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President Donald Trump thrives on chaos, much of it his own creation. But it would be a mistake to assume that the reelection campaign of this most untraditional president will mirror the tumult of his 2016 effort. It's too early to handicap 2020, but Trump may try to capitalize on some of the same factors that helped three modern Republican presidents, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, win reelection.
The reelections of all three men were not always certain. Around this time in the 1972 election cycle, Nixon held only a modest lead over the early Democratic front-runner, Edmund Muskie, who in 1968 had been the vice-presidential running mate of Hubert Humphrey. In late January 1983, pollster Lou Harris found former vice president Walter Mondale leading Reagan 53 percent to 44 percent. John Kerry's challenge to Bush was nip-and-tuck throughout 2004. Fast-forward to 2019, and Trump often trails some Democrats in presidential trial heats, but with his large, solid base and a continuing good economy, it isn't hard to see how Trump could win again.
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That is not to suggest that Trump is destined to win, much less that he would rebound to a gigantic victory like Nixon's and Reagan's. For one thing, the landslides that one finds at regular intervals throughout much of the 20th century don't even seem possible in this highly partisan, polarized era. America is in a stretch of eight consecutive presidential elections where neither side has won the popular vote by double digits, the longest such streak of close, competitive elections in U.S. history.
Another caveat: Trump's approval rating has been upside down for essentially his entire presidency, and he has shown no inclination to broaden his base of support by changing his policies or softening his sharp rhetoric. From that perspective, even matching Bush's 50.7...
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