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What are the odds of Trump’s winning in 2020?

Kevin Lewis asks:

What are the odds of Trump’s winning in 2020, given that the last three presidents were comfortably re-elected despite one being a serial adulterer, one losing the popular vote, and one bringing race to the forefront?

My reply:

Serial adulterer, poor vote in previous election, ethnicity . . . I don’t think these are so important. It does seem that parties do better when running for a second term (i.e., reelection) than when running for third term (i.e., a new candidate), but given our sparse data it’s hard to distinguish these three stories:
1. Incumbency advantage: some percentage of voters support the president.
2. Latent variable: given that a candidate wins once, that’s evidence that he’s a strong candidate, hence it’s likely he’ll win again.
3. Pendulum or exhaustion: after awhile, voters want a change.

My guess is that the chances in 2020 of the Republican candidate (be it Trump or someone else) will depend a lot on how the economy is growing at the time. This is all with the approximately 50/50 national division associated with political polarization. If the Republican party abandons Trump, that could hurt him a lot. But the party stuck with Trump in 2016 so they very well might in 2020 as well.

I guess I should blog this. Not because I’m telling you anything interesting but because it can provide readers a clue as to how little I really know.

Also, by the time the post appears in March, who knows what will be happening.


  1. Jonathan says:

    What I find interesting is that the GOP is currently unsure how to run. Trump has unsettled his own party tremendously. They’ll need to figure that out, but I’m also interested in the way what appears to be a ‘suburban’ effect running toward the Democrats plays out, by which I mean that if the Democrats take seats like that then the party will need to mitigate or alter many of its stances to keep those seats in the future (or conceive of some manner to persuade these voters that they are actually urban voters, which I think unlikely). That could have some interesting effects, including perhaps a decrease the polarity that results from urban cores voting one party and the suburban rings voting the other. And as an aside, I don’t think Trump cares all that much about the midterms. My working theory about him has done quite well: he’s following the same general approach he detailed in his book and which has always been visible, which is that he believes in his instincts, believes that good follows from those instincts, and that by following his instincts he unleashes forces similar to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ which he can shape because he keeps his head while appearing to lose it. He believes that good things happen when he unleashes what people have inside them. That goes all the way back to his earliest comments about deal-making: that the impediments to deals are the things people won’t and often can’t articulate, which they hold back, so you need to draw those out. He would say bluntly that he takes absurd positions, makes absurd demands, says absurd things because that makes people say what they actually mean. It’s been having an effect, and I’m curious to see how it plays out after the midterms.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I place the odds at 50 percentage points over whatever the median of the polls comes out to be.

  3. Ram says:

    The betting markets estimate P(Trump wins) = 0.34, but this is depressed by the possibility that he doesn’t finish his current term. If we condition on him finishing his term, we have P(Trump wins|Trump finishes term) = 0.34 / 0.68 = 0.50. In other words, a coin flip. (This assumes that he only wins if he finishes his current term—I suppose it’s possible he is impeached or resigns, but then runs again and wins, but I wouldn’t bet on it).

  4. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    Perhaps for the first time Yanks may wish to get back to normalcy in a president. Down under it seems the last year has been 4.

  5. Nadia Hassan says:

    Was Bush really “comfortably” re-elected? He won 286 electoral votes with modest margins in a few states.

    Another key factor in Trump’s re-election will be his approval rating. Simple models of approval were quite predictive in 1996, 2004, and 2012. Trump’s net approval rating is -13. And that is when there is no war or international crisis, and the economy is kind of humming along. Nate Silver surmises that Trump might face strong risks from those sorts of events. It also deserves noting that the administration is almost certainly rife with corruption. If Democrats win back Congress, they might investigate and find a lot of wrongdoing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Trump wins in a 300-238 Landslide again!

    • Andrew says:


      A deterministic prediction is no answer to the question, What are the odds?

    • Anonymous is Dense says:

      Another delusional Trumper. ALL the votes that went third-party in 2016 and helped Trump win will move to Democrats, who could field Mickey Mouse and win over the disaster that is Trump.

