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US politics

Could Trump really do it again?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A second Donald Trump presidency is “fast becoming my base case”, says Niall Ferguson in The Spectator. Joe Biden’s team are convinced that Trump’s “sea of legal troubles will ultimately drown him” – and it’s true that the former president is battling an estimated 17 lawsuits and investigations. But there are many recent cases of political leaders bouncing back from criminal charges, such as Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump is currently polling 30 points ahead of Ron DeSantis, his nearest rival for the Republican nomination. A lot could change in the next 18 months, but the GOP primary process “favours candidates with early leads”. If Trump doesn’t become the Republicans’ choice, “he would be the highest-polling candidate ever to fail to secure the nomination”.

Then there’s the risk of a recession, which former treasury secretary Larry Summers thinks has a 70% chance of happening within the next year. That would put Biden in serious danger of “following Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush into the bin marked ‘one-term presidents’”. Why? Because no president since Calvin Coolidge a century ago has secured re-election when there has been a recession in the two years leading up to the vote. Think of Ronald Reagan, during a debate with Carter, asking a television audience if they felt better off than they were four years ago. “One can never rule out surprises in American politics.” But the historical precedents point in one direction.