the Senate flips, he’ll have a hard time even appointing judges.

    But what would a GOP challenger say? They’d be running against Trump, after all, not against the Democrats in Congress. an establishment candidate would advocate a return to the norms Trump has trampled, maybe. any other kind would, most likely, attack Trump as ineffectual, shallow, incompetent, and incapable (all of which is true to some extent).

    Now, if wither type of challenge leads to Trump losing to a Democrat in 2020, well and good. But what if the second type of challenger wins the nomination and the election?

    Trump’s saving grace is that he is incompetent, ineffectual, shallow and incapable (among other deficiencies). A competent version of Trump could really be dangerous.