Will Trump Quit?

I don't see it.

Lately I have seen numerous stories like this one from RawStory: MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch predicts Trump will drop out in the face of ‘the biggest landslide defeat in US history’.

The thesis is pretty consistent (including, I want to say, from some OTB commenters):

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” regular contributor Donny Deutsch said he would not be surprised at all if Donald Trump dropped out of the 2020 presidential race because he wouldn’t be able to face losing to former Vice President Joe Biden in a landslide.

[…]

“I would not be shocked at some point if he doesn’t drop the mic,” Deutsch admitted. “It’s [the election] is not turning around. This is a guy that I cannot see standing up and owning the biggest landslide defeat in U.S. history. I know you have been throwing it out in, a lot of people are saying no, that’s not possible. But the more I think about it, the more I’m jumping on your bandwagon. I don’t see this guy going the distance.”

I am not buying it.

First, it seems foolish to assume that current polling is locked in stone. Surely the volatility of the 2020 news cycle should be enough to make one pause about making projections into conditions months from now. Keep in mind this calendar year, just recently only half over, has seen the impeachment trial of the president, the Covid-19 pandemic, a massive economic downturn, and mass protests over racial injustice. A little humility in terms of predicting the contours of the future is in order. (Although yes, it doesn’t look good for Trump).

Second, while people like to say that Trump is a quitter, there is huge embarrassment to be associated with quitting the presidency. Indeed, I think one can argue that quitting would be more humiliating than losing. At least if he loses he can rant about unfair the situation was to him. If Trump is driven by vanity, and I think he is, then running at least gives hum a shot at winning, but quitting just means universal humiliation. Hence, I think he will run.

Third, he loves, loves, loves the rallies. If he quits, those are done.

Fourth, I don’t think he believes the polling. This guy has no connection to empirical analysis and logic. He believes what he wants to believe (and is constantly tweeting out bogus poll numbers as it is). If his staff is too afraid to tell him about the Russian bounties, what are the odds they want to tell him about the latest polls in battleground states? They will just find numbers he wants to hear.

Fifth, the Republican establishment (broadly defined), even those who want him gone, will fight to keep him in the race. He really is the party’s best chance to hold on to the White House. Maybe Pence could have built momentum into November if Trump has been removed earlier this year, but at this point, we are roughly four months from the election and the clock is running. Pivoting to a new candidate would be disastrous. Trump’s main hope, such as it is, is motivating his base in key states. What chance does Pence have to generate any kind of excitement?

Keep in mind that one of Trump’s main advantage is being the incumbent.

If Pence had taken over in February, and then competently managed the coronavirus crisis, maybe he could have built some momentum. Now? There is no room for demonstrating change, especially the longer Trump waits for this theoretical exit. Pence would have to come in and basically run the Trump MAGA/KAGA campaign but without the advantage of being Trump. Reinventing the messaging and whatnot would be all but impossible this late in the game (not to mention having the start basic fundraising way late in the game).

I am certainly not making a prediction, but it just seems to me that Trump quitting is highly, highly unlikely.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    He’s going to need a running start.
    And have you seen him run? Or even briskly walk down some steep stairs?
    Have you seen the stairs at the Capitol?
    And it’s five miles to the Russian Embassy, it’s very far in a golf cart.

    So, much better to quit ahead so that Pence can pardon at least some of the crimes and then let him slink off to Russia.

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  2. Kingdaddy says:

    His legal exposure, once he leaves the Oval Office, is also a potentially major motivation for not quitting. The longer he stays, the more he can pervert the justice system that will judge him.

    Imagine what it would be like for Pence if he were to replace Trump, then have to deal with Trump and his supporters sniping from the sidelines. Pence would be truly without any allies, having disgraced himself fully already.

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  3. Mister Bluster says:

    Will Trump Quit?

    Doesn’t he want to protect himself from being former President Trump as long as he can to fend off any prosecutions he may be subject to as a private citizen?