      • Gavin, 14 Years old. says:

        Alright so, time to take this head on “Delusional Trumper” is already insulting someone who has a different opinion which will already push more voters from independent to the GOP, as it did in 2016 when News networks attacked all who were on the fence for even considering trump.. cause when those independents are told they’re are “Delusional Trumpers” for having a non mainstream Liberal Ideal then that makes them want to go to the Trump wagon due to the Trump team hasn’t attacked any one whole party or idealogy, which makes it more appealing and accepting to independent on-the-fence voters which in the end decide the election; this alongside trumps rising approval rating and the democrats choosing more and more far-left candidates which alienated the middle class American voter, Will overall give trump a small or large advantage depending on who the Left chooses and the political climate of the U.S. at the future time will determine the advantage Trump will have. But the point remains Trump will have an advantage, big or small; therefore the Democrats will have a uphill climb at the least to win the presidency in 2020, but after that due to furthering changes in demographics in the United States and Whites dropping to Minority-Majority status it will flip and become an uphill climb for the GOP as they are generally viewed as a white mans party unless they can change their appearance I don’t see them winning many elections after 2020-2024 especially with the loss of Texas projected in 2024, unless the GOP can Keep the Rust Belt flopped they won’t win many or any elections anytime soon.

  7. James says:

    So far, he seems to be the best president in my lifetime. He is doing everything said during his campaign and not even halfway thru the term. Trump 2020, God Bless America


    If there no major scandals he’ll get easily get relecected

    • jtaylor says:


      • Gavin, 14 Years Old says:

        Yes, but all of these “Scandals” have already been proven as false, therefore there hasn’t been any true “Scandals” in his presidency as of date, Trump has done all of his campaign promises so far and he isn’t even half of the way through and if this trend continues his approval rating can go from 45% to the 50% range which in itself without campaigning could win him the 2020 Election.

  9. To early to tell. I have sworn off television news so I can learn new stuff.

  10. Steve says:

    Are you still upset with the 2016 election so much you can’t be objective and do research? You give a laundry list of complaints yet offer no solution to the question. Just because you are unhappy with a election result doesn’t make your hypothesis correct. Have you factored in the thousands of people who have a job and a financial advantage to their lives prior to the election of Trump. Besides who will the DNC rig a primary for to run against him? If it’s Sanders or Warren you have automatically lost before the election.. Curb you emotional distress

    • Andrew says:


      You write, “Are you still upset with the 2016 election so much you can’t be objective and do research?” Not at all: I even published a paper on the 2016 election (with Julia Azari); see here and here.

      Just more generally, I will say to you what I’ve said to others who’ve expressed similar, or opposite, attitudes (for example, here): the Democrats and Republicans each got very close to half the vote in 2016, as in most recent national elections. So I think it makes sense for people on both sides to come to terms with the popularity of the other party. That doesn’t mean that you have to like the Democrats, not that Democrats have to like the Republicans; it’s just naive to think that a given choice of candidate means that the other side as “automatically lost before the election.” Partisan voting is real.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “If it’s Sanders or Warren you have automatically lost before the election.. Curb you emotional distress” steve more people like warren and sanders than they do trump

    • David says:

      You are a GEM “Anonymous!” Sanders is a whacky old socialist from the most out of touch hippie state in the country. His only shot of einning anything is to bus stoner college kids from state to state and rig primaries.

      Elizabeth Warren! Hahahaha!!! I sadly lived in Massachusetts when she won her seat. Watching her debate is painful. She is nervous, ill-informed, a pathalogical liar, and well, just plain stupid. It was embarassing watching her struggle to talk. I may not like Hillary, but at least she is smart. Warren is a tragically stupid human being who lied her way into Harvard, and would have lost in a landslide in any other state than ultra liberal MA. I hope she goes against Trump. It will be the biggest landslide since Reagan-Mondale.

  12. Voltara says:

    Trump has support of 90% of republicans. At his most recent rally in Minnesota 60% of attendees were democrats and independents. They’ve thrown everything they have at him and he keeps winning. Booming economy, tax cuts, no more wars and leaderless democrats. I can’t see how he can lose the next election.