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The End of Donald Trump Has Arrived

1945 logo 1945 2/2/2023 Brent M. Eastwood
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History Says Donald Trump May Have a Difficult Time in Race for White House - Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years, Donald Trump would say - and so would LL Cool J.

But that is precisely what he is trying to accomplish – running again after losing the White House in a comeback.

The former president is doing what five other presidents have also attempted. Martin Van Buren, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert Hoover tried it again after losing a presidential election.

Can Donald Trump make it happen? History says it won't be easy. 

Grover Cleveland Is the One to Emulate

Only one of these candidates returned to the White House to be a double president, so Trump is bucking history.

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Grover Cleveland achieved a winning 68 percent of the Democrat delegates in 1892. In 1880, Grant lost because the party delegates chose another candidate, and the three others also fell short in their quest for their party’s nomination.

Unite the Coalitions

Grover Cleveland re-won the presidency in 1894 - the only person ever achieving the White House two different times nonconsecutively. That is who Doanld Trump wants to follow. Like Cleveland, Trump would have to win over all the factions of the GOP to get the nod for the general and ultimately win again.

This means America Firsters and MAGA adherents, Conservative Christians, Moderates, Reagan Conservatives, Pro-business Republicans, Libertarians, and other groups would have to band together under one banner.

What If Donald Trump Goes Third Party?

Or Trump could start his own “America First” party and keep running after a Republican loss as Teddy Roosevelt did.

This would be difficult since he would have to get on the ballot nationwide with a new party late in the campaign. His supporters would perhaps stay home if Trump was denied the ballot in certain states leading to a sure Joe Biden win.

Cleveland Ran on Economic Issues

Cleveland’s comeback focused on economic policies – a strategy that Trump may want to copy.

Running on high inflation and the chance of a debilitating recession could be a recipe for success for the ex-president. Cleveland also wanted to support the gold standard and see higher gold prices. This is what the Libertarians and other Republicans clamor for in the present era. Just watch Fox News, and you can see gold-purchasing ads in almost all commercial breaks.

The Magic Number is 47 Percent

In the 1890s, nominees were picked by delegates at the party convention. Cleveland received two-thirds of the delegates but only won the general election with 46 percent of the vote. Trump also achieved just under 47 percent in 2020, with over 74 million votes in the general to Biden’s 81 million. Forty-seven percent is a number that Trump will have to eclipse if he is to defeat Biden.

Will Attracting MAGA Faithful Push Trump Over the Line?      

One interesting aspect of Trump’s comeback is the number of Republicans who simply love Trump over everyone.

These MAGA adherents made up 39 percent of the GOP electorate in a poll conducted by The Economist and YouGov. These voters will hold fast to Trump's “Über Alles” (above everything else) as the Germans say. But Trump will need the rest of the 45 percent who do not claim to be MAGA Republicans.

The MAGA World May Not Get Their First Choice

Would the non-MAGA types then support another candidate, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or former Vice President Mike Pence?

Others will emerge in their quest for the White House. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will officially announce her bid for president on February 15. She could run in the establishment lane.

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Just Split the Vote and See Trump Win the Nomination

A large number of GOP candidates will likely emerge. This scenario could split up the vote and enable Trump to win states with a plurality of votes instead of a pure majority. He would thus still win precious delegates that would spell a win. He achieved this plurality in several states in 2016.

Why Donald Trump Could Be Done For

Trump may even hope that a big field emerges. He could remain in the lead in polls and see each of his opponents languish as they run out of money. This strategy assumes that Trump will outraise his competition with a war chest that allows him to go deep into the contest.

Therefore, Trump wants to be like Grover Cleveland – win the nomination based on issues that fire up the base and then eclipse that magic number of 46 or 47 percent to win enough electoral votes in the general. The problem is, Cleveland is the only president who has come back in this fashion. That should make Trump supporters anxious that history is not on their side.  

Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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