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  4. Joe says:

    Trump quitting is the magical thinking of the left, but it would take a lot of the chaos out of the election cycle.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    First, it seems foolish to assume that current polling is locked in stone.

    True, but not very true. We are four months out and Trump is down 10 points in Nate’s average, and significantly behind in battleground states. But it could change, and if it does, that would reduce the chance of him quitting.

    Second, while people like to say that Trump is a quitter, there is huge embarrassment to be associated with quitting the presidency.

    There’s, ‘I quit,’ and there’s, ‘I got fired.’ Personally I’ve always thought quitting beat firing for dignity.

    Third, he loves, loves, loves the rallies. If he quits, those are done.

    They may be done anyway. See: Tulsa. And the GOP convention is shaping up to be an epic fail.

    Fourth, I don’t think he believes the polling.

    Sure he does. He may be in denial, but per a fair amount of reporting, every time his polling gets worse he’s in the Oval screaming at people. He may imagine it’s going to turn around, but as four months becomes three and three becomes two? Nah, he knows he’s in trouble.

    Fifth, the Republican establishment (broadly defined), even those who want him gone, will fight to keep him in the race.

    Irrelevant. Trump doesn’t give a rat’s ass for the GOP establishment. Sounds don’t even come out of their mouths as far as Trump is concerned.

    What Trump knows very well is that he is guilty of multiple felonies – tax evasion, money-laundering, corruption and treason. Even if he spins all that in his mind, he knows that Democrats will come after him on all those counts. He has three paths: 1) He can win and hope to so degrade the system of justice that he’ll be forever safe. 2) He can lose and be prosecuted and sued. 3) He can bail out on a promise from Pence to pardon him.

    I’m not saying it’s all a sure thing. (Maybe a 20-25% chance?) But Trump is a runner not a fighter. He’s like a cowardly silverback gorilla – lots of chest-thumping, lots of aggressive posturing, and when that doesn’t work, he bravely runs away: bankruptcies, cancellations of projects, threatened lawsuits that never happen, political battles .

    Right now he’s feeling abused and mis-treated and cornered. He can try to fight his way out, but if he’s looking at, say, 56 to 36 polling? He’ll know he can’t win. He’ll know he has to salvage what he can, live to fight another day, rise from the ashes as Biden fails and all cry with one voice, ‘Bring back Trump!” None of that feel-good stuff happens if he spends the rest of his life fighting court cases.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Joe:
    Don’t misunderstand: we’d all be happy to see Trump gone by whatever means, but the Lefty wet dream is not resignation but a historic beating.

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  7. Tony W says:

    If Trump quits, and I doubt he will, it will be after the election while a lame-duck – the result of a deal with Pence who gets to be president for a few weeks and will use that time to pardon everybody around Trump for all Federal crimes both known and unknown.

    The only other scenario I can imagine is that they decide to announce he has COVID-19 or some other ailment and he quits “for his health”.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tony W:
    If he quits after losing he’s lost two ways. He’ll have been rejected once again by his father, sorry, I mean the voters. Then he’ll be essentially admitting he’s a criminal. He’s dumb but I’m not sure he’s dumb enough to take two beatings instead of one.

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  9. Scott F. says:

    Not so much his vanity, but his narcissistic personality disorder will drive everything.

    He’ll stay in. He’ll hold as many rallies as he can to get that sweet, sweet adulation fix. Then, in the end, he’ll claim the the election was corrupt (he’s already laying the groundwork for this) and he’ll do all he can to delegitimize the results.

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  10. charon says:

    Losing in November only postpones exposure to prosecution for a few months versus quitting. and he still has all sorts of legal delaying tactics.

    I think quitting is likely, it’s what he does.

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  11. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Historic beating may not be so much a wet dream as a necessary corrective.

