John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


How Trump Wins

Posted on September 8, 2020
Most political analysts believe that Joe Biden will beat Donald Trump in the coming election. They are wrong. Here are five reasons why Trump wins reelection:

1) Beating an incumbent is hard: Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won their reelections not because they were great presidents but because they were incumbents. Reagan lost the Senate in 1982 and endured a crippling recession but still was able to bounce back to win a landslide in 1984. Clinton’s first two years were so bad that Democrats lost the House for the first time in 40 years. Bush blundered America into a very unpopular war in Iraq after the devastating attacks on 9/11, and yet was able to beat a hapless John Kerry in 2004. Obama’s response to the fiscal crisis of 2008 was to pass an unpopular health care law while presiding over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression and yet he was able to beat Trump’s biggest critic, Mitt Romney. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage, which the current occupant of the White House is using very effectively, from handing out aid personally in places like Kenosha, to pardoning convicted prisoners who had turned their lives around, to using the bully pulpit to set the media narrative day after day.

2) Strength vs. Weakness: The American people typically like their presidents to exhibit strength. Neither Jimmy Carter nor George H.W. Bush, despite his victory in Iraq in 1991, were seen as exceptionally strong leaders. Carter’s American “malaise” speech backfired on his spectacularly. When Bush looked at his watch during the first town-hall debate with Bill Clinton, he seemed largely uninterested in running for reelection. Reagan showed strength by standing up to the Soviet Union, Clinton showed strength by besting Newt Gingrich, W. showed strength by using his megaphone standing on the debris on 9/11, and Obama showed strength by confronting the Tea Party movement. Trump’s is showing his strength by standing up to the radicals who are destroying many of America’s finest cities. They are the perfect opponent.

3) The Economy Stupid: It’s not about the unemployment rate. It’s not about GDP. It’s about where the bulk of the American people perceive things are going for them personally. Under Jimmy Carter and H.W., most Americans felt things were going down the tubes. Under Reagan, Clinton, W. and Obama, there was a general sense that the economy was moving in the right direction. No rational American blames Trump for what COVID-19 did to the economy and indeed, they give the president high marks for how he handled it before the crash. Now, all indications are that unemployment is dropping and people are getting back to work. That usually means good things for the incumbent president.

4) The Elites Don’t Have it: Reagan, Clinton, W. and Obama were all perceived to be more in touch with the desires of middle America than their opponents. Reagan, of course, torched Walter Mondale on his desire raise taxes on the working class. Clinton spent his whole presidency cultivating the Bubba vote. W’s campaign mocked John Kerry as an effete flip-flopping windsurfer. And Romney’s career as a vulture capitalist proved easy pickings for the Obama campaign. Donald Trump is most anti-elite president since Andrew Jackson and it will serve him well as a contrast to career politician Joe Biden.

5) Insiders lose, Outsiders Win: The last true insider to win a presidential election was George H.W. Bush, and he lost reelection. There is a long litany of political insiders who have lost in their efforts to gain the White House. Mondale, Bob Dole, Al Gore, Kerry, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton were all perceived by the media establishment to have superior resumes and the experience necessary to be successful presidents. None of them won, with Gore coming closest because he was running against another political insider, W. Bush. Joe Biden is actually campaigning on his 50 years of political experience as the man who can make America calm again. But the American people haven’t suddenly fallen in love with the Washington establishment and his efforts will likely meet a similar fate to all the other insiders who have come before.


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