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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Two Terms for Trump?

It seems unimaginable that America would re-elect Trump in 2020. Have we learned nothing?

But consider this:

1. He can probably get the nomination. He's driven many of his Republican antagonists out of Congress (Corker, Flake, Ryan). He's a sitting president, with all the advantages of incumbency. Kasich seems to be running, but the moderate Kasich made no impact in 2016.

2. Trump is extremely good at taking up all the media air in the room.  He always has been, in fact. He's appeared on talk shows as a personality since the 1980s.  Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury) has a whole book of Trump cartoons that appeared in Doonesbury before he was nominated.  Trump's ability to suck up all the media air in the room makes it difficult for competing Democrats to get known.

3. Those Democrats that are known are basically too old. Hillary, Sanders, Biden, Warren -- all are as old as Trump.  Hillary's a multiple loser with lots of weaknesses. Sanders is very old, not really a Democrat, and it's clear he's got the math right.  Biden's tried for president before, exciting about as much attention as Kasich.  Warren will get branded as "Pocahontas", unfairly but humorously. Are there new ideas in this bunch?

4. Yes, there are younger Democrats, but the weakness of the Democrats at the state level, which got worse during the Obama years, means there are fewer. Not that many are well known outside their state.

5. Finally, there's the media, where Trump has been very, very good for business. The New York Times returned to profitability in 2017. Digital subscriptions are up. The Washington Post is also doing well nationally. Cable news ratings are way up. Trump's good for business.

Much of the working media (e.g. reporters) don't like Trump.  But there's no such thing as bad publicity in the Trump world (see point #2).  And once you've got reporters on the scene, covering Trump is cheap -- a lot cheaper than, say, investigative reporting, and with better ratings than covering our ballooning national debt.

The media is much more concentrated now.  A small number of groups like Sinclair, Disney, Viacom, etc. own media outlets.  These companies are mostly public (with that pressure for quarterly earnings).

From the financial point of view, these companies would be best off with 8 years of Trump as a punching bag. A Kasich presidency, where there's a return to compromise, not insulting our allies, and little tweeting doesn't seem so good for the media  bottom line. 

So what happens if the media companies figure out how much a second Trump term is worth to them?  They can still cover the excesses of Trump, but give less airtime to the less well known Democrat.  This is easy to do, since incumbent presidents are newsworthy by definition.