    Although it’s nice to imagine him putting us out of our misery sooner rather than later, the country really needs him to see this through. He needs to be crushed, he needs to take some unexpected Republican Congresspeople down with him, and he needs then be indicted for some of his various corruptions. Trump’s loss needs to be epic, because that’s the way the racists will be convinced it’s better to go back to keeping their bigotry to themselves.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    I think that’s plausible, somewhat more likely than quitting. But not much more likely.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    The thing to watch for is whether Trump starts bringing up the topic of quitting, and how he does it. Is it an absolute rejection of the idea, or one of his patented, ‘some people say’ moments. That will be the tell.

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  14. @Michael Reynolds:

    There’s, ‘I quit,’ and there’s, ‘I got fired.’ Personally I’ve always thought quitting beat firing for dignity.

    I see that logic on a job. Take this job and shove it, etc. But I don’t think that applies to the presidency.

    Sure he does.

    I have yet to see any evidence of Trump making a rational decision based on evidence.

    They may be done anyway. See: Tulsa. And the GOP convention is shaping up to be an epic fail.

    He was able to rebound in AZ a few days later–a more controlled venue. Although you may be right about the convention.

    At any rate, we’ll see. It just strikes me as the less likely of the possible outcomes.

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  15. There is one advantage of quitting: President Pence could pardon him.

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  16. Of course, he may yet attempt a self-pardon at the 11th hour no matter what…

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  17. Kylopod says:

    In 2016 shortly before the election, Byron York collected the many predictions that Trump would drop out. York is a right-winger, but it’s a good column.

    In August of that year, Jamelle Bouie pointed out the basic flaw in all those theories: “If he quit now, he’d go down as the biggest loser in the history of American politics.”

    But the predictions didn’t stop after he became president. On Aug 16, 2017, Tony Schwartz tweeted: “Trump’s presidency is effectively over. Would be amazed if he survives till end of the year. More likely resigns by fall, if not sooner.”

    These predictions weren’t quite as ubiquitous as they had been before the election, but I definitely was seeing them, particularly from lefty blowhards like Michael Moore and Cenk Uygar. And sometimes it’s the same people who were predicting it in the last cycle: James Carville has recently joined the chorus of “Trump will quit,” even though he was one of the people saying the same thing four years ago.

    The people making these predictions are misreading Trump’s psychology, in my view. Yes, he has a history of walking away from disasters, but only when they reached the point that he didn’t have much of a choice. If he didn’t quit in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood fiasco, there’s little reason to believe he’d do it now, no matter how bad his chances look. Indeed, the fact that he prevailed in those circumstances makes him less likely to take the current bad polling seriously. Yes, we can talk all day about how Biden’s poll numbers are better than Hillary’s, but how likely is it that he’d pick up on that nuance?

    And that’s not to mention the legal trouble he could be in when he becomes a private citizen. That wasn’t even a factor four years ago.

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  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kylopod: I like your take. And I have 20 bucks riding on Trump not serving out his term. This is a bet I made with a friend just a couple weeks after he was elected. I don’t think my equity in this bet is worth more than, say, 50 cents, but that’s a lot more than it would be for any other president at this point in their term.

    So, I can’t rule this out. I can’t rule out other shenanigans mentioned here, either. And his health is a wild card factor, too. In some ways, he’s very robust, with lots of stamina for those rallies. In other ways, he seems like a poster boy for heart disease, and a potential Covid victim.

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  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    No. The Trump I know and worked with will never quit, under any circumstances. Plain and simple truth.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have yet to see any evidence of Trump making a rational decision based on evidence.

    No rational decision required. Survival instinct. A bully backs down when he’s overmatched because that’s the better option for preserving future bullying opportunities.

    It just strikes me as the less likely of the possible outcomes.

    I agree. Predictit has 14 cents Yes, he’ll drop out, 86 cents No. I think it should be closer to 20/80 or 25/75, but it’s a long shot bet.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Give me 5 to 1 odds and I’ll bet a dollar.

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  22. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    And his health is a wild card factor, too.

    Now there’s something I agree on (though the same is true of Biden, of course–not unhealthy per se but at an age where we really can’t take anything for granted). But there’s also a possibility that a health crisis might lead to an Edith Wilson kind of situation–I don’t mean Melania would take over but somebody else around him (Javanka?) might. It just feels like the sort of thing the Trump people would do, they’re so desperately committed to the Trump-as-superman hoax.

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  23. Monala says:

    @Tony W: Would they make it public if he has Covid-19? After all, he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, so he’s immune, right? /s

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  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Quit? No, I don’t see it.

    Give up? That I can see. Oh he’ll still campaign, make all the necessary stops, say the same words, but his heart won’t be in it. He will be losing and he’ll know it. That or he’ll go so far around the bend seeking ever increasing dosages just to get the same high he used to at his rallies back in the good old days.

    Of course, there’s always a chance he really is the chosen one, a miracle will take place and not only will he find sanity but he’ll win in a Reaganesque landslide.

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  25. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Just to satisfy my own curiosity: Why would he not quit before the election if faced with a landslide loss? A loss beyond Jimmy Carter proportions? If he quit, he could always rationalize it by telling himself he’d Made America Great Again and so was entitled to relax. But if he’s booted out of office with 40% of the vote to Biden’s 60%, then he’s an epic loser. An object of scorn and derision.

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  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    He will spin a loss as having been the result of duplicity and treachery. In other words, he didn’t lose. He was robbed. It cannot be because he failed. It’s because other stabbed him in the back.

    This person is incapable of admitting either error or fault. Legitimately incapable of it. Quitting means admitting both, which he will never do. He’ll stay put, lose, and spend the rest of his life ranting about how the election was stolen from him. Trust me on this one.

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  27. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    I defer to your knowledge of Trump, but won’t it be impossible for him to spin a landslide electoral and popular loss as him being robbed? I know he has a unlimited capacity for self-deception, but this would be repudiation on a grand scale.

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  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    Vanity Fair:

    Torn between the imperative to win suburban voters and his instincts to play to his base, Trump has complained to people that he’s in a political box with no obvious way out. According to the Republican, Trump called Tucker Carlson late last week and said, “what do I do? What do I do?”

    […]

    According to a Republican working on the convention, the campaign is now preparing to cancel the event so that Trump doesn’t suffer another Tulsa–like humiliation. “They probably won’t have it,” the source said. “It’s not going to be the soft landing Trump wanted.”

    […]

    Nervous Republicans worried about losing the Senate are now debating when to break from Trump. Trump campaign internal polls show Trump’s level of “strong support” dropping from 21 to 17 points since last week, a person briefed on the numbers said.

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  29. Teve says:

    @CSK: all those Democrats and their stolen mail-in votes. 9-out-of-10 mail in ballots are fraudulent, don’t you know. Stolen out of mailboxes by black antifa. Hannity and Tucker will say that approximately 11,000 times in the next four months.

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  30. CSK says:

    The “official business” for the Repub convention will be done in Charlotte, NC from Aug.21-24.
    The “five-star convention celebration” will take place in Jacksonville from Aug.24-27.

    Trump will be formally nominated in Charlotte. He will accept at the “celebration” in Jacksonville.

    I got this from the convention website.

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  31. CSK says:

    @CSK:
    A six-day convention. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
    If you want to verify this for yourselves, the URL is: http://www.2020gopconvention.com

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  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    That one’s pathology operates on a grand scale … the more he’s challenged, the more obstinately he’ll spin. I’ve watched him spin every single fiasco he’s ever single handedly caused as a victory. It borders on megalomania.

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  33. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Well, it will be amusing to watch, won’t it?

    PoliticsVideoChannel tweeted an exclusive this morning that Trump will “skip the inauguration” if Biden wins.

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  34. Teve says:

    @CSK: sore loser.

