Many Americans are wondering whether President Trump will run and win reelection in 2020. He’s already declared his candidacy three years in advance, a bizarre action, but there are issues that could change Trump’s plans voluntarily or involuntarily.
This essay will look back in history at presidents who lost reelection along with the reasons for their defeat. You may be surprised by what you read.
There have been 45 presidential administrations in American history (Grover Cleveland gets counted twice because he didn’t serve for eight consecutive years). Of those, nine presidents were unable to get reelected to a second term. Here is a list of them along with the issues that thwarted their campaigns.
- George H.W. Bush-#41- 1989-1993. Bush had many successful military and diplomatic achievements. A decisive victory in the war with Iraq was offset by discontent affiliated to a failing economy, high federal deficits and increasing violence in the inner cities. His famous “read my lips, no new taxes” statement had a profound impact on Bush’s campaign.
- Jimmy Carter-#39- 1977-1981. Carter’s administration was greatly impacted by the 14 month Iran hostage situation. Additionally inflation, high interest rates and economic issues plagued his presidency.
- Gerald Ford-#38- 1974-1977. Inflation, stagflation, the oil embargo and energy shortages were Ford’s downfall. Ford also pardoned Richard Nixon, a very unpopular action.
- Herbert Hoover-#31- 1929-1933. Hoover presided over the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. He was branded the “callous and cruel president” as he insisted that food and shelter for down and out Americans was a local issue.
- William Howard Taft-#27- 1909-1913. Taft alienated his fellow Republicans who later formed a new political party. He implemented unpopular tariffs in the Payne-Aldrich Act.
- Benjamin Harrison-#23- 1889-1893. During his administration a Treasury surplus evaporated and prosperity ended. After the 1980 sweep of Congress by Democrats, Harrison’s party abandoned him.
- Grover Cleveland-#22, #24- 1886-1889,1893-1897.
- Martin Van Buren-#8- 1837-1841. The economic panic of 1837 “punctured prosperity.” Van Buren blamed the panic on businesses and excessive credit.
- John Quincy Adams-#6- 1825-1829. Adams was accused of corruption and “public plunder.” Most importantly the popular Andrew Jackson defeated him.
- John Adams-#2- 1797-1801. Adams was a federalist who lost to Jefferson who advocated states rights.
In the aforementioned, economic problems that each of the presidents encountered were highlighted. It is no coincidence that eight of nine presidents (excluding Cleveland) had serious economic issues. Prosperity is a president’s best friend and economic distress his worst enemy.
Currently Donald Trump is riding high on the economy. For the most part Americans are feeling optimistic about their future prospects. The tax cuts and their impact on the economy are Trump’s most important achievement from a reelection perspective. How will new tariffs impact this situation (Taft lost his election in great part because he implemented unpopular tariffs)? It remains to be seen.
An equally important question is whether Republicans will support Trump. This blog speculated that Mitt Romney might oppose Trump in the primaries. Given the growing animosity towards Trump relating to his personal style, tariff threats (Republicans oppose them) and immigration (Republicans oppose general amnesty), it seems the president is on thin ice.
All the above, however, is moot if economic prosperity continues. History has proven this to be true. It will mitigate almost all of Trump’s warts. Of course we still need to hear what the Special Counsel has to say about Trump involvement in any nefarious activities.