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  35. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    And if the TV networks don’t cover every night, they’ll scream bloody murder and make it a reason why Tiny loses.

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  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Without a doubt. I already have my popcorn ready

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  37. JohnSF says:

    We know, and assume Trump knows, that Trump needs to avoid legal jeopardy.
    The best way is to secure a second term.

    If he can process that electoral victory is out of reach what is the alternative?
    Either a pardon, which would require resignation. But can he trust Pence not to say “pardon, what pardon?” five seconds after he signs the letter?

    Alternative: retaining a grip on the Republican Party via his base support sufficient to compel the Republicans to stymie legal measures.
    That probably requires the “Trump TV” media strategy (OANN?) in order to hold a knife to the GoP throat; unless he wants to rely on the benevolence of R. Murdoch, and I doubt Trump is that stupid.

    To maximise his base retention, defeat he can spin to them as the treachery of the Deep State seems a better bet than resignation.
    So my morally corkscrewed rational actor analysis would be: He won’t quit.

    The problem is trying to game scenarios this way.
    I for one have a tendency to default to assuming a rational optimum-path strategy, even though I KNOW the subject is stupid, ignorant, narcissisticaly delusional and morally foul.

    I seem to remember from long ago a Christian philosopher saying something along the lines of:

    “The actions of the devil are not reasonable”.

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  38. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I think the important part for Trump will be televising his acceptance, and any other moments in which the focus is on him. The rest? Who cares?

    @Teve:
    He probably thinks that if he doesn’t show up for the inauguration, no one else will, either.

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  39. CSK says:

    @CSK:
    Help me on this. Has there ever been a six-day-long presidential nominating convention, in which the first three days are for business and the second three days are for celebrating?

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  40. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    The Masque of The Red Death?

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  41. Scott F. says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    “Borders” is generous. Textbooks will be written on Trump’s megalomania.

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  42. Scott F. says:

    @CSK: Object permanence is an ongoing challenge for Trump. If he doesn’t show up for the inauguration, it won’t even exist.

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  43. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    Maybe this will be his last hurrah. Maybe it’s intended to be his last hurrah.

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  44. An Interested Party says:

    There is one advantage of quitting: President Pence could pardon him.

    Of course that would only apply to federal crimes, not state crimes…

    It’s because other stabbed him in the back.

    The Dolchstoßlegende defense is perfect for him…

    The Masque of The Red Death?

    There couldn’t be a better time for that…

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  45. Teve says:

    He needs to be liquidating assets. Then take an official trip to the right country, grab his passport and announce that he tried to round up the corrupt deep staters like he told Q he would, but the deep state proved too powerful, and he has learned of a plot to kill him as soon as he gets back to America and so he must stay away forever. It’s a tremendously, tremendously heinous plan, orchestrated by antifa, and the deep staters in the FBI, and Rosie O’Donnell, and that gold star family, and CNN, and Jeff Sessions, and AOC…

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  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    He needs to be liquidating assets.

    This assumes that he even HAS assets. My guess is that whatever he “owns” is pretty thoroughly leveraged now.

    A while back, I noted that one The Apprentice contestant commented that Trumps children are really down to earth and not like rich kids at all. My conclusion is that they’ve seen the books and know that when he’s gone, it’s ovah.

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  47. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK: I would hope he wouldn’t even be invited.

    Or arrested as he leaves…

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  48. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal:
    Unfortunately, I think the presence of the outgoing president is pretty much de rigueur. But since when was Trump ever bound by the rules of etiquette? The man’s a churl.

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  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: That seems harsh. How would you feel if you were a churl and someone called you “Trump?”

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  50. dazedandconfused says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    I absolutely 100% concur with your prediction, but the reason I wouldn’t put any money on it is, should he lose by a landslide, which appears likely, he may not hang around until Jan 20. Is quitting between Nov and Jan something you can imagine Trump doing